Realizing that you can't actually blame your parents for everything is a rude awakening that comes hand-in-hand with adulthood, but it turns out that inflated bags around the eyes are one thing they may legitimately have saddled you with.
"Puffy skin in the eye area can actually be attributed to two very different anatomical issues, which have very different short- and long-term solutions,” explains Miami-based dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD. Consistent, 24/7 puffiness is caused by lax eyelid skin, which, Dr. Jegasothy points out, is a purely genetic issue that can occur in some patients earlier than others. Long-term use of a quality eye cream that encourages strong collagen growth may help, the dermatologist notes.
But those who want to pull out the big guns to address the issue may also benefit from undergoing a combination of in-office treatments, like radio frequency, laser (such as Fraxel), or skin tightening (like Ulthera), which Dr. Jegasothy says has successfully tightened eyelid skin in as many as 80% of her patients who were treated with it.
If puffiness around the eyes is most apparent in the morning but diminishes throughout the day, then Mom and Dad are somewhat off the hook — good old-fashioned gravity might also be to blame. "In this case, the issue is beneath the eyelid skin and is related to reduced lymphatic drainage of the eye area, which can be a function of both genetics and aging,” Dr. Jegasothy says. “Reducing water retention in the head while sleeping can help in the long term.” Her simple fixes include sleeping propped up on two or three pillows to encourage fluid drainage from the eye area at night, and tapering off on drinking fluids before bedtime.
As Dr. Jegasothy notes, and New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, agrees, there’s one more culprit that leads to fluid retention under the eyes — and that’s eating salty foods. Okay, so that one is totally on us, which we see as a good thing: Unlike genetics, easing up on salty foods about three hours before bedtime is something we can control.