Does Caffeine Truly Reduce Undereye Puffiness and Discoloration?


Cassandra loves this Caffeine Solution 5% + ECGC serum from The Ordinary’s EGCG Serum, but not for the reasons you’d expect. She normally puts it all over her face, but she thought to use it the way most do and apply it as an eye cream just to see how it goes. This product is meant to reduce the appearance of eye contour, pigmentation, and puffiness. The other ingredients we have in here are maltodextrin and propanediol which help penetrate. Propanediol and maltodextrin are both humectants that hold onto water which can aid in barrier support. 

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + ECGC Serum -$7.50


We also have a patented EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which comes from green tea. Green tea is great when applied to the face because it can be rejuvenating, lifting, stimulating, and help with skin/body puffiness. However, when you topically apply caffeine to the under-eyes area, is it truly enough to produce a lifting or tightening effect? There’s also melanin in this product. Perhaps it’s just for the product’s color or to provide a tint, but there are also some interesting acids within the product that definitely make an impact. 

What causes puffiness under the eyes?

The causes of eyebags can vary. For example, Cassandra has had many nights where she wakes up with eyebags and purpleness under her eyes because she doesn’t sleep too well and the veins beneath her eyes have dilated with fluid. She gets them above her cheekbones, but caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor which can reduce this effect. “Vaso” means vein means. So, caffeine constricts and tightens veins. The skin underneath our eyes is thinner and because of that, we can see those veins poking through the skin, especially when they’re dilated. And sometimes, this makes the area look dark because of pigmentation or shadows cast by puffy eyelids. Moreover, pigmentation can form underneath the eyes because of poor blood circulation. However, there is data that shows how caffeine blocks adenosine receptors and increases blood flow.

Adenosine is a naturally occurring substance that relaxes and dilates (opens) blood vessels, and in a 2013 study in Japan (University of the Ryukyus, in Okinawa), researchers found that blood flow improved by nearly one-third in the small blood vessel among the people who drank caffeinated coffee. 

As for puffiness, caffeine can constrict those dilated veins given its effect on ”adenosine.” Because of its effect on blood circulation, it can also stimulate some fluid back into the body and likewise, reduce puffiness and shadows.

Even when caffeine is applied topically, “given its role as an antioxidant, it helps to protect cells from UV radiation and damage, and there has been evidence that caffeine-containing cosmetic products may increase microcirculation within the skin” (Dermatology Times, 2020). A great example is The Ordinary’s ECGC serum which is great to work into a moisturizer. If you do have rosacea, it wouldn’t be Cassandra’s first choice, but it’s not half bad as an antioxidant serum. 

Cassandra put it underneath her eyes when she had bags, and she applied this religiously for two months. Over the first week, she wasn’t expecting to see a lot of differences just because you normally don’t see differences with skincare so quickly. You have to allow the skin to grow accustomed to it and see changes, but even after two weeks, she didn’t notice much of a difference. She still had puffy areas under her eyes. At about the 3-week mark, Cassandra still wasn’t seeing much improvement, but she did notice something at about the one-month mark. She noticed that she woke up with really dark, purple bags, but they did manage to go away throughout the day. However, when you stand up and move around that increases circulation and fluid drainage too. The color dissipated, but she wonders if readjusting to being upright and gravity contributed to the color dissipation too?

The Ordinary is great, especially their serums, but by the end, Cassandra didn’t notice huge changes. Again, a lot of these things are genetically determined, and a little bit of cream is not going to get rid of that. 

This product doesn’t really deal with under-eye wrinkles. If you wanted something for wrinkles, get an eye-safe retinol. The Inkey List has one that’s not overpriced. 

The INKEY list 1% Retinol Serum - $10.99


Over two months, Cassandra used a bottle and a half, and while she didn’t see much of a difference she doesn’t regret buying the product because you can work it into another moisturizer or another serum to increase glow and provide some antioxidants. Antioxidants may help with extra pigmentation on the skin. Once again though, we shouldn’t expect a miracle in a bottle, because a lot of these things are genetic. Plus, the term “eye cream” is largely marketing because the products we use on the rest of our faces can be used underneath our eyes and vice versa. However, you might not want to put occlusives under the eyes because some people have found this gives them milia or little bumps. 

Cassandra loves the Ordinary, and this was her personal experience with using the product. 

Coverphoto cred: AdobeStock