Puffy eyes -- when the skin under your eyes appears swollen or "puffed out" -- is a common but often distressing skin problem. Usually, these "bags" are caused by a buildup of fluids beneath the skin, also known as water retention, that is especially visible under the eyes due to the thinness of under-eye skin. Dark shadows under the eyes can also give the appearance of puffy eyes. On the bright side, certain substances found in nature, including caffeine, may help you get rid of puffy eyes.
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Topical Caffeine for Puffy Eyes
When applied to the skin, caffeine may help reduce the appearance of puffy eyes in several ways. Caffeine is an active ingredient in several cosmetic products for puffy eyes, as it decreases swelling, according to a 2009 "CBS News" report. According to skin science expert Jeanette Graf, M.D., applied topically to the under-eye area via steeped black teabags cooled in ice water, caffeine constricts the blood vessels under the skin, thereby reducing the "puffiness" of bags under your eyes. Additionally, clinical research, including an in vivo study published in "Carcinogenisis" in 2007, indicates topical caffeine may protect the skin from sun damage and skin cancer by blocking UVB rays; as sun damage can cause pigmentation under the eyes resulting in dark under-eye circles, using teabags or cosmetics with caffeine on the skin may also improve the appearance of under-eye skin by its possible function as a natural sunscreen.
Caffeine Consumption and Puffy Eyes
Consuming caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea may also aid in diminishing puffy under-eye circles by relieving water retention, a major cause of puffy eyes. You have to ingest upward of 500 mg of caffeine, or 4 cups of coffee, to produce a bloat-relieving diuretic effect, according to Mayo Clinic's Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.; however, drinking moderate amounts of coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages can help you increase your daily water intake, which also helps relieve bloat. Additionally, drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee may also produce the same "sunscreen" effects as applying caffeine topically. According to an observational study published in "European Journal of Cancer Prevention" in 2007, participants who drank caffeinated coffee daily had less nonmelanoma skin cancer -- a type of skin cancer primarily caused by sun/UVB ray exposure -- than non-coffee drinkers. Decaf coffee was not associated with the same protective benefits.
Other Benefits of Caffeine
Besides its potential to improve the look of your facial skin, caffeine may also possess important health benefits. According to a study published in "Journal of Alzheimer's Disease" in 2010, regular caffeine consumption in mid-life is associated with decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, potentially due to its function as an antioxidant and its beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity. Drinking caffeinated beverages may also reduce your risk of many types of cancer in addition to nonmelanoma skin cancer. According to a review published in "BMC Cancer" in March 2011, coffee consumption appears to reduce risk of developing breast, bladder, pancreatic, endometrial, prostate, esophageal, colorectal, buccal, pharyngeal and hepatocellular cancers. Overall, the studies analyzed by the review indicated that an increase in coffee consumption of 1 cup per day decreases cancer risk by 3 percent.
Puffy Eye Treatments
In addition to consuming a moderate amount of caffeinated drinks or applying caffeine to the skin topically, certain other home remedies may help improve the appearance of puffy eyes. To reduce pigmentation from sun damage that can cause dark circles, giving the appearance of puffy eyes, it's important to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen when outdoors and to avoid overexposure to the sun. Avoiding salt and alcohol can help combat puffy eyes caused by fluid retention, as can exercise that makes you sweat. Sleeping with your pillow adjusted so that your head is higher than the rest of your body may prevent you from retaining water under your facial skin as well. In some cases, allergies or sinus problems may contribute to puffy eyes; if you suspect this is the case, it is a good idea to see a doctor, who can prescribe you an antihistimine or another medication.