What Causes Puffy Eyes

What Causes Puffy Eyes

You wake up in the morning, peek in the bathroom mirror, and there it stares: bulgy, puffy-looking skin either above or below your eyes (or both). Puffy eyes are an unsightly hassle, and while the reasons they show up are sometimes obvious—like pulling an all-nighter—it’s not always clear what causes them.

Below we share some of the most typical causes, as knowing why you have puffy eyes in the first place is a key step to making them look better!

Causes of Puffy Eyes

Sun damage causes issues, from wrinkles to uneven skin tone to rough skin texture. Surprise—it can also cause or worsen the appearance of puffy eyes. The skin around the eyes is thin and delicate, so any damage to it can cause a puffiness response. Ongoing unprotected sun exposure around the eyes also destroys the natural elasticity in this area, leading to undereye skin sagging.

Another major cause of puffy eyes is fluid retention. In some cases, fluid retention becomes more common as we age, or happens when the body doesn’t get enough sleep. In other cases, we retain fluid because of what we eat; foods high in sodium and alcoholic drinks can cause fluid to build up in the eye area, and voilà, puffy eyes.

If you have allergies, you know that an allergy attack can lead to puffy eyes. Exposure to allergens causes the body to produce chemicals that lead to puffiness. Often this puffiness is accompanied by itching, which can lead you to rub your eyes for relief. That, too, can cause puffiness, making the issue twofold!

Harsh ingredients are another issue for eye-area skin. Sensitising ingredients like essential oils, citrus extracts, drying alcohol, and witch hazel aggravate skin, which often results in puffiness. You might be surprised to know that many skincare products—even some specifically labeled as eye-area products—contain these ingredients, so being savvy about what you’re using is especially important.

Last, and perhaps the toughest to tackle, is genetics. Some people just have hereditary puffy eyes. This is caused by the size of the fat pads that everyone has around their eyes; if you have excess fat padding under the eyes, they’ll appear bloated. If this wasn’t an issue when you were younger, but now you’re seeing puffy eyes that don’t respond to the usual treatments, you’re dealing with undereye bags.

References for this information:
Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Development, May-June 2017, pages 1–9
Dermatitis, November/December 2016, pages 382–384
Allergy and Asthma, Springer, 2016, pages 35–51
Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery
, April-June 2016, pages 61–64


About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!