Why Your Face Is Puffy In The Morning And What To Do About It

Some skin puffiness is out of our control, but here are the changes you can make to ease it.
Waking up with a puffy face in the morning is normal and can be chalked up to gravity.
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images
Waking up with a puffy face in the morning is normal and can be chalked up to gravity.

You’re reading First Thing, the HuffPost UK series helping to make your mornings happier and healthier.

Have you ever wondered why after a late night you’re stuck with a puffier-than-normal face in the morning? Or after an evening at the bar, your face may tip off your boss the next day that you had one too many drinks?

There are many reasons our faces are puffy in the morning, and some are completely out of our control while others are controllable.

Here, experts share why our faces are puffy in the morning and what you can do about it.

Simply put, gravity is often the reason behind facial puffiness in the morning.

“During the day, as most of us are sitting or standing, gravity pulls all of our fluids [down],” says Dr Zakia Rahman, a clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford School of Medicine. That’s why people can end up with swollen feet or legs at the end of the day.

Adversely, when we’re sleeping, we’re lying flat, and “if we have anything that is causing our skin or soft tissue underneath to swell,” we are more likely to see facial swelling, since gravity isn’t pulling the fluids down to our legs or feet.

Certain conditions can cause face puffiness, too.

If you suffer from medical conditions like hay fever, allergies, eczema and asthma, you may deal with more face puffiness than other folks, Rahman says. And you may notice increased face puffiness in the mornings when you have allergy flare-ups (this is the reason you have swollen eyes during spring pollen season).

“Anything that causes inflammation can cause our face to be puffy,” Rahman says. And inflammation is closely associated with hay fever, allergies, eczema and asthma.

Additionally, those who suffer from rosacea also deal with increased face puffiness. With rosacea, our blood vessels, which expand and constrict, open up and leak out fluid and inflammatory mediators, causing puffiness and redness, she said.

Certain medical conditions and our genetics can make some people more prone to having facial puffiness in the mornings.
Halfpoint Images via Getty Images
Certain medical conditions and our genetics can make some people more prone to having facial puffiness in the mornings.

Genetics also plays a role.

According to Rahman, if your parents, grandparents or other ancestors dealt with facial puffiness in the mornings, it’s likely that you will, too.

Some people are just genetically predisposed to swelling in the morning.

Alcohol can make our faces puffy in the mornings, too.

“Alcohol lowers a naturally occurring anti-diuretic hormone, causing the body to lose more fluids and become dehydrated,” says Dr Nicole Hayre, the founder of the Cosmetic Dermatology Center in McLean, Virginia.

She adds that when the body is dehydrated, it tries to counteract the dehydration by holding on to any water that it does have. This is why your face may appear more swollen than usual after a night of drinking.

And so can our diets. Particularly, high-salt diets.

“Eating salty food, especially late at night, is a major cause of overnight facial swelling,” Hayre says.

Rahman added that if we take in excess salt in our diet, our bodies can swell up to maintain homeostasis, or stability. Basically, our body retains water when it detects an influx of salt so our cells don’t become too salty.

To reduce facial puffiness, try sleeping with two pillows.

Adding an extra pillow to your bed can help minimize morning facial puffiness, Hayre said.

“Sleeping on more of an incline will help to drain fluid away from your face overnight,” she noted.

Or try cooling face care methods.

Have you noticed that many people store eye creams and eye masks in the fridge? That’s because cold temperatures can reduce facial puffiness, according to both Hayre and Rahman.

Hayre suggested that if you wake up with a particularly puffy face, you can “place a slice of chilled cucumber over your eyes and relax for 15 minutes.” Why? “The cooling combined with the high-water content in the cucumber help to sooth and depuff the area,” she says.

Hayre adds that splashing cold water on your face in the morning is a faster but still effective way to depuff.

Rahman recommends that you try out cold face rollers, cool washcloths or even massage with a cold spoon on your face to cut back on morning puffiness.

Facial rollers are a common way to depuff your face.
Sergey Mironov via Getty Images
Facial rollers are a common way to depuff your face.

Or turn to caffeine as a solution.

Rahman pointed to a British study that found that “drinking coffee reduces rosacea symptoms because caffeine is a vasoconstrictor.” Vasoconstriction causes blood vessels to narrow and is a common treatment for people with rosacea.

Beyond a rosacea treatment, caffeine can help with general facial puffiness, too, she says. “It turns out that topical caffeine kind of works the same way, and, of course, the effect is temporary,” but it still can help reduce facial puffiness for the time being.

In other words, when you wake up in the morning and reach for a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea, you’re actually helping reduce puffiness in your face. And if you aren’t a caffeine drinker, you can still reap the benefits if you purchase skin care items that have caffeine as an ingredient.

“I buy this little eye patch that has caffeine [as] one of the main ingredients,” Rahman said.

And make sure you’re drinking enough water and getting enough sleep.

As with anything health-related, water and sleep are both crucial.

Hayre noted that drinking plenty of water every day can be a great way to combat facial puffiness in the mornings.

According to Rahman, getting enough sleep, which can be a challenge for many people, is also a way to help keep your puffiness under control. After a night of bad sleep, you’re more likely to wake up with a puffy face.

“Sleep is rejuvenating in so many ways ... it removes a lot of toxins that build up,” Rahman states.

First Thing is a series giving you tips and advice on how to enjoy your mornings. Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, starting your day off right will make for a happier and healthier day. We’ll be sharing exercise advice, nutrition guidance, as well as ideas on forming new habits. (And no, the answer to a productive morning isn’t just setting an alarm for 5am!)