If you’ve ever noticed your eyes feeling scratchy or irritated during the day, you likely know what it feels like for the millions of people who suffer from dry eye disease. With over 30 million Americans experiencing the pain of dry eye, it’s important to talk about a few easy steps you can take to prevent it in the first place.
What is Dry Eye Disease?
Dry eye disease occurs when there is the disruption of the tear film that spreads across the front of the eyes. This could include a decrease in production, incomplete spreading, a decrease in quality of the tears, or an increase in evaporation of the tear film. Unfortunately, dry eye disease is a multifactorial condition, which means many things may contribute to it.
The comfort of your eyes depends on the quantity and quality of your tears, and the tear film contains three layers. The mucin layer, resting up against the eyeball, keeps the tears intact and adhered to the eye. The middle layer is the aqueous, or watery, layer of the tear film. This layer is important because it is the bulk of the tear film and provides your eyes with lubrication. The outermost layer is the lipid layer, which is produced by the meibomian glands of the eyelids. This layer is oily and helps prevent evaporation of the tear film.
Why Does Eyelid Hygiene Matter?
You’ve been taught to brush your teeth every single day, twice per day, to prevent cavities. In the same way, you should be cleansing your eyelids every single day to prevent dry eye disease and other eyelid inflammation, like blepharitis. Although you may not think that the eyelids are important, they have everything to do with dry eyes. Each time you blink, the eyelids release oil into your tear film. You already know that the tear film is responsible for the comfort of your eyes, so when it’s not working properly you end up with discomfort and even blurry vision.
When your eyelids are covered in excess bacteria, or the oil-producing glands are not working properly, you begin to suffer. When you take care of your eyelids, just like you do your teeth, you prevent problematic bacteria build-up and keep your oil glands open and fully functioning.
How to Perform Daily Eyelid Hygiene
Thoroughly Remove Your Makeup
When you don’t remove your makeup at the end of the day, you’re allowing excess bacteria to build upon your eyelids and lashes. In addition to this, most conventional makeup is filled with chemicals that have no place around your eyes, and leaving those chemicals on all night can be a disaster. I recommend using an oil-based eye makeup remover because they contain fewer chemicals and are very effective at removing all makeup, including any waterproof makeup. Always remove your makeup this way before washing your face.
Use a Tea Tree Face Wash
Tea tree essential oil has many amazing anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties for those who suffer from dry eye and blepharitis. However, tea tree oil can be toxic if ingested and it must be diluted before applying topically. Because of this, I recommend my patients use a face wash that contains tea tree essential oil instead of making their own. After removing your makeup, wash your face and pat dry. You can usually use a tea tree face wash right over your closed eyelids as long as you keep your eyes tightly closed and you rinse well.
If you’re interested in a daily facial care routine, check that out here.
Use a Warm Compress Mask
The oil glands within the eyelids can become blocked quite easily, and heat is your best friend when this happens. Using a warm compress can be beneficial because heat allows the hardened, stagnant oil to melt and be released into the tear film where it belongs. By using a warm compress and warming your eyelids, you help ensure that this important oil is working and flowing properly. Simply heat a warm compress eye mask (don’t just use a washcloth!) in the microwave for 20 seconds. Then, place it over your closed eyelids and relax for 10-20 minutes. This should be done at least once daily, and I know you’ll love a little relaxation time for yourself!
Use Hypochlorous Acid to Cleanse Your Eyelids
Eyelid cleansing is arguably the most important step. I recommend using hypochlorous acid because this substance is made naturally by the body to fight microorganisms. It is incredibly gentle, even for those with sensitive eyes and eyelids, and it helps prevent bacteria overgrowth and the issues this can cause. To use a hypochlorous acid spray, simply spray the solution onto your closed eyelids, rub it in with clean fingertips, and let it dry. You can also use a cotton ball or round for application, although it’s not necessary. No rinsing is required, and this step should be completed twice daily.
Eyelid hygiene is so important because it helps keep your eyelids clean and functioning properly. Without this, the comfort of your eyes can suffer. This is a simple routine that takes just 15 minutes to complete each day, and it can provide you with incredible relief.