Puffy eyes in the morning? From eye creams to lifestyle tweaks, here’s what can help dial them down

If you usually wake up to a pair of puffy eyes staring back at you in the bathroom mirror, you’re not alone. They’re comfortingly common, but they can be tricky to address due to the wide range of reasons that could be behind them. The good news though is that a few small but effective changes to your lifestyle and skincare routine can serve up noticeable results in both the short and long-term.

From what causes puffy eyes to how to reduce puffiness in the morning and 10 of the best eye creams to try, here’s your complete guide for deflating swollen eye bags and eyelids, fast – and reducing the chances of them coming back, too.

Why do you get puffy eyes in the morning?

“Our bodies are continually making and blinking away tears during the day, but at night when we are asleep, we stop blinking,” highlights Dr Sonia Khorana, @dermgp on Instagram, GP with a special interest in dermatology (GPwSI) and cosmetic doctor. “A layer of tears can build up and this excess fluid can sometimes be reabsorbed into the tissues around the eyes to give a puffy appearance.” Lying flat can cause fluid to rest and collect around the eye area, too.

Diet can also be a factor. If you’ve eaten something high in salt or drunk caffeine or alcohol late at night, this can lead to dehydration and as a result, water retention around the eyes.

Why do you get puffy eyes from crying?

There are two main reasons. “The first is that when we cry, we produce more tears than the lacrimal drainage system can cope with, and this can lead to swelling,” says Dr Khorana.

The second reason may surprise you. “Emotional tears (the kind that you cry when you’re happy or sad) are less salty than normal tears (the ones that lubricate eyes and keep irritants out) and this brings osmosis into play.”

Dr Khorana breaks it down for us: “Water flows to areas of lower concentration as it tries to balance levels out. In this case, this is the saltier surrounding ocular tissue around the eyes. So, when we cry when we are happy or sad, the skin around our eyes will hold water from tears in the tissues, resulting in the area becoming swollen and puffy.”

Rubbing eyes afterwards can make it worse.

What are the causes of puffy eyes and what can they be a sign of?

In addition to crying and morning fluid retention, there is also a range of other internal and external factors that could contribute to puffy eyes. These include:

• Allergies: If your puffiness tends to be seasonal, conditions such as hayfever may be to blame. Eyes can become inflamed with the arrival of spring and summer, when histamine is released by the body in response to an allergen. Are they feeling itchy? Try not to rub them, as this can make puffiness worse. 

• Lack of sleep: “When you don’t get enough sleep, you can notice an increase in fluid and blood retention around your eyes,” explains Dr Khorana. “This shows up as puffiness and dark circles because the skin here is quite thin.”

• Lack of movement: Lymph, the bodily fluid responsible for transporting white blood cells around the body, relies on the movement of muscles to get around. A more sedentary lifestyle can lead to a build-up of it, which may cause eye bags.  

• Menstrual cycle: Similar to stomach bloating, water retention at certain times of the month can sometimes manifest as eye puffiness. 

• Too much alcohol, salt and caffeine: A diet high in these can lead to dehydration which in turn can cause water retention, including around the eye area.

• Using eye products that are too heavy: The skin around the eye area is up to four times thinner than other areas of the body and therefore more prone to product overload and as a result, puffiness.

• Genetics and ageing: For some, the tissue around the eye area projects out in such a way as to give the appearance of puffiness. Age may also be a factor, as the muscles here can become looser over time and lead to bulging of the fat pads.

• Underlying health problems: While most of the time, puffy eyes occur as a result of the above reasons, there may be cases when they are a sign of a thyroid, kidney or liver problem. To rule these out, it may be best to book in with your GP.

How can you get rid of puffy eyes?

• Antihistamines:
If you suspect that your puffy eyes are the result of allergies, it may be worth talking to your GP. You can also pop in store for a chat with your Boots Pharmacy Team for further advice, including which remedies could suit your symptoms. 

• Improve your sleep routine: Look to tweak your bedtime regime to make it more conducive for restorative sleep. We know, it’s easier said than done, but a few small changes can make a world of difference. Start your wind-down routine early and stop drinking caffeine after 1pm and avoid alcohol before bed. If you’re able to, keep your bedroom a tech-free zone and try to minimise your blue light exposure two to three hours before your head hits the pillow. 
If sleep has been sparse, you might find our guide to how to overcome insomnia, the best sleep aids and Yoga Nidra helpful, too. 

• Get moving: regular exercise not only improves sleep quality, but also helps the lymphatic system to pump lymph around the body. Even a short, brisk walk can help. Regularity rather than intensity is key.  

• Try a lymphatic drainage eye massage: Not only does this aid circulation to help de-puff, but it feels pretty blissful too. After applying a facial oil, cleansing oil or cleansing balm for slip, glide your ring finger using gentle pressure in circles around the orbital bone, working in to out. We love this facial massage from Lisa Eldridge.

• Reduce salt, alcohol and caffeine intake: This can help reduce dehydration and therefore, water retention. 

• Drink more water: To reduce chances of dehydration.  

• Avoid heavy eye creams: Stick to light, gel or water-based formulations and leave richer textures for super dry areas of the face and body only. 

• Try a caffeine eye cream: Much like a morning coffee, caffeine can be a great pick-me-up for tired eyes too. It’s believed to help puffiness by constricting blood vessels to reduce swelling.

What are the best puffy eye creams?

Whether you’re looking for a caffeine eye cream or a refreshing gel with a cooling tip applicator, here are 10 of the best eye creams for puffy eyes to try. You’ll love these other great options, too. 

Check out our guide to at-home facial massage, too, which is chock-full of techniques designed to de-puff and encourage lymphatic drainage.

Best value eye cream for puffy eyes

Try: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% EGCG (£5.80)

• Size: 30ml, oil-free, vegan

Think of this as an espresso-shot for tired eyes. As well as a 5% concentration of caffeine, it also contains epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (wow, quite the mouthful), also known as EGCG (much better) from green tea leaves to help fight signs of fatigue. 

Best eye cream for puffy eyes and lymphatic drainage massage

Try: Fenty Skin Flash Nap Instant Revival Eye Gel-Cream & Eye Massage Tool (£36)

• Size: 15ml, vegan

This de-puffing kit includes a cooling mini eye massage tool that can be used to provide a quick lymphatic drainage massage. The eye gel is refreshing, hydrating and a great all-rounder thanks to a hard-working formula containing skin barrier supporting niacinamide and hydrating hyaluronic acid and glycerin. 

Best eye cream for puffy eyes and fine lines

Try: The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream (£8.99)

• Size: 15ml

As well as caffeine to help deflate puffiness, this multi-tasking, lightweight under-eye serum also contains Matrixyl 3000, a peptide that helps take the edge off fine lines. 

Best eye cream for puffy eyes and wrinkles

Try: L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Laser Renew Anti-Ageing Eye Cream (£16.33)

• Size: 15ml

This pick’s cooling in-built pen applicator sets it apart. When applied in gentle circular motions from the outer to inner corners, it provides a moment of much-needed bliss on stressful days. A revitalising formula containing caffeine and skin plumping hyaluronic acid and firming Pro-xylane, helps provide benefits in both the short and long-term. 

Best eye cream for puffy eyes and first signs of ageing

Try: Soap & Glory Puffy Eye Attack Turbo-Boost Hydragel (£12.50) 

• Size: 14ml

Containing cooling cucumber, botanical peptides and hydration heavyweights, this wonderfully named treatment is the perfect choice for those new to eye creams. Hydrating and soothing, it helps take the sting out of a bad night’s sleep.

Best eye cream for puffy eyes and sensitive skin

Try: Bioderma Sensibio Eye (£15)

• Size: 15ml, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic

For those with especially sensitive skin, finding an eye cream that’s gentle yet effective can be particularly hard. That’s where this refreshing contour gel comes in. Fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, it keeps chances of irritation low, whilst its arsenal of decongestants help reduce puffiness and telltale signs of tiredness too. 

Best eye cream for puffy eyes on-the-go

Try: Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream (£24.50)

• Size: 15ml

With a cool touch tip to stealthily depuff and an ingredients list brimming with goodies that target a wide array of signs of fatigue, this eye cream offers style and substance in equal measure. 

Best eye cream for puffy eyes and soothing skin

Try: Avène Soothing Eye Contour Cream for Very Sensitive Skin (£10) 

• Size: 10ml

This eye cream’s intensely moisturising and protective formula has been created with the needs of hypersensitive skin in mind to help soothe irritation, puffiness and reaction trepidation. Enriched with the brand’s signature Avène Thermal Spring Water, as well as decongesting dextran sulfate and bisabolol that helps to shield skin against the elements, it’s the ideal partner for stressed-out under-eye skin. 

Best eye cream for puffy eyes and dry skin

Try: Florence By Mills Swimming Under the Eyes Gel Pads (£34)

• Size: 30 pairs

A treat and treatment in one for disguising sleepiness, these whale-shaped eye gels offer both functionality and fun in spades. Its formula of de-puffing and conditioning coconut extract, moisturising hyaluronic acid and antioxidant-rich pine extract provides a generous serving of skin benefits – simply pop one under each eye (tails facing in or out) and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.

Shop more of our eye creams for puffy eyes here.

 All prices correct on date of publication