What Causes Puffy Eyes? Skin Experts Tell All

Young Woman Wearing an Undereye Mask

 Caroline Tompkins / Refinery29 / Getty Images

I've suffered from chronic puffy eyes since high school. I've always attributed it to never getting enough sleep, but even on days when I'm fully rested, I see those under-eye bags whenever I look in the mirror or take a selfie. I knew that there had to be other reasons my eyes seem perpetually puffy.

"Puffiness develops because the structures supporting the eyelids weaken. The skin thins, the muscles relax, and the normal fat that supports the eye can descend into the lower eyelid. Excess fluid can pool in this area from water retention, poor lymph drainage, and poor muscle function," says dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, MD. She says we can mostly thank our genetic makeup and anatomy for causing the bags under our eyes, but it's our everyday habits and activities that make them look worse.

Along with Kauvar, I spoke with celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau and dermatologist Michele Farber, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group about what specifically causes puffy eyes and what products they recommend to help fight them. See what they had to say below.

Lack of Sleep

"If you stay up past your usual bedtime, chances are you'll be yawning more, right? When you yawn, the act encourages your eyes to water, which creates swelling and puffiness both at night and in the morning when you wake up," claims Rouleau. "This excess fluid around the eyes weakens the elasticity of the surrounding tissue, causing an acceleration of wrinkles."

High-Sodium Foods

"The sodium in foods encourages water retention under the eyes, resulting in excessive swelling of the eye tissue. This swelling encourages more rapid wear and tear on the connective tissues," says Rouleau.

The Wrong Eye Cream

"Avoid applying it too close to the lash line. Every time you blink, your lashes will lift microscopic amounts of product, that might eventually get deposited into your eyes. Anything that enters the eyes can be an obvious irritant and cause unnecessary swelling and puffiness," says Rouleau. "Your skin can only absorb so much. After absorption, the product that's left on top of the skin can then seep into the eyes and cause puffiness as well as create extra weight for the delicate under-eye tissue."


"Dehydration can occur with excessive alcohol, caffeinated drinks, too little sleep, dry climate, and poor fluid intake," says Kauvar.

Now that we know the different causes of puffy eyes, keep scrolling to see Rouleau and Kauvar's product recommendations to erase the bags and firm the skin.

Renee Rouleau Vitamin C
Renée Rouleau Vitamin C Eye Brightener $60.00

According to Rouleau, the hero ingredient, vitamin C, works to reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness. This eye cream also contains anti-wrinkle vitamins, firming peptides, anti-inflammatory properties, and soothing plant extracts for extra skin benefits, according to the brand.

Neocutis Micro Eyes
Neocutis Micro Eyes Rejuvenating Cream $106.00

A recommended pick from Farber, this eye cream is designed to promote collagen with its blend of peptides and caffeine.

Avène YstheAL Eye and Lip Contour Care
Eau Thermale Avene Ysthéal Eye and Lip Contour Care $40.00

According to Kauvar, this eye cream contains retinaldehyde, an ingredient known to build collagen. It also has powerhouse ingredient retinol to smooth out fine lines and brighten up the skin.

Alastin Eye Treatment
Alastin Restorative Eye Treatment $85.00

"[Alastin's Restorative Eye Treatment] contains a blend of peptides that removes the damaged proteins in the [skin] to reduce inflammation and peptides to stimulate collagen formation," says Kauvar.

Renee Rouleau Eye Cream
Renée Rouleau Total Eye Repair Creme $65.00

If you're looking to tighten the area around the eyes, this is the eye cream for you. Rouleau explains it contains line-filling peptides that smooth the skin.

SkinCeuticals A.G.E Eye Complex - what causes puffy eyes
SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex $100.00

"It contains blueberry extract, which reduces advanced glycation end products that weaken collagen and elastin," says Kauvar.

Skinceuticals AOX Eye Gel
SkinCeuticals AOX+ Eye Gel $95.00

"It contains antioxidants, vitamin C, phloretin, and ferulic acid. Those ingredients that neutralize free radical reactions from environmental damage, including UV exposure," says Kauvar.

Article Sources
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  1. Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatmentsPostepy Dermatol Alergol. 2019;36(4):392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443

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