A thing I have found myself doing in the mornings is avoiding the mirror until I have thoroughly washed my face. Why? Because I'm a lazy troll girl who has never succeeded in taking off all her mascara before bed and thus awakes in the morning with eyes filled with black gunk. But honestly, like, what are "eye boogers?" You know what I'm talking about. Gunk. Goop. Sleepies. Dream dust. Why is it so gross? Why does it always, always, always happen to me?
Thanks to last week's episode of SciShow, the YouTube series hosted by Hank Green and Michael Aranda, I now have all the answers. I feel so liberated, so free, so in the know. I am still incapable of getting all my eye makeup off, but you know. Baby steps.
The first thing to know is that scientists don't have an agreed-upon word for eye boogers. But if I have to type "booger" one more time I'm going to vomit, so we'll go with "Rheum." "Rheum" refers to any sort of mucus-y discharge our fascinatingly disgusting bodies produce. It doesn't just come from our eyes, but unfortunately for germaphobes, eye rheum in particular has some unique characteristics. It's more than just mucus, you see:
Sorry that you guys now think of eyes as "oily." I know, I was upset, too.
The reason why this rheum stuff seems to only hang around at night or after a nap is because while we're asleep, we aren't blinking it away. The mucus, dead skins cells, oil, dust, and bacteria are always present; we just don't notice it, thank goodness, because of all that blinking. And also thank "tear film."
"Tear film" protects our eyes while we're awake and keeps them nice and moist. Sorry, I know, first "oily" and now "moist" — who knew eyes were so deeply gross?
Once we're asleep, though, we're not blinking and clearing out the tear film. All the, uh, stuff builds up, creating crusty boogers in the corners of your eyes. We all get it, this rheum, but it can sometimes signal a greater health issue. Extra goopy mucus, for example, may be due to allergies. If your eyes seem to be swimming in rheum, or if something about your rheum changes, you may want to let your doctor know.
Check out the full video below for more eye-related goop facts: