“Does Preparation H really reduce bags under your eyes?” a patient asked me last week. This old-school home remedy ranks up there with classics like Vicks VapoRub® for toenail fungus (more on that one later).
But does Preparation H work? Is it safe?
Your lower eyelid is a prominent part of your face. Puffiness, redness, brown discoloration, and wrinkles are all common and are noticeable in this area. When you talk to people, their eyes are naturally drawn to your eyes. As compared to your ears, for example, eyes are an important cosmetic area, and small changes have a large impact on how young and how well you look.
Eyelid skin is delicate; it is much thinner than anywhere else on your body. Just beneath this thin skin lies wispy connective tissue and fat pads. When you don’t sleep well or wake the morning after some Kung Pao Chicken take-out, this delicate fat pad can be bloated with fluid, causing the thin skin to puff out like a water-filled baggie. When you turn on the bathroom light the next morning, you might hardly recognize the puffy-eyed face staring back at you in the mirror.
Preparation H® is, of course, a hemorrhoid cream. It contains phenylephrine, a powerful constrictor of blood vessels. It helps hemorrhoids by constricting the blood vessels, squeezing the blood out of the hemorroid, and causing them to shrink.
In theory, Preparation H can do the same thing for your puffy eyes. The phenylephrine will constrict the delicate blood vessels under your eyes, squeezing the fluid out and reducing the puffiness.
But is it safe?
Preparation H is not designed for your eyes. Getting it into your eyes could cause irritation or other problems. Using it repeatedly on your eyelids can actually cause the blood vessels to become more dilated over time as they try to counter the constricting phenylephrine.
So if you were up late celebrating the Celtics victory (or crying over the Lakers loss) and realized that you have a critical meeting (or photo shoot) this morning, then using a tiny bit of Preparation H might make you more presentable. However, using it repeatedly or getting it into your eyes can be dangerous.
It might be better to just eat a banana (potassium helps counter the excess salt) and to smile a lot, which helps squeeze that extra fluid out of your eyes naturally.
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD. You might also like:
Photo credit: Kristin Pishdadi