#SpaExpertSeries - Dark Circles & Puffy Eyes with Ruta Tavoraite-Johns

Ruta moved to the UK from Lithuania 16 years ago. After passing her college training with high grades, she joined the Steiner Academy, where she worked on P&O Australia cruise liners. Two years later, she moved to London to further her career in the wellness industry, working her way up from Therapist to a Senior Therapist role at ESPA Life at Corinthia. She then joined The Spa at Brown’s as Head Therapist and is now the Spa Manager there. Ruta regularly answers spa expert questions for us. Today, we asked her about puffy eyes and dark circles… 

What can cause puffy eyes?  

Generally, puffiness around the eyes means you have excess accumulation of fluids, known as oedema, in the surrounding skin tissue. Given that the skin around the eyes is very thin, swelling and discoloration can be more prominent.

Puffy eyes can be a result of ageing. As we mature, we retain more fluids, resulting in puffy under eyes. Also, the tissue structures and muscles supporting your eyelids weaken. The skin can start to sag, and fat that is normally confined to the area around the eye can move into the area below your eyes.

Puffy eyes can also be caused by allergies. When you’re allergic to something, you release histamine into your system. This is known to trigger inflammation and hive-like reactions, especially around the eye area.

Harsh chemicals, such as drying agents and citrus extracts, can be brutal on the eye area. When the skin is aggravated, it can become inflamed and appear puffy.

If you’re stressed, fatigued or not sleeping enough, then you’re also likely to get puffy eyes. Crying definitely doesn’t help the eye area either! Dehydration can cause puffiness. Overconsumption of salt can too.

Last but not least, you should also never underplay genetics; your genetic makeup can be the reason why you have puffy eyes or don’t.

What can cause dark circles? 

Hyperpigmentation is one of the main reasons for dark circles, which can be caused by things such as environmental factors or genetics. You can find lots of information on this via the hyperpigmentation #SpaExpertSeries blog post.  

Seasonal allergies and nasal congestion can also contribute to poor circulation in the under eye area, leading to dilated veins. When veins and capillaries under the eye dilate they will appear bigger and darker.

Loss of volume (collagen) under the eyes is a big contributor to dark circles. Given that over time, skin naturally loses collagen and gets thinner, you get more of a sunken look. This magnifies dark circles.

Dehydration, stress, fatigue, as well as puffiness under the eye area, all increase dullness and darkness under the eye. 

How can you check if dark circles are caused by hyperpigmentation?

There is a very simple ‘pinch test’. Simply pinch and lift the skin under the eye. If it’s hyperpigmentation, the skin will stay brown. If the discoloration is caused by dilated capillaries, puffiness or age, the colour will change to white/pink before turning back to a darker shade again.

What kind of skincare do you recommend for puffy eyes?

To reduce puffiness around the eye area, always cleanse your skin with a very gentle cleanser. I highly recommend Irene Forte Almond Cleansing Milk. It contains Vegetable Protein Complex and Aloe Leaf Juice to help hydrate, calm and soothe. The Wild Rose Oil, Sweet Almond Oil and Shea soften and nourish. 

For puffiness caused by dehydration, I would then suggest an eye cream that contains ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Pro-Vitamin B5, Aloe Leaf Juice, Cucumber, Green Tea extracts and Caffeine. For puffiness caused by ageing, I would recommend ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, Pro-Vitamin B5. These kinds of actives are designed to strengthen, hydrate and protect the sensitive eye area. 

The Irene Forte Olive Eye Cream is great for this; it's clinically proven to improve skin hydration, driven by Pro-Vitamin B5, Hyaluronic Acid and Aloe Leaf Juice. It also contains Upcycled Olive Seed Oil to help smooth and protect this delicate eye area. But most importantly, it contains a unique Penta-Phyto Complex, consisting of Butcher’s Broom Root Extract, Hydrocotyle Leaf Extract, Calendula Flower Extract, Horse Chestnut Seed Extract and Ammonium Glycyrrhizate from Licorice. This complex boosts microcirculation to reduce puffiness, improve evenness of skin tone and provide anti-dark circle benefits. Rich in Saponosides and Flavonoids, it also has an overall skin soothing, calming effect.

I would also suggest that you always use a good sunscreen on this area. As you probably know, exposure to the sun speeds up the process of collagen breaking down, so your best weapon against this is sunscreen. Wearing sunglasses while out in the sun helps too.

For an extra boost, use the Irene Forte Triple Level Hyaluronic Serum under the eye cream. This will not only help to hydrate, but it will also plump out any lines and wrinkles under the eye.

Would you recommend the same skincare for dark circles?

If dark circles are caused by puffiness or ageing, you should use the same skincare mentioned above. I would also recommend looking out for products with Vitamin C, along with other Vitamins such as A and E. These antioxidants help to lighten dark circles under the eye.

If it’s caused by hyperpigmentation, you can try skincare with topical Retinol, Hydroquinone, Kojic Acid, or Azelaic Acid. Again, I would recommend reading the Hyperpigmentation blog post.

It’s also very important to wear sunscreen and sunglasses.  

What at-home tips/ techniques would you recommend for puffy eyes/dark circles? 

To reduce puffiness and dark circles at home, I would recommend cold compresses. You can use a chilled spoon; chill two of them in your fridge for a minute or two, and then place the back of the spoon over closed eyes for approximately 10 minutes. You can also use tea bags. I think green tea is particularly good because it’s packed with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Soak two teabags in ice water for several minutes, then cover the under eye area with them, leaving them on for about 5 minutes. Chilled slices of cucumber are also great; cucumber contains Caffeic Acid which can restrict blood vessels, and it's rich in Vitamin C. Cut two pieces and place them on the eye area for approximately 10 minutes.

I also strongly recommend massaging your eye area when applying eye cream. It will help to increase blood circulation to the area, which will clear excess fluid in the area and de-puff it. Increased circulation will also bring oxygenated blood to the surface, reducing the appearance of dark circles, which in turn will help to stimulate collagen production and firm the skin. I’ve done an eye massage video to help you with some at-home techniques.

Can diet or lifestyle contribute to puffy eyes and dark circles? 

As you know, diet and lifestyle contribute to the overall appearance of the face and skin, not just the eye area.

To improve puffiness and dark circles around the eye area, I would recommend some of the following changes:

  • Reduce your salt intake, it will help to prevent fluid buildup around the eye area;
  • Get enough sleep. If puffiness persists try lifting your head slightly when sleeping, and invest in a good pillow;
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water- hydration is important for both preventing puffiness and dark circles, as well as keeping your skin youthful;
  • Increase intake of foods rich in collagen, such as: orange, red pepper, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and strawberries;
  • Increase intake of foods rich in iron, such as: red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, leafy green veggies (like kale and spinach), raisins, apricots, other dried fruits and iron-fortified foods (like cereals, breads and pastas);
  • Increase intake of foods rich in potassium, such as: bananas, beans, yogurt and leafy greens.
  • Smoking and alcohol also have major impact on eye appearance, so try and limit your intake of both;
  • Make sure you address any seasonal allergies- over the counter anti-histamines can do wonders.

Any other tips/advice for our readers? 

Eyes are the reflection of your body, hence taking good care of yourself will help you and your eyes look brighter. A good lifestyle, the right skincare routine and massage techniques will do wonders to your eye area.

Regular facials will help to ease puffiness, firm the skin and reduce dark circles under the eyes. Try the Irene Forte Etna Age-Defying Facial or the Forte Hydrator Facial for the best results.