Waking up to red, puffy eyes can be a discouraging way to begin the day, and may leave you searching for ways to reduce the appearance of bloodshot eyes. And while there are plenty of over the counter eye drops and even whitening eye drops (don't go there, they actually aggravate the problem over time) on the market, you may be interested in some natural alternatives. Because whether or not you're a crunchy herbal enthusiast, treating red eyes with drops that may contain beta blockers or Chloramphenicol might seem a bit overzealous. Or, maybe you simply relish the idea of using what you have on hand in your garden and home.
Before we dive into aiding what ails us, let's take a few moments to further understand what causes red, bloodshot eyes. Unfortunately, the answer is: everything. OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but the eyes and their surrounding skin are extremely sensitive, and even common occurrences can take a toll on their appearance.
While there are a few more serious eye conditions, like conjunctivitis (pink eye), uveitis and glaucoma, and corneal ulcers, that result in redness (so, it is important to see an eye doctor if your redness persists or comes with impaired vision), many cases of red or bloodshot eyes are down to daily activity. Yes, staying up all night crying or smoking da herb will get you a solid case of red eye, but so will working at a computer for eight hours. In fact, digital eye strain has become a huge affliction, according to The Vision Council, which states that a whopping 70 percent of American adults experience digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome (myself likely included).
When it comes to other specific causes, essentially anything that creates dryness beyond what your tears can properly lubricate, like smoking (anything), hanging out in arid environments (whether they're a desert or a dry office), or becoming dehydrated, can lead to redness. Which, sadly, means that consuming a bunch of caffeine without adequate water will leave your eyes looking rosy, too. But dryness isn't the only culprit — putting pressure on your eyes or introducing them to irritants can also cause your eyelids to swell or the blood vessels on the surface of your eye to expand. That is to say, "Hello, seasonal allergies, meet my newly red and swollen peepers!" And simple things like sleeping face down, all snugly with your pillow, forgetting to remove your eye makeup or applying it carelessly, and swimming in chlorinated water without goggles can agitate your eyes. Even eating a lot of salty food can make a difference.
Luckily, with a little extra time and tenderness, most bloodshot eyes can be convinced to chill out. Employ these simple tips and remedies on days when your eyes need some love, and you're likely to feel both energized and uplifted. Taking the time for self-care is a vital, often lacking practice in our busy, work oriented society. So, when you spend a few moments to prepare homemade remedies and rest your body, you're not only receiving the benefit of reclaiming those beautiful, clear windows to your soul, you're also reminding yourself that you're valuable and worth treating with respect.
1. Spoon Those Eyes
Since reducing temperature has the effect of constricting blood vessels, which leads to decreased redness, swelling, and irritation, this simple method is a great option when you need to relax your eyes, but don't want to mess with much. Take four metal teaspoons and place them in ice water. Once they're cooled (not frozen), place two of the spoons, with the concave side toward your skin, following your eye socket's natural contour. Lay back, and relax. When the first set of spoons becomes warm from your body heat, replace it with the second set that's been chilling. Continue alternating spoons for up to 20 minutes.
2. Eye Rinse
Recommended by Stephanie Tourles, author of Organic Body Care Recipes, this soothing eye rinse works very well for tired, dry, and bloodshot eyes. Remember that with any home remedy, you want to ensure that your utensils and containers are sanitized before you begin.
- 1 cup distilled water
- 1 tablespoon of eyebright, chamomile flowers, or crushed fennel seeds
Prep Time: approximately 45 minutes
Blending Tools: strainer; shake before each use
Store In: sterilized plastic or glass bottle or spritzer
Yield: approximately 1 cup
Bring the water to a boil and remove it from heat. If you're using fennel seeds, crush them using a mortar and pestle. Add one of the herbs listed above to the boiled water, cover the pot, and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid twice through a nylon stocking, coffee filter, or very fine cloth.
Pour the strained liquid into a sterilized container. You can refrigerate this rinse for up to seven days.
Application: Splash the rinse into open eyes, or mist into open eyes. You may also use an eye cup, which I haven't been able to master, but don't let that stop you!
3. Tea Bags
The relaxing effect of reclining with cool, damp tea bags over your eyes is no secret. And while this trick has been around for quite some time, it's with good reason. Many green, black, and many herbal teas provide a variety of benefits, including the reduction of inflammation and redness. A few top contenders specifically worth applying to your eyes are green, black, catnip, rose petal, chamomile flowers, elder flowers, eyebright, fennel seeds, lavender buds, and blackberry leaves.
4. Remove Your Makeup And Lenses
Seriously, give those eyes a rest. Not only does leaving your makeup on cause premature aging for your skin, but doing so could also result in clogged tear ducts, which mean the potential for a stye, or simply not enough lubrication to keep your eyes clear and vibrant. Leaving your contact lenses in can be even more damaging, as they have a tendency to deposit microbes and other particulate on the surface of your eye. The last thing you want is to develop a fungal infection from leaving your lenses in too long.
5. Cool Eye Mask
Another gem from Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles, is this rejuvenating and hydrating eye mask. In fact, it's so lovely and refreshing, I'm going to mix one up as soon as I'm done sharing it with you!
- 2 teaspoons cucumber or raw potato, peeled, seeded, and finely grated
- 1 teaspoon powdered milk
Use: once or twice a week
Prep Time: approximately 35 minutes
Blending Tools: grater, mortar and pestle
Store In: do not store; mix as needed
Yield: one treatment
Using your mortar and pestle, combine ingredients into a smooth, thick paste and chill for 30 minutes. Add a few drops of water if mixture is too thick.
Application: Lie down, close your eyes, and finger paint your entire eye area, including your eyelids. Rest and relax for 10 minutes, then rinse your face with cool water.
6. Walk Away From the Screen
I know. It's hard. Not only because the Internet is an alluring, mind-boggling adventure land, but also because more than likely someone is paying you to stay shackled to your desktop or laptop. But if you get up and walk away from your screen, allowing your eyes to focus on things at varying distances and of various sizes, your eyes (and your body) will thank you.
7. Get Some Zzzzzs
Ah, my favorite way to reduce the appearance of bloodshot eyes! Let yourself luxuriate in a good nap, or a few hours extra every now and then. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, many Americans are sleep deprived, and 35.3 percent of Americans are getting less than seven hours of sleep per day. Compromising your sleep means your heart is not working at optimum levels, nor are your thyroids or kidneys. These organs need adequate time to recharge, and skipping on sleep robs them of it. So, if you want to keep your eyes (and other organs) healthy, clear, and free of bags or dark circles, it's imperative that you hit the sheets.
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