Puffy-eyed. That’s me. Even after 8pm-to-bed-with-herbal-tea (okay, okay, never with herbal tea – but you get the gist). So when a colleague reminded me of how all the models swore by Prep H hemorrhoid cream to get those ridiculously fresh-looking wide innocent eyes, I had to try it.
The low-down on Prep H, aka bum cream
Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen veins in the lower part of the anus and rectum. Cute. And Preparation H has long been THE name we’ve all come to know and love in the treatment of said awkward protrusions. It works by temporarily narrowing the blood vessels in the area, so decreasing swelling and discomfort (burning, pain, itching and all those delights).
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On the surface of it, the bum-to-face maths makes sense: narrowing blood vessels, decreasing swelling. I mean, I’ve tried the cold teaspoon trick and it just left me feeling a little chilly. Surely this, being an actual “medicinal cream”, would work better?
I was beyond excited on Testing Day and slapped on potentially dangerous (more on that later) levels of Prep H. The tightening feeling was encouragingly instant – but it remained more of a feeling than a result, I thought. My colleagues all seemed to notice a change, though – so, once more inspired, I repeated the performance the next day, and smeared a giant finger-full across my forehead for good measure. Because… Frown lines. [FYI: That was a very bad idea. Forehead lines and eye bags are not the same thing, dummy.]
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I was not the only one willing my eye area into submission. Here’s what my fellow testers had to say:
“My under-eye area feels puffy when I haven’t had enough quality sleep – which was the case the day I tested the cream. I wasn’t expecting any difference, but surprisingly, after just a few minutes, my eyes felt more… open. There was no visible difference, but I definitely felt less puffy. It felt horribly sticky, though, and the smell was horrendous. It smells like something medicinal that’s meant for your bum. I haven’t used it since and I wouldn’t use it again. Not worth it.” – Wanita.
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“I had always heard the urban legend that Prep H was supposed to plump up lines around the eyes, or reduce bags – or something. But I’ve never actually tried it until now… I thought my skin under my eyes felt moisturised, but couldn’t feel any tightening or ‘plumping’. I also couldn’t see a visible difference in my own skin. I did notice a sort of ‘softening’ on the skin of a colleague though. [Yup, that’ll be me.]” – Leigh.
I mailed a doctor – but not until AFTER I’d tried it
“[It] might work temporarily for reducing puffy eyes,” explains dermatologist Dr Nomphelo Gantsho. “It restricts the blood vessels, which could get rid of the redness for a while, and contains one percent hydrocortisone, an anti-inflammatory that might temporarily reduce puffiness – in theory…”
I’m sensing a but…
“There is no conclusive scientific evidence on Preparation H Hemorrhoid Cream being more effective than other methods of reducing eye puffiness.”
So, is it cool for an insta-fix, albeit fleeting?
Um… No. “If you accidentally get some in your eye, the ingredients can cause serious damage, and then puffiness will be the least of your concerns. The labels state that you should NOT use the product in, or near, your eyes,” says Gantsho.
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And that’s not all. “Prolonged use of topical steroids like hydrocortisone has been shown to cause skin thinning, increased skin fragility, enlarged blood vessels, and can even result in problems with your adrenal gland. In short, your eyes will end up looking worse, not better.” I should probably have read the label then.
“Don’t use Preparation H Hemorrhoid Cream to treat your eye puffiness. It can do more harm than good. Since eye puffiness can be a sign of a health issue, like lack of sleep, allergies, or dehydration, it’s important to address the root issue and not just the symptoms,” says Gantsho. Her safe eye-puff fix: Apply a cool compress, then conceal with make-up. Back to the spoon. Boom.
This article was first published on Women's Health SA.