Does Preparation H work on undereye bags?
Dear Bag Lady,
My best answer: It depends.
Hemorrhoid creams like Preparation H contain phenylephrine, a compound that shrinks hemorrhoids by constricting the veins (vasoconstriction), leading to less blood flow in the area.
Unfortunately, this means Preparation H will only work on puffy eyes that are primarily caused by excess blood pooling in the area. The other factors that may contribute to puffy eyes — including allergies, excess sodium intake, water retention, and heredity — are not alleviated at all by hemorrhoidal cream use.
Never use Hemorrhoid Cream After Applying Other Creams or Makeup!
Another problem with using hemorrhoid cream to treat puffy eyes is the fact that it contains mostly occlusive agents, which trap moisture and other ingredients under the skin. Occlusive agents, which include petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin, can be great when used exclusively to treat dry skin. However, if you apply an eye cream or makeup followed by occlusive agent-rich hemorrhoid cream to your skin, you’re virtually asking for breakouts.
So if you’re going to try hemorrhoid cream on undereye bags, use it without any other eye creams, and only apply makeup after. (For the record, if you try to apply other eye creams after, you’ll find they are unlikely to reach the skin and hence be effective through the thickness of a hemorrhoid cream).
Is it potentially harmful to try?
Most likely, no. The major side effect that may occur from using hemorrhoid cream under the eyes is allergy. Although lanolin and lanolin alcohol allergies are relatively rare, problems are significant enough for dermatologists to still qualify lanolin as a weak contact allergen (Contact Dermatitis, 2007). So attempt using hemorrhoid cream with caution, or utilize a patch test-like method, trying only a very small amount of cream on a tiny portion of undereye skin to test your tolerance first.
As for questions of the occlusive agents themselves being toxic, I have addressed this on the blog before and I will say it again: Rumors that petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin wax are bad for you stem from the fact that they are all derived from petrolatum. Most companies ensure their petrolatum-derived ingredients are purified to be what the U.S. FDA declares “cosmetics-grade” and safe. What’s more, a 2009 study in The Journal of Toxicological Sciences further demonstrated that purified petrolatum derivatives are safe and actually beneficial to the skin, but the rumors persist anyway. I feel the major problem with using occlusive agents is, again, combining them with other skin care treatments, not toxicity.
Hemorrhoid cream might help your undereye bags if they are caused by excess blood flow. It’s unlikely to hurt you unless you have an allergy to any of the ingredients therein. My best recommendations? Ask your dermatologist, and try to do a patch test on a very small patch of undereye skin to see how well you tolerate the treatment first.
Ingredients in Preparation H
|Mineral oil 14%
|Phenylephrine HCl 0.25%
benzoic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, corn oil, glycerin, lanolin, lanolin alcohols, methylparaben, mineral oil, paraffin, propylparaben, purified water, shark liver oil, thymus vulgaris (thyme) flower/leaf oil, tocopherols excipient, white wax
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