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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a triple-board-certified dermatologist with over 100 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Crying: How does it impact your skin?

Updated: 3 days ago

Crying is something almost all of us do. Some more often than others, depending on their life circumstances. There are happy tears and sad tears...wait, this isn't an article on crying as a behavior; it's about how it impacts your skin.

So, let me take a step back, give you a brief introduction about myself and come back to how crying impacts your skin.

I am Dr. Alpana, MD, IFAAD, a board-certified dermatologist. You can read all about me here and here. Yes, I cry, too, like all humans. As a skin specialist, I have thought a lot about how this impacts my skin and hair and explored the research.

Therefore, I assure you that the information I share below will be accurate.

Okay, so without further ado, let's dive right in.


Tables of Contents

Mosaic image of a woman  wiping her tears.

Is Crying Good for Your Skin?

No. Crying is not good for the skin. It's terrible in various ways. Let me explain:

  1. Excessive and continuous skin exposure to tears can irritate the skin barrier and cause rashes. This happens because the normal pH of our skin is around 5.5, but the pH of tears is between 6.5-7.6. This can occur both in the under-eye area as well as the eyelids.

  2. Due to the tears, you may repeatedly rub the area in and around your eyes. This can cause micro-tears over the surface skin, skin barrier disruption, capillary damage, and collagen breakdown.

  3. Individuals who cry frequently often experience anxiety or stress, and crying serves as a coping mechanism for them. In these cases, crying is an indicator of compromised emotional well-being linked to elevated cortisol levels. Prolonged stress can lead to inflammation, potentially exacerbating skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Why do eyes get puffed up after crying?

Eyes can become puffy after crying due to a combination of physiological factors:

  1. Fluid Retention: Crying can lead to an increase in fluid retention in the tissues around the eyes. The increased blood flow and dilation of blood vessels can allow fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues, leading to puffiness.

  2. Swelling and Inflammation: Frequent crying, often a coping mechanism for emotional distress, can trigger elevated stress hormones. These hormones can cause blood vessels to dilate and lead to increased blood flow to the area around your eyes. This can result in swelling and inflammation, causing the tissue around the eyes to become puffy.

  3. Damage to Blood Vessels: Unlike other parts of the body, the skin on your eyelids lacks the cushioning of subcutaneous fat, which provides protection and support. In fact, the layer of subcutaneous fat beneath the eyelid skin is less than 1mm thick. This absence of substantial padding makes the delicate eyelid skin even more vulnerable to the effects of rubbing and friction, contributing to the increased risk of capillary breakage, fluid release, and swelling when the eyes are rubbed frequently. This also leads to dark eyelids and dark circles around the eyes.

  4. Lymphatic Drainage Disruption: The lymphatic system drains excess fluid and waste products from tissues. These lymphatics play a major role in maintaining the pressure inside our eyes. Crying can temporarily disrupt the normal lymphatic drainage process by kinking the lymphatic vessels. This causes fluid to accumulate around the eyes and contributes to puffiness.

  5. Rubbing and Irritation: Some people may rub or touch the delicate skin around their eyes when wiping away tears. This rubbing and the salt and minerals in tears can irritate the skin and exacerbate puffiness.

  6. Dehydration: Crying can lead to mild dehydration, causing the body to retain water to maintain fluid balance. This can contribute to overall facial puffiness, including around the eyes.

How to depuff your eyes after crying

How to Depuff (reduce eye swelling) Your Eyes After Crying?

Reducing eye swelling after crying can be achieved through various methods:

  • Cold Compress: Applying a cold gel eye mask, cold compress, or chilled cucumber slices can constrict blood vessels and reduce puffiness.

  • Tea Bags: Chilled tea bags (green or black tea) contain antioxidants and tannins that may alleviate swelling.

  • Under-Eye Patches: Under-eye patches help with swelling by hydrating, cooling, and soothing the skin. I particularly like the COSRX Advanced Snail Hydrogel Eye Patch because it's loaded with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, which keep skin plump and hydrated. Pro tip: Store your eye patches in the fridge before use since it helps in constricting blood vessels and reducing fluid build-up.

  • Gentle Massage: Using your fingertips, lightly massage the area around your eyes to encourage lymphatic drainage.

  • Hydration: Drinking water helps prevent fluid retention and promotes overall skin health.

  • Chilled Spoon: Placing a chilled spoon on your eye can provide relief by cooling the area and temporarily reducing puffiness; ensure not to freeze the spoon for this purpose.

Why Do My Eyes Burn When I Cry?

When tears flow down your cheeks, you may have noticed a stinging or burning sensation in your eyes. This discomfort can be attributed to several factors:

Salt Content in Tears

Tears are composed of water, electrolytes, proteins, and lipids. The salt content in tears, primarily sodium chloride, can cause a burning sensation when it comes into contact with the sensitive skin around your eyes or enters the tiny abrasions that might exist on the ocular surface.

Irritants and Allergens

Environmental factors such as pollen, dust, or smoke can be present in the air and get trapped in your tears, leading to irritation. These irritants can exacerbate the burning sensation, especially if you are prone to allergies.

pH Imbalance

The normal pH of the ocular surface is around 7.0 (neutral). However, the pH of tears can vary between 6.5 and 7.6. When this slightly alkaline pH level interacts with the more neutral pH of the skin and ocular surface, it can cause a burning sensation.

Emotional Tears

Emotional tears, unlike basal or reflex tears, contain higher levels of stress hormones and toxins. When these components are released through crying, they can cause a burning sensation on the skin and eyes.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Individuals with dry eye syndrome have reduced tear production or increased tear evaporation, leading to an imbalanced tear film. When such individuals cry, the tears may not spread evenly across the eye surface, causing areas of dryness and resultant burning sensations.

How to Stop Headache After Crying?

To alleviate headaches triggered by crying:

  • Hydrate: Dehydration can exacerbate headaches, so drink water to stay hydrated.

  • Rest: Get sufficient rest to allow your body to recover.

  • Dark Room: Dim the lights and rest in a quiet, dark room to minimize sensory stimulation.

Health Benefits of Crying

Crying has potential emotional and physiological benefits, including:

  • Stress Relief: Crying may help reduce stress by releasing emotional tension and stress hormones.

  • Mood Enhancement: Tears contain endorphins, natural painkillers that can improve mood and provide a sense of relief.

  • Toxin Removal: Emotional tears can contain certain toxins, potentially serving as a means of eliminating them from the body.

Does Crying Cause Pimples?

Crying itself doesn't directly cause pimples. However, stress and hormonal changes triggered by crying can contribute to the development of acne. Stress increases the production of sebum (skin oil) and inflammation, both associated with acne breakouts.

Are Tears Good for Your Eyelashes?

Tears contain natural lubricants and enzymes that help maintain eye health, but their direct impact on eyelash growth is limited. Over time, excessive crying and rubbing of the eyes can potentially weaken eyelashes due to mechanical stress.

It's essential to handle the delicate eye area gently to avoid damage.

To Conclude

While crying is not good skin, it doesn't mean you suppress your emotions. Since crying is something you hopefully won't do very frequently, it will be good to take care of your skin while you do. Bad incidents in life don't always have to cause unnecessary damages that can take a long time to heal.


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