Your eyes are expert communicators, helping you relay your thoughts and emotions to others. But a pair of puffy peepers probably says a lot more than you intend—that you’re tired or sick. The delicate, sensitive skin around the eyes—it’s thinner here than anywhere else— is one of the first places the body shows signs of stress, in fact.
It doesn’t take much for puffiness to appear. Allergies, stress and a lack of sleep are common culprits, as they cause fluid to pool in the under-eye area, which leads to mild swelling (edema). Rubbing your eyes when they’re itchy, teary or tired doesn’t help either, since it only inflames the area more. A diet high in salt (even just one sodium-packed late-night meal) can also be to blame, since it can cause you to retain fluid.
While there are creams and even medical procedures that aim to reduce bags, there are at-home remedies that are effective, too—and a lot less expensive. These six natural solutions will not only temporarily improve the appearance of the skin under your eyes, but offer a few moments of relaxation and spa-like calm too.
A cereal spoon can come in handy for more than just eating breakfast. Chill two of them in a refrigerator for a few minutes, then lie down and place the back of each spoon over a closed eye (they’re the perfect shape for resting on your eyelid). Take a full 10 minutes to relax and let the area be soothed as the coldness constricts blood vessels; you should notice less swelling.
Grab a potato from your pantry and cut about four to six half-inch-thick slices; each should be large enough to cover the eye area. Lie down and place one slice on each eye for 10 minutes; repeat with fresh slices on each eye until under-eye puffiness has been reduced. Potatoes contain the anti-inflammatory enzyme catecholase, which can improve bagginess and diminish dark circles. Wash the area when finished and apply coconut oil. The starch from the potato will draw out toxins while the coconut oil will take away any dryness from the potato. (For those dark circles: Make a soft paste with tomato or pineapple juice, a squeeze of lemon and some baking soda. Pat under the eye and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm then cold water.)
Another breakfast helper for baggy eyes: egg whites, which work as a natural astringent to temporarily tighten swollen skin. Whisk two whites (take them directly from the fridge so your eyes can benefit from the chill, too) until smooth and gently apply them to your under-eye area with your index or middle finger. Leave on for five to 10 minutes—you may feel a tightening effect, similar to what you experience during a purifying face mask—then rinse off with lukewarm water.
Green Tea Bags
Green tea is a boon to skin: It’s packed with antioxidants that combat free radicals (which break down skin cells), plus it has anti-inflammatory properties, making it an optimal treatment for swelling. The tea’s tannins act as a gentle astringent and its caffeine constricts blood flow that causes puffiness. Soak two teabags in ice water for several minutes, then cover the under-eye area with them; wait for 15 to 20 minutes for best results.
Cold Cucumber Slices
Don’t underestimate the humble cucumber: Strategically placed, chilled slices of this refreshing veggie can help de-puff eyes with the help of its caffeic acid; the compound restricts blood vessels (as does the cold temperature). Cucumbers also contain vitamin C, which help sooth irritated skin. Keep a cucumber in the fridge and, when you need to, slice up two one-half-inch pieces, lie down, apply the slices to your eye area and take a few minutes to unwind.
If you want check those (eye) bags once and for all, do what you can to stay hydrated. Though it may sound counter-intuitive, drinking plenty of water is crucial for helping your body naturally flush out fluids that cause swelling. A few times a day, take a water break, or always keep a bottle close by so you can sip as you go about your business. Women should aim for about nine cups of water a day, while men should get about 13. Remember that teas, soups and fruits and vegetables also count toward your daily tally.