Our eyes, when healthy, have light and twinkle.  They communicate the clear emotion of the heart.  The appearance of puffy eyes makes us look tired, old, or ill.  They can betray our vitality!  Here are a few tips on how to fix them, naturally and restore “the windows to the soul”:

There are two kinds of eye bag puffiness: one is due to fluid retention, and the other is due to adipose tissue (a fat pad) having dropped into your lower lid (due to genetics and age)

For most of us, fluid retention is the most common culprit (for those with fat pad, skip towards the end):

Are you sleeping well and through the night? Insomnia is the chief reason for under eye bagginess.  Restore your sleep with the help of your health practitioner and say goodbye to the bags.

You’ll see changes instantly by avoiding the three biggest offenders that cause water retention and swelling: Alcohol, Sugar, and Salt. You could stop reading right here, and if you did those 3 things, you’d be so impressed with the results that you would go on a vacation around the world with the money you saved from unneeded, expensive eye creams, procedures, and surgery.

Stay Hydrated! It may sound counterintuitive to treat excess fluid retention with more fluid, but drinking plenty of water during the day activates your kidneys, which pull excess salts and fluids from your system to eliminate. Drinking water also improves the elasticity of the skin under your eyes.

Stimulate your lymphatic system by exercising during the day.  Cardiovascular exercise in particular regulates overflow, bringing fluids back into the bloodstream.  Very long periods of inactivity (like long airplane rides) increase water retention.

Make sure you can breathe through your nose at night.  The sinuses beneath our cheekbones are connected to the health of the skin under the eye.  Inflammation and congestion create swollen blood vessels increasing the puffiness.  Treat your colds, chronic sinus congestion, or allergies before bed to make sure you can breathe unobstructed.

Avoid eye, skin, or hair products that irritate your eyes or your skin.  Be sure to clean your face before bed, removing all make-up, dirt, and other possible allergens from your eyes. Be gentle with the skin under your eyes.  Treat it like tissue paper: no harsh products, no rubbing.

For a quick fix, apply cold compresses, cool cucumbers, or chilled tea bags (with caffeine) to your eyes, to constrict the blood vessels. Avoid hemorrhoidal creams like Preparation H, and other ointments – which ultimately dry and irritate the fragile skin under your eye. The mild benefits aren’t worth the long term damage.

Sleep in a clean, well-ventilated, cool room (to avoid puffiness), with your head slightly elevated (to prevent fluid from pooling in your face)

If you’ve done all the above with no results, it could signify an underlying condition.  Consult with your integrative health practitioner for further treatment.

What about that other kind of puffiness? The one due to fat pads under the eyes?

This is a rare condition where the fat herniates from the eye orbit and falls into the pocket of skin under the eye.  This happens mostly as we age, and changes in diet and lifestyle are not going to produce significant results in the appearance of these bags.

Currently, the most common treatments for fat-bag puffiness are cosmetic fillers or blepharoplasty (plastic surgery of the eyelid).  Unfortunately those treatments are expensive and risky.  Injections and surgery can have devastating effects like blindness, serious allergic reaction to fillers, or unrelenting pain due to nerve damage. Even when applied by a highly skilled professional, and using the less permanent hyaluronic acid fillers it can produce less damaging but still upsetting results like the Tyndall Effect, a blue discoloration on the surface of the skin, unsightly scars, and disfigurations.

Acupuncture facial rejuvenation is a safe, natural alternative treatment to fillers and cosmetic surgery.  It can have the same effect as fillers to smooth out the appearance of the bags under the eyes and it is less expensive and without any of the side effects of surgery or injections.  Read more about Facial Rejuvenation here.


Vanina Wolf, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac has treated women and men with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for chronic sinusitis, allergies, nerve pain, and a range of eye disorders since 2003.  She also practices acupuncture facial rejuvenation.