Do you ever look at pictures of yourself after a night out and notice that your face looks unusually puffy?
While we commonly associate bloating and the foods that cause it with the body’s stomach and midsection, certain foods can cause your face to swell as well.
According to Starla Garcia, MEd, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian in Houston, Texas, and Rebecca Baxt, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Paramus, New Jersey, foods that have shown to cause facial bloating are often are high in sodium or monosodium glutamate (MSG).
It’s also called “sushi face,” thanks to actress Julianne Moore, and has been used to describe bloating and water retention that occurs after eating high-sodium meals like ramen, pizza, and, yep, sushi (likely due to refined carbs and soy sauce).
“Normally after eating a meal that is high in sodium, your body needs to balance itself out, so [it] will end up holding onto water in certain places, which can include the face,” Garcia said.
(It’s known that for every gram of glycogen, which is stored carbohydrate, your body stores 3 to 5 grams of water.)
Avoid eating at night
- processed meats like ham, bacon, and salami
- french fries
- alcoholic beverages
- condiments such as soy sauce and teriyaki sauce
For the sake of looking camera-ready the next day, it’s a good idea to avoid all the refined and processed carbohydrates, processed foods, and dairy products, because when it comes to having your sodium and not being bloated too, Baxt says it’s nearly impossible.
“There’s really no known way to prevent bloating from foods that are high in salt and carbohydrates. A lot of it really just comes down to common sense,” she says.
“If you know you want to avoid this reaction on a specific day or occasion, your best bet is to simply avoid these foods for a couple of days beforehand and focus on a healthier diet with less salt and refined carbs. When you do eat these foods and experience facial puffiness, it should resolve itself within a day or so, once they are worked out of your system.”
Garcia recommends staying away from these foods for most of the week leading up to any camera-ready event.
If you’re in a time crunch on the day of a special event, you can try some quick hacks to get your facial bloating to go down.
This technique has been said to boost circulation and assist with lymphatic drainage, helping your skin look brighter and more energized.
Incorporating some facial exercises into your beauty routine may also help strengthen the muscles under your skin, helping your face to look leaner and toned rather than puffy.
Wash with cold water:
Cold water can constrict the blood vessels and help the swelling go down.
Cardiovascular exercise may also help bloating go down, so waking up to do your daily run in the morning might be worth the early alarm.
Review your diet:
If you want to take further steps to reduce water retention, take a look at your overall diet. You may want to consider your intake of certain vitamins and minerals, or incorporating certain herbs when cooking, such as garlic, parsley, and fennel.
Fortunately, there are certain food groups that can actually help reduce the occurrence of bloating in both your midsection and, in turn, your face, Garcia says.
Here’s what you can snack on at night, instead.
1. Snack on fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are known to be some of the highest sources of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals — while at the same time being low in fat and sodium.
Many fruits and veggies also have a high-water content, which assists your body in staying well-hydrated and decreasing bloat.
So the next time you feel like having a late-night snack:
Opt for a bowl of berries or sliced red bell pepper with guacamole instead of cake.
The fiber will help you feel fuller faster so you won’t overeat, which could happen when it comes to processed snacks or desserts.
Loading up on fruits and vegetables can also increase water intake, as the majority of them are made up of water. This also aids in decreasing inflammation and bloat.
2. Eat yogurt, instead of ice cream for dessert
Yes, even though other dairy sources like milk and cheese are known to cause bloating, yogurt might actually have the opposite effect.
By choosing a yogurt that’s low in added sugar and contains live, active cultures — which indicate that it contains effective probiotics — you can help reduce the frequency of bloating and uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Greek yogurt with mixed berries is an excellent snack choice to help prevent bloating and puffiness.
3. Try fermented foods and beverages
Just like many yogurts out there, fermented foods and beverages have been shown to promote good bacteria or probiotics in your gut.
The good bacteria could help with bloating — and by reducing overall bloating, this might help with facial swelling.
Examples of these foods include:
- kefir, a cultured dairy product similar to yogurt
- fermented tea
4. Stick to whole grains, instead of processed foods
Whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and rice alternatives like quinoa and amaranth are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, unlike their refined counterparts like white bread and pasta.
So if toast is one of your go-to breakfast or snack choices, opt for a sprouted grain bread like Ezekiel bread instead of plain white.
When you include nutrient-dense, fibrous carbs over refined, sugary carbs, it can help combat inflammation and thus keep facial puffiness at bay.
5. Stay hydrated
While water isn’t technically something you eat, just staying hydrated throughout the day and night can help to reduce water retention, stomach bloating, and the chance of facial puffiness as well.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults consume 72 to 104 ounces of water a day in total from food, other beverages, and water itself.
Some easy ways to get this are to carry a 16- to 32-ounce bottle of water and refill it as needed, and also to only order water to drink when dining out (which will also save you money as an added bonus).
“While facial bloating isn’t a cause for concern beyond the fact that it might make you feel self-conscious, if you experience symptoms like hives or an upset stomach, you should consult a primary care doctor or gastrointestinal specialist,” Baxt says.
“[A doctor can help] determine if you might have a food allergy or undiagnosed stomach condition.”
“If you consciously choose foods that are wholesome, natural, and free of preservatives you have a better chance of being bloat-free,” Garcia reminds us. “The longer you avoid, you don’t have to worry about bloating at all.”
Emilia Benton is a freelance writer and editor based in Houston, Texas. She’s also a nine-time marathoner, avid baker, and frequent traveler.