Puffy Eyes? Here’s Why Your Face Swells Overnight

October 30, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | skincare.com by L'Oréal
Puffy Eyes? Here’s Why Your Face Swells Overnight

With a chronic problem of morning puffiness, I’ve become an expert in debloating techniques (read: gua sha, icing and facial massage). Although the tools in my arsenal reduce my swollen appearance in the AM, I still want to know why my face puffs up in the first place. To find out what’s going once my head hits the pillow and how to prevent the puffiness from happening, I turned to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King and licensed esthetician and beauty director at Skinney Medspa Patricia Giles. 

Why Puffiness Occurs 

Despite finding it the most comfortable to sleep on my side or back, it turns out that my sleep position may be responsible for my morning puffiness. “Being horizontal while we sleep allows fluid to redistribute and settle in dependent areas due to gravitational force and pressure,” says Dr. King. “For example, if you sleep on one side, then it’s likely that the side of your face on your pillow will be puffier than the other.” 

While sleeping position is a common cause for morning swelling, there are, however, other factors to consider such as hormonal fluctuations, water retention after heavy salt intake or alcohol and seasonal allergies. 

As for why my eyes are typically the area on my face to swell the most? Giles explains it’s due to the area’s delicate nature. “The physiology of the eye contour area is unique from the rest of the face — it shows the most signs of fatigue because it’s the most strained and fragile area,” she says. “We blink approximately 10,000 times a day to maintain eye hydration and proper function, but overnight the lymph, which is in charge of transporting waste products from the blood, can build up.” This fluid retention then presents as swelling in the lower eyelid. And while it typically subsides throughout the morning, the puffiness can persist depending on circulation. 

How to Prevent Puffiness 

The easiest way to manage facial swelling is to adjust the way you sleep, in both position and the environment. “To avoid puffiness, it’s best to sleep on your back with an extra pillow, so the face stays elevated and can get better fluid circulation,” says Giles. “I also recommend hypoallergenic pillows, regularly changing sheets to steer clear of dust and avoiding a central heater in the winter because it can dry and sensitize the eyes, which leads to puffiness.” 

Dr. King adds that making changes to your diet and skin-care routine can also help reduce the likelihood of overnight swelling. She suggests drinking more water and eating less salt to prevent water retention. Another idea? Incorporate an eye cream with caffeine into your morning and nighttime skin care. She recommends The Ordinary Caffeine Solution. We also love the SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex and the L'Oréal Paris True Match Eye Cream in a Concealer. If you suspect your puffiness may be related to hormones or allergies, though, consult with your doctor. An oral contraceptive or antihistamine may be helpful. 

Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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