How to Relieve Red, Puffy Eyes After Crying

You let it all out, and now it's time to pull yourself together and de-puff.

purple pillow with two baggies of peas on a blue background
Photo: Sarah Crowley

A swollen face, bright red nose, and puffy eyes are a dead giveaway you aren't feeling your best. Of course, there's some value in crying if you're in need of a little catharsis. But in many cases, you don't want to broadcast that you've shed a few tears—and swollen eyes from crying are difficult to miss. (They're uncomfortable, too, if you've been crying a river.)

"These effects can last for as little as a few minutes or stretch on for a few hours," says Marina Peredo, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Fortunately, you can expedite the process of getting rid of those swollen, puffy crying eyes.

For Immediate Relief

To get rid of puffy skin, run your fingers under icy-cold water (or rest them on top of a few ice cubes). Next, start at the inner corners of your eyes and press down on your skin working your way to the outer corners. Repeat several times to help drain fluid (and puffiness) that accumulated under your eyes. For even better results, follow up with an eye serum formulated with yeast extracts to flatten the area.

To get rid of red in the whites of your eyes, use over-the-counter drops. "One to two drops per eye is sufficient and should wash away the redness upon contact," says dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules.

Cover your red nose and other flushed areas with a yellow-tinted concealer, and avoid foundation or powder. "Yellow undertones help cancel out red ones," says celebrity makeup artist Tina Turnbow. "If your skin is irritated from all the nose-blowing, the extra makeup will look cakey," so she advises to apply concealer only where needed. To finish, set the concealer with a face mist.

Overnight Method

If you have more time, try this: First, splash cold water on your face to tamp down swelling.

Next, wrap a bag of frozen peas in a washcloth and hold it on your face for 15 minutes. Why peas? The bag contours to your face better than an ice pack.

After that, steep green tea bags in cold water for three to five minutes, squeeze out excess water, and then set the bags over closed lids for 10 minutes. The antioxidant effect of the tea's catechins constricts blood vessels under your skin, deflating remaining puffiness.

Still red? Relax with cold cucumber or potato slices over your eyes. Like tea bags, the cold tightens blood vessels. "Cucumbers contain powerful antioxidants that reduce irritation, while potatoes contain a skin-lightening enzyme called catecholase," says optometrist Justin Bazan, a medical adviser for the Vision Council and owner of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn, New York. Either treatment relieves swelling, but starting with cucumber and following five minutes later with potato depuffs and brightens the eye area.

Any leftover redness or puffiness should subside while you sleep but, just in case, keep your head propped up on a firm pillow—the elevation prevents excess fluid from pooling in your face. Tomorrow's another day, and those crying eyes will be gone by morning.

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