How to Reduce Facial Swelling

A dark-haired woman with a slightly swollen-looking face holds her hands to either side of her face as she looks into a mirror.
  • Facial swelling can be caused by a variety of factors, including accidents, allergies, and infections.
  • Treatment varies depending on the cause of the facial swelling.
  • Face swelling may also be caused by surgery, such as a tooth extraction, or cosmetic procedures, such as dermal fillers and facelifts.
  • Facial swelling isn’t typically serious. However, if you have facial swelling due to anaphylaxis, it may involve breathing difficulties and other serious medical complications. If you’re having trouble breathing, contact emergency services immediately.

Facial swelling is a common symptom that can be caused by a lot of different things, such as injuries, allergies, and infections.

In some cases, it may also be a sign of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that needs urgent medical attention. If you’re having trouble breathing, contact emergency services immediately.

This article will look at different causes for facial swelling and provide some ways to reduce it.

What is Facial Swelling?

Facial swelling, or facial edema, is a condition characterized by inflammation and excess fluid accumulation in the facial tissues.

The most common causes of facial swelling are allergic reactions to food, medicines, or other substances. These allergic reactions trigger inflammation and increase blood flow to the soft tissues of the face, causing them to swell up.

Facial swelling can also be caused by certain medical conditions or injuries.

What Causes Facial Swelling?

Facial swelling can happen for a number of reasons. It is typically characterized by a feeling of pressure in the swollen area or a visible puffiness due to inflamed facial tissue.

However, facial swelling doesn't just happen on your face. It can also affect the neck, tongue, and throat. There are many potential causes of facial swelling or inflammation, including:

  • Pressure on the face while sleeping
  • Actinomycosis
  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Injuries
  • Surgery
  • Sinusitis

A swollen, puffy face can also be caused by an injury to the face, or it might be a sign of a more serious medical condition. If it's accompanied by bruising under the eye after head trauma, be sure to seek immediate medical assistance.

How to Reduce Swelling in the Face After Sleep

It isn’t uncommon for people to sometimes wake up with a puffy face or swollen lips. Your face can swell for a number of reasons. For example, you might have consumed too much salt, had an alcoholic drink or two the night before, or become dehydrated in your sleep.

It can also be the result of:

  • Allergies (usually mold, dust, or pollen)
  • Hormonal changes
  • The way your face rests on the pillow
  • Stress (which causes inflammation that results in swelling)

If you wake up and find your face is swollen or puffy, try some of these tips to relieve your symptoms:

  • Wash your face with cool water
  • Avoid salty and processed foods (before bed and in general)
  • Remove your makeup before bedtime
  • Stay hydrated
  • Decrease alcohol intake
  • Sleep on your back or side
  • Apply cold cucumbers to the swollen areas
A young man in a white t-shirt sleeps on his stomach in a bed with white linens. His right hand is outstretched and resting on the pillow beside him.

If these tips don’t help and you regularly wake up with a puffy or swollen face, seek medical attention. While it may not be serious, your doctor might be able to identify the cause of the facial swelling and help you manage your symptoms.

How to Reduce Facial Swelling Due to Allergic Reactions

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) estimates that over 50 million Americans experience some sort of allergy every year.

The most common causes of allergic reactions that could lead to facial swelling, include:

  • Certain foods (such as shellfish, peanuts, and bananas)
  • Medications
  • Insect or bee stings
  • Infections

While facial swelling caused by allergic reactions is generally treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication, such as antihistamines or inhalers, it should always be treated seriously. Allergic reactions may cause your airways to constrict or your tongue to swell. As a general rule, you should try to find out what has caused the allergic reaction and see if an antihistamine, cold pack, or inhaler helps.

If the swelling or inflammation persists, get medical help immediately. Even if you feel fine initially, your condition could worsen.

Key Point: What is an Antihistamine?

Antihistamines are a class of drugs commonly used to treat symptoms of allergies. These drugs help treat conditions caused by histamine, a chemical created by your body’s immune system.

How to Reduce Facial Swelling Due to an Injury

Facial swelling may occur after an injury. Depending on the location and severity, you may also have swelling in other areas, such as your neck, the back of your head, and your throat.

Injuries to the face or head can also show up on the outside, in the form of bruises or bleeding.

If you’re experiencing facial swelling because of an injury, apply an ice pack to the area where you were hurt as soon as possible. This may help lessen the swelling.

You should see a doctor right away if you have any:

Bruising should generally subside after one and two weeks, but you can help the process along with at-home treatments, such as applying ice and drinking plenty of water.

It’s also a good idea to avoid sleeping on your back and to keep your head slightly elevated while asleep.

In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications may help with pain and other symptoms.

However, you should always check with your doctor before taking any kind of medicine, even if it's over-the-counter.

How to Reduce Facial Swelling after Cosmetic Treatments or Surgery

Dermal Fillers

Dermal fillers (such as face and lip fillers) are gel-like substances that are injected into the face. They fill in lines and wrinkles and give areas like your lips and cheeks a more plump, youthful appearance.

A young woman receives an injectable dermal filler.

People can use ice packs or warm compresses if they experience swelling from dermal fillers in the first two weeks.

The swelling should subside in a few hours. However, in some cases, it can last for a few weeks at a time.

Speak to your doctor if the swelling lasts more than two weeks. They may prescribe steroids to reduce the inflammation.


A facelift or rhytidectomy, is a cosmetic surgery procedure that aims to make a person's face look younger.

Swelling may last for several weeks after a facelift. However, more noticeable swelling should disappear in 3 to 4 weeks.

An individual experiencing swelling after a facelift should take any pain medication that they’ve been prescribed. They should also talk to their doctor about post-surgery care.

As a rule, people should go to all of their follow-up appointments. Proper follow-up care can help reduce complications from surgeries, such as swelling, and speed up the healing process.

Tooth extraction

People who have dental work done, like a tooth removal for example, are also susceptible to facial swelling. The use of ice packs and corticosteroids afterwards is an excellent way to alleviate the pain and swelling caused by surgery.

Key Point: What Are Corticosteroids?

Key Point: What Are Corticosteroids?

Commonly referred to as steroids, corticosteroids are a type of anti-inflammatory drug. They are typically used to treat rheumatologic diseases, such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Vasculitis

The length of recovery will be affected by a person’s:

  • Age
  • General health
  • Type of procedure

However, the swelling should go down in a few days. If it doesn’t the dentist or a doctor should be contacted.

Can a Swollen Face Cause Breathing Difficulties?

If you have facial swelling due to anaphylaxis, you might experience a range of symptoms, and you may even struggle to breathe.

Anaphylaxis involves the rapid onset of symptoms after exposure to an allergen and is considered life-threatening.

Some other symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Widespread hives
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting and dizziness
  • A rapid heart rate

If you ever experience facial swelling accompanied by any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical care or call 911.

Where Can I Learn More About Other Health Conditions?

If you have a health concern, you can talk to a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner right from home. Head over to LifeMD to make a telehealth appointment.

Dr. Asunta Moduthagam

Dr. Moduthagam has been a family medicine physician since 2011. She loves working with patients to help them reach an optimal state of well-being. She’s dedicated to thoughtful, compassionate care and is committed to being her patients’ best advocate.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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