Puffy Problems

It may not look like a good thing, but inflammation is a sign that the body is healing. The article below is called Puffy Isn’t Pretty: Signs of – and solutions for – inflammation from ASCP Skin Deep Magazine written by Howard Murad. It has great science to explain what is happening deep in our skin cells. The article also states some ways to reduce and prevent inflammation.

Here are some brief highlights of the article:

The reasons why we get puff can be classified as internal, external, or emotional triggers.

When inflammation is constant and or chronic, the helpful compounds produced by the immune system begin to breakdown cells making the skin weak leading to more wrinkles and prevents skin conditions from healing quickly.

The aging process itself can cause lower levels of inflammation due to inconsistent immune responses – going too far or not far enough to repair the damage.

Water is not the only answer to fixing puffy skin. The body needs to absorb water through foods as well.

The 10 best ways to combat inflammation are: alkaline diets, exercise, sleep, cucumber, essential fatty acids, eggs, anti-oxidants, avoiding too much salt, fruits and broccoli.



Puffy Isn’t Pretty

Signs of – and solutions for – inflammation

By Howard Murad

From Skin Deep Magazine November / December


As we age, certain things are inevitable—and the mirror doesn’t lie. No matter how we try to elongate our neck and suck in our cheeks, we look puffy and round-faced, especially the morning after an evening of imbibing. That puffiness is really just inflammation—excess water in the extracellular matrix. Cells have leaked their vital intracellular water, and a lack of circulation has made the excess water pool in tissues. While inflammation is more apparent around the eyes, it happens all over the body.


We have all experienced inflammation at one time or another when we have an injury or illness. At the cellular level, inflammation is a sign that the immune system has been activated. The skin’s Langerhans cells and keratinocytes attack inflammation immediately and signal with cytokines that help is needed. This initiates an inflammatory reaction, which triggers a two-stage immune response. First, white blood cells (leukocytes) produce natural inflammation stoppers (interleukins, prostaglandins) in the area surrounding the damaged cells. Second, other white blood cells (macrophages and neutrophils) migrate to the site of inflammation, where they release two classes of beneficial molecules—reactive oxygen species (ROS) and proteolytic enzymes (neutrophil elastase, collagenase, and matrix metalloproteinases). Together, these compounds provide protection from infections while promoting removal and repair of damaged cells and connective tissue. In healthy individuals, inflammation resolves. All is well again, and skin and tissues normalize. While it may not seem like a good sign, inflammation is the body’s signal that healing is happening.


The reasons why puffiness occurs are varied and involve internal, external, and emotional triggers. These assaults are numerous, are specific to individuals based on their chemical makeup, and can occur together as they overlap and even exacerbate each other.

In general, however, the internal inflammation catalysts (or those inherent within the body) include diseases and systemic disorders and hormonal influences. The external catalysts include ultraviolet (UV) exposure, sedentary lifestyle, toxins, and bad dietary and lifestyle choices. The emotional causes include stress; specifically, cultural stress—the incessant noise and chaos of living in today’s modern world. Because the body is designed to reach homeostasis, or balance, it is programmed to react to things that put it out of kilter. So, when systems are unhealthy, such as with diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or digestive disorders; when we are exposed to too much UV and toxins; or when we get emotionally ramped up because of cultural stress, the body reacts with inflammation. Of all the causes of inflammation, the emotional part may be the most under-addressed and least-often identified. Stress causes inflammation, but most of the time we don’t make the connection that how we feel aligns with the constant levels of inflammation we experience. It’s the relentless stress of modern, everyday living— this new kind of cultural stress that most people don’t even notice—that affects the entire body and can contribute to serious health problems, inside and out.


When inflammation is chronic or constant, the beneficial molecules produced for healing end up hurting our cells, which results in tissue deterioration. Skin literally begins to break down from the effect of the ROS and proteolytic enzymes, making skin more fragile and promoting wrinkles. Skin conditions don’t heal as well, rosacea flares become problematic, acne breakouts occur, hyperpigmentation sets in, and our skin ages faster. The aging process itself can cause constant low levels of inflammation because skin develops a disproportionate immune response—one that goes too far or not far enough to repair the environmental insult or stress-induced damage. With uncontrolled inflammation, skin is crying for help because it can’t do it on its own—we have to act and assist it internally, externally, and emotionally. We may not be able to stop inflammation completely, nor would we want to, but we can accelerate its healing and even prevent chronic inflammation. To do this, we need to focus on water—intracellular water, that is.


Water inside our cells makes them resilient, and resilient cells will keep the skin barrier intact. Strong cells will function and heal tissues quickly, so skin resists inflammation and the immunity response works efficiently to manage any assaults. When we are born, cells are plump, young, and juicy, with a lot of water inside. They’re resilient to damage. However, as we age, our cells start to leak vital intracellular water. Think of this process like a raisin—it starts as a plump grape, but gets progressively dehydrated and the interior of the raisin concentrates and becomes stickier and stickier. Within cells, this stickiness traps waste and the cell is less able to hold water in. Naturally, you may be thinking that we just need to drink more water, but this is only partly correct. If a cell is leaky, it simply can’t hold the water we drink. Puffy tissues already have enough water in the extracellular matrix surrounding cells, but dehydrated cells can’t do anything with this water. Rather than drink water, we should eat it in the form of juicy, nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. As we digest these foods, the nutrients are delivered to the cells through the bloodstream, so they can initiate cell repair and close the leaks. Cells function better, healthy water stays inside the cells, and puffiness goes away. Rejuvenated cells are stronger, so future inflammation and damage is easier to handle and heal.


Regardless of how we become puffy or suffer from inflammation in our tissues, the common path is intracellular water loss. To encourage whole-health beauty down to the cellular level and reduce inflammation and puffiness, an external, internal, and emotional strategy works best:

  • Externally or topically, choose proven skin care treatments and ingredients that protect and refine skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Internally, diseases and disorders must be addressed. Exercise and relaxation, an alkaline, healthful diet, and supplements can fill in the nutritional gaps. Encourage sleep therapy to normalize hormonal imbalances.
  • Emotionally, educate clients about cultural stress and encourage them to digitally disconnect whenever they can. A mental health regimen that counteracts depression, isolation, a sedentary lifestyle, and anxiety can alleviate stress that results in inflammation. Consider therapies that promote laughter and play, and reconnect clients with their sense of wonder. There are many ways to counteract puffiness; however, a concerted effort (external, internal, and emotional) is the best route to minimize inflammation and prevent tissue damage.


The following is a list of the best remedies that can have profound effects on puffiness.

Alkaline diet: For puffiness, the more alkaline the diet, the better. Acidic foods can cause cell dehydration and can enhance cellular oxidation, which increases inflammation. The most hydrating foods are those packed with the highest levels of nutrients and are beneficial to cell health. In general, this includes foods that are anti-inflammatory and as low acid to alkaline-forming as possible, such as fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables.

Exercise: Inflammation decreases when circulation improves. Exercise increases circulation, and as the heart pumps blood through all the tissues, cells are bathed with nutrients. Exercise also reduces stress levels and helps the body process damaging cortisol levels.

Sleep: Sleep is wonderfully restorative and necessary for good health. Mediators of inflammation are altered by sleep loss. Sleep reduces high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which causes damage and inflammation in all tissues. Sleep also promotes hormone recycling and balance within the body. Adults need at least seven hours every night.

Cucumber: Cucumbers are comprised of 96 percent water, so they are highly hydrating. Their high levels of vitamin K reduce dark circles, and the lignans they contain reduce inflammation. They are one of the most alkaline vegetables, and because of their triterpenes, they may work well to regulate diseases that involve the immune system. Cucumber counteracts acidic pH within the body. Because of their B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and zinc content, cucumbers are heart healthy and promote mood stability, which underscores the science behind the saying “as cool as a cucumber.”

Essential fatty acids (EFAs): EFAs are helpful because they inhibit transcription factors that are linked to pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Moreover, omega-3 EFAs, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, have been shown to inhibit the production of inflammatory mediators that encourage puffiness. Omega-3 EFAs reduce inflammation caused by prostaglandins and exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Eggs: One or two eggs per week offer the body high levels of protein, folic acid, vitamin A, lecithin, and vitamin B12. Lecithin repairs tissues as it fills in and rebuilds cell walls, which helps all organs remain fully hydrated and able to function at their highest levels. Egg yolks are mainly comprised of phosphatidylcholine—a major component of cellular membranes.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants, in general, are well-known for their skin and health benefits as protectants against the effects of aging and inflammation. Antioxidants reduce inflammation by quenching excessive ROS and inhibiting matrix metalloproteinase activity.

Avoid salt: Salt causes and magnifies inflammation. Every cell needs sodium to work properly, and it is essential for nerves and muscles, including the heart, to function properly, but most of us consume too much. Extra salt requires extra water, which results in water retention—a form of inflammation.

Fruit: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, cherries, and pomegranates contain high levels of polyphenols and offer positive and preventive effects on cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, and inflammation. Most berries are moderately acidic, but contain strong anti-inflammatory properties that come from flavonoids.

Broccoli: Broccoli is full of isothiocyanates—sulfur containing phytochemicals—and is highly alkaline. Known for their anti-carcinogenic properties, isothiocyanates (which contain sulforaphane) fight inflammation, stop cancer from spreading, and induce cancer cell death as they work inside the cell to boost enzymatic activity that prevents oxidation. Sulfur is found in every living cell and it plays a key role in collagen synthesis.


Science has offered many new discoveries to tackle inflammation and skin puffiness. The body truly is a wonderful machine, and looking at every part of it at the cellular level will no doubt offer us more clues on how fantastically it functions. Skin care professionals must understand that everything in the body is connected and know how the immune system operates in relation to cell health. Puffiness is no match for internal, external, and emotional solutions. Try these strategies and you’ll see. Without having to stretch or suck it in, puffiness will be gone. The mirror won’t lie.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This