If you've ever woken up and been surprised by the bloated face looking back at you in the mirror, you know that puffiness can be an unfortunate -- and, thankfully, temporary -- side effect of poor sleep, an unhealthy diet, allergies or other irritants. Puffiness under your eyes and around your cheeks is usually most prevalent in the morning, since fluids tend to accumulate around your face as you lie horizontally at night. Thanks to gravity's pull, much of that fluid will drain out of the face and swelling will tend to subside within a few hours of getting up. For an even quicker fix, though, many people turn to creams, masks, and other over-the-counter products to reduce puffiness.
Dehydration can play a factor in facial swelling; when your body isn't getting sufficient fluids, it will actually start to retain water, explains Chris Adigun, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Because of this, it may seem like a facial moisturizer, meant to hydrate parched skin, is a good place to start. Unfortunately, says Adigun, a moisturizer isn't always a quick fix for puffy skin.
"A moisturizer will penetrate the surface of the skin and can help you avoid dry skin, but it's not going to do much for the underlying dehydration," she says. "Likewise, drinking a lot of water will help keep you healthy and hydrated, but it won't have much effect on dry skin itself."
Applying a moisturizer or face lotion may help reduce puffiness in another way, however: Some formulas contain soothing herbal ingredients, like feverfew and aloe vera, that may help ease irritation and even out blotchy skin tone. Creams that contain caffeine can also be helpful for tightening up under-eye bags and circles, as well, says Adigun. For an extra soothing sensation, pop these products in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes before applying; the cold temperature will restrict the blood vessels under your skin and reduce inflammation.
A puffy face can also be caused by too much salt or alcohol in your diet (which also causes water retention), by sleeping in makeup (which can cause irritation or even infection around your eyes) or by crying, sneezing, or rubbing your eyes too much. Avoiding these scenarios is your best defense -- but if it's already too late for that, try applying cold, wet tea bags to your eyes and cheeks for a few minutes to reduce swelling. Many beauty experts also swear by cucumber slices for swollen eyes, and green living expert Annie Bond says that thin slices of raw potato work wonders, too. [Bond]