10 Tips to Relieve Red, Bloodshot Eyes

In This Article:

You wake up and look in the mirror and where the whites of your eye should be you see red stripes of swollen, enlarged blood vessels staring back at you. Not a pretty picture.

Bloodshot eyes can have many causes and may be symptomatic of something more serious, but often it is caused by irritation, allergies, eyestrain, environment, wearing contact lenses, dry eyes (especially during winter), swimming, and falling asleep in your makeup. If your red eyes are a result of these conditions, the solutions are relatively easy, painless, and inexpensive.
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Safe and Effective Solutions for Bloodshot Eyes:

Reasons for chronic red eyes might be related to a medical condition. If the tips below do not prove helpful, see your physician to rule our underlying causes.

  1. Use a humidifier. Air conditioning and indoor heating create a dry, irritating climate for your eyes. Using a humidifier in your home or office will add moisture back into the air, reducing eye dryness and irritation.

    Quick tip: If you don't have a humidifier at home, fill your bathtub with warm water and let it sit. This will temporarily boost the moisture level in your home.
     
  2. Remember to blink regularly during the day, especially when working at the computer. OK, we know this one sounds kind of basic and childish, but it's really that simple. Each time you blink, you lubricate the eyes with a layer of moisture, reducing dryness and preventing irritation.
     
  3. Avoid "gets the red out" eye drops, such as Visine. Occasional use of products like Visine for red eye is fine, but with repeated use these types of eye drops actually make matters worse. After just a few days of use you will get a rebound effect, making the blood vessels stay swollen for longer and longer periods of time. (Sources: Visine product warning label; and Ophthalmology, November 1991, pages 1364–1367).

    Quick tip: A simple way to distinguish between lubricating and soothing eye drop formulas from the ones that temporarily and quickly reduce redness but risk making matters worse is to avoid long-term or regular use of any that contain ingredients such as naphazoline or tetrahydrozoline.
     
  4. Use "natural" tear products and eyewashes to provide relief from the symptom of bloodshot eyes. These are inexpensive and widely available over-the-counter. As soon as your eyes get that dry feeling, a couple of lubricating eye drops and you will be feeling like new again.

    Quick tip: When using eyewashes only use disposable eyecups; repeatedly using the same eyecup risks problems, such as eye infections or irritation. When using eye droppers or bottles with eye dropper tips, do not let the tip come in contact with the eye area.
     
  5. Don't sleep with your makeup on. We know this sounds really basic, but it absolutely makes a world of difference for the appearance of your entire eye area the next morning, including no redness.
     
  6. Get all your makeup off. If there are traces of mascara on your lashes after you've washed your face at night, the mascara will slide into the eye area while you're sleeping and cause irritation and redness.
     
  7. Consider using an antihistamine. If allergies to animals, plants, fragrance, or other sources are a problem for you they can be the main cause of eyes appearing red. Talk to your doctor about regular use of an antihistamine to reduce or stop the allergic reactions you are having.
     
  8. Stop using skin-care products that contain irritating ingredients around the eye area. Skin on any part of your body does far better when it isn't being assaulted by irritating skin-care ingredients such as fragrance, coloring agents, some cleansing agents, hairspray-like ingredients, or irritating plant extracts. This is especially true for the eye area; when these ingredients come in contact with the eye it can become red.

    Quick tip: Follow our product recommendations in the Beautypedia section of this site.
     
  9. Stay away from cigarette smoke. Many bars and restaurants have banned cigarette smoking, which is great for your skin, lungs, and eyes. But, if you find yourself around people who smoke or you're a smoker, the impact is undeniable. You will have red eyes among other skin problems that no skin-care product can change. And for those who partake, smoking marijuana is a major, nearly instant cause of bloodshot eyes.
     
  10. Protect your eyes from the sun. Eyes that aren't protected from the sun get damaged just like skin does and with the same dire consequences. If you don't protect your eyes from sun exposure all year long you can end up with chronic red eyes as well as the many sun-related eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. This can all be avoided by wearing sunglasses that have a sticker showing they are rated UV400.

Discovering which of these tips work best for you is a matter of experimentation. Eyes are very sensitive, even the slightest culprit can cause bloodshot eyes. It is important to pay attention to what is causing the problem and adjust accordingly! And if all else fails, talk to your doctor to make sure there isn't a more potentially serious underlying problem!

Note: There are a few more serious causes of eyes becoming red and do require medical attention:

Pink Eye

Technically called conjunctivitis, pink eye is an infection or inflammation of the top covering of the eye area, known as the conjuctiva. The eye becomes weepy, itchy, (sometimes unbearably so) and swollen, not just red and bloodshot. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, bacteria, viruses, or toxic substances. If you suspect this is what you're dealing with, contact your physician or eye doctor for treatment advice.

Chronic Dry Eye

Seasonally dry eyes during the winter or in arid, desert climates are not unusual. Your tears help keep eyes moist and lubricated, but when the air gets dry tears can dry up, too. But there are medical conditions when your tears are not enough to protect the eye or you don't produce enough tears and the result is chronic dryness, inflammation, and redness.

Infection of the Eyelashes (Styes)

Redness, swelling, crusting, discomfort, and irritation of the eye area along the lash line can have many causes, but generally it is called blepharitis or styes. It is important to get medical attention for this if it becomes chronic. Styes are an inflammation of the eyelash's follicle, and tend to recur if the underlying cause (often bacteria transfer from rubbing your eyes with your hands) isn't controlled.

Burst Blood Vessel

When a blood vessel ruptures under the eye area and starts to bleed it spreads out under the white part of the eye causing a noticeable red patch. A hard sneeze, a fit of coughing, or intense strain from lifting something can cause blood vessles in the eye to burst, but high blood pressure and diabetes may also be the cause, so if you're not sure or if these vessles keep appearing, talk to your doctor.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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