Cucumbers on eyes can address the retention of fluid and reduce puffiness. This popular home and spa remedy also can control redness and swelling from irritation, as the vegetables contain compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. When chilled, they affect the size of blood vessels, which can reduce inflammation and improve the appearance of dark circles. Some people like to combine them with potatoes for this purpose.
Removal of Excess Water
Cucumbers contain both ascorbic acid, better known as Vitamin C, and caffeic acid, an antioxidant also found in coffee. Both these compounds prevent water retention, so when slices are left on closed eyelids and the under-eye area, they draw excess moisture out of the skin cells. Swelling and puffiness usually improve as a result.
Cold Therapy Control of Inflammation
Normally, when part of the body is irritated, overworked or injured, the immune system kicks in with the inflammation response. The blood vessels dilate during this process, allowing more helpful white blood cells to reach the hurt area and fix it. This is a good thing because it promotes healing, but sometimes it can get a little out of control, causing sensitivity and pain, in which case, cold therapy helps.
In general, anything cool placed on the skin minimizes the inflammation response, because cold is a vaso-constricter, which simply means that it causes blood vessels to tighten up. When someone chills a cucumber before putting it on her eyes — this is easy to do by popping it in the refrigerator or a bowl of ice water — redness and swelling might go down. In this sense, using the vegetable isn't much different than using a regular ice pack or compress, and the benefit comes from the lack of heat rather than the vegetable itself. People like using it, however, because slices easily contour to the eye and are lightweight.
Lightening of Dark Circles
Given that cold has the ability to reduce how much blood vessels open up, chilled cucumber sometimes can improve the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. It is large or damaged blood vessels near the skin's surface that make this area look blue-black. By applying the cold vegetable, a person can constrict them and control the color of the skin to an extent. This is not a permanent solution by any means, but it can be a good refresher before having a picture taken or making a public appearance, such as giving a speech.
Chemical Control of Inflammation
Researchers have confirmed that, in addition to Vitamin C, cucumbers also contain other substances such as manganese and beta-carotene that work as antioxidants, fighting the free radicals that can damage cells and promoting healing. They are also rich in flavonoids or plant pigments, which, in addition to having antioxidant properties, also reduce inflammation. Experts believe they work by controlling specific enzymes, such as cyclo-oxygenase 2, and levels of nitric oxide, which are involved in the response.
Combination With Potatoes
Some individuals swear by a mixture of cucumbers and potatoes for making the eyes look and feel better. The potatoes contain the enzyme catecholase, which works as a natural skin lightener and that, when combined with the vaso-dilation that cool cucumbers can promote, can reduce the appearance of dark circles. A simple way to use the two vegetables together is to mash them to form a paste, which a person can put on the eyes and rinse off after a few minutes.
Tips and Considerations
It's always a good idea to avoid unnecessary pulling when applying anything to the eyes, because the skin in this area is very thin and easily damaged. Additionally, thin pieces of the vegetable usually work best, because they are more flexible and, therefore, can bend with facial contours. In most cases, the bigger the cucumber, the better, because the slices then are large enough to cover the entire eye. Many people find it most comfortable to apply them in a reclining position so they don't fall off, and so it's easier to relax and get rid of the tension that might be present in the entire face.