While there are plenty of purported secrets out there for dealing with puffy eyes, following a recent allergic reaction I learned that one of the simplest and most effective tricks doesn’t require expensive skincare products. In fact, you may even have this ingredient sitting around your home!
A few weeks ago, I was working out at my gym when suddenly my throat feel itchy, my nose started running, and my eyelids began to swell. After immediately heading home and taking some antihistamines, hydrating, and putting cooling ice packs over my eyes, I went to sleep hoping that everything would be better in the morning. And while most of my symptoms had subsided by then, my eyes were still just as puffy and swollen as they were the night before.
“The under-eye area is a special area of skin on our bodies,” Anthony Rossi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells First for Women. “The skin is the thinnest part of the body for men and women, meaning not only is the epidermis, the top layer of the skin, quite thin but so is the dermis, the middle layer of the skin where collagen and hyaluronic acid reside.” He says this makes it particularly susceptible to reactions, irritation, and inflammation due to environmental factors, such as certain jewelry, fragrances, or makeup.
Still, I needed to figure out what to do about my eyes in the meantime. Because I had a long workday ahead of me (which included Zoom calls!) and didn’t want to take even more medicine than I’d already consumed the night before, I turned to the trusty internet to see what other quick, natural remedies could potentially make my puffy eyes go down even a little bit. I was immediately intrigued when I saw several sites mention the healing powers of caffeine — specifically in green tea — to help with swollen eyelids and under-eyes. As a steadfast morning green tea drinker, I decided I had nothing to lose and headed for my tea drawer hoping it could fix my situation.
After I made my morning cup of green tea, I simply patted the cooled tea bag on a paper towel so it wouldn’t be as wet and then placed it over my left eyelid, the more swollen of the two, for 15 minutes. I could immediately feel the results; I went from barely being able to open my puffy eyes to seeing clearly again just from the green tea bag. I was even more stunned when I got up and took a look in the mirror; the swelling in my eye had almost entire vanished. Unless you were looking closely, you couldn’t even tell that anything was different! I then left the tea bag on for another 15 minutes just to be sure it worked and then did the same process on my other eye. I repeated it again five hours later during lunch, and I couldn’t believe the results: My eyes were completely back to normal!
Why were these caffeinated tea bags so effective? Dr. Rossi says that when dealing with swelling or allergies like I was experiencing, cold compresses, anti-inflammatory medications, and soothing topicals are often suggested. Something like a cold compress helps vasoconstrict the blood vessels underneath, giving the area the appearance of being less red and swollen. That said, caffeine can have a similar effect.
“It vasoconstricts the dermal blood vessels and helps temporarily reduce the redness and water accumulation in that area,” Dr. Rossi explains. “Caffeine will draw water out of the skin area de-puffing. Also, green tea itself is an antioxidant, so topical antioxidants can help reduce the irritation.” Moreover, he notes that the pressure of the tea bag itself helps move water accumulation away from the under-eye’s delicate lymphatics. (This is the same reason why you should massage from in to out when using eye cream — it’s pushes the lymphathic fluid away!)
While I luckily haven’t experienced an allergic reaction since then (thank goodness!), I’ve used this tea bag trick several times just to give my eyes a quick 15-minutes refresh. I’m definitely a convert — I absolutely love how much better my formerly puffy eyes look after using green tea!