The 14 Best Eye Drops for Dry Eyes of 2022

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SYSTANE Gel Drops

Byrdie / Jessica Juliao

Most of us spend a good amount of time beautifying our eyes with mascara, false lashes, shadow, liner, and more. But, at the end of the day, if your eyes are dry, red, and irritated, no amount of makeup is going to help. “More people than ever are suffering from dry, irritated, red eyes that can feel itchy or gritty as if there’s a foreign body in your eyes,” says ophthalmologist Diane Hilal-Campo, MD. Credit not only the obscene amount of time we all spend staring at electronic screens but also the new norm of mask-wearing; masks cause air to flow upward toward the eyes and evaporate tears, exacerbating and even causing dryness, she explains.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

We love SYSTANE's Gel Drops, our best overall pick, for their long-lasting power. Also, the preservative-free Lubricant Eye Drops from Refresh Tears are another great choice that's friendly on the wallet.

Enter the beauty of a good eye drop. Even though you probably just pop into a drugstore or rummage through your medicine cabinet and grab the first bottle you can find, it’s important to note that not all eye drops are created equal. They rely on different ingredients and can have different functions and mechanisms of action, making it important to choose the right one for you.

Ahead are the best eye drops for dry eyes.

Best Overall: Systane Lubricant Eye Gel Drops

4.9
Systane Lubricant Eye Gel Drops
What We Like
  • Thick, gel-like consistency

  • Ideal for nighttime use

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • May temporarily blur vision

Who else recommends it? Prevention also picked the SYSTANE Gel Drops.

What do buyers say? 91% of 7,300+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

These lubricating drops (which are a favorite of Drew Barrymore, who sang their praises on Instagram) feel as natural as your tears. Per the name, the texture is on the thicker side, more gel- than liquid-like, making it a great option if you want to ensure long-lasting moisture and minimize how often you need to use it throughout the day. In related news, they’re also great to use pre-bedtime to keep your eyes lubricated overnight.

Active Ingredients: Polyethylene glycol 400, propylene glycol | Concerns: Dryness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.34 oz.

Best Budget: Refresh Tears Lubricant Eye Drops

Refresh Tears Lubricant Eye Drops
What We Like
  • A little goes a long way

  • Quick relief

  • Good value

  • Preservative-free

What We Don't Like
  • Not very long-lasting

Super hydrating and super gentle (they don’t even sting when you first apply them), these check all of the basic moisturizing eye drop boxes. They work quickly and ring in at a very wallet-friendly price, in the event you want to stock up on multiple bottles to keep on hand at all times.

Active Ingredients: Carboxymethylcellulose sodium | Concerns: Dryness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Drugstore: Refresh Relieva

Refresh Relieva

Courtesy of Riteaid

What We Like
  • Preservative-free

  • Soothing formula

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive per ounce

As a general rule of thumb, Dr. Hillal-Campo says opting for preservative-free formulas is best, and this is one of her favorites. “It’s a great, all-around dry eye relief product. It contains carboxymethylcellulose and glycerin, which are commonly used, but also contains sodium hyaluronate, which makes it very soothing,” she explains. FYI, double-check to make sure you’re getting the preservative-free version as there’s also a variant that does contain preservatives.

Active Ingredients: Carboxymethylcellulose, glycerin, sodium hyaluronate | Concerns: Dryness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.33 fl. oz.

Best Drugstore, Runner-Up: Visine Dry Eye Relief Lubricating Eye Drops

Visine Dry Eye Relief Lubricating Eye Drops

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Quick relief

What We Don’t Like
  • Can’t be used while wearing contacts

This brand may be best known for drops that combat redness, but they also make this straightforward option to help add back much-needed moisture to dry eyes. The formula touts 10 ingredients found in your tears so that they work as such, helping to combat not only that dry, sandpapery feeling but also itching and burning.

Active Ingredients: Polyethylene glycol, glycerin | Concerns: Dryness, burning, itching | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.5 oz.

Best for Mild Dryness: Blink Tears Lubricating Eye Drops

Blink Tears Lubricating Eye Drops
What We Like
  • Preservatives break down over time

  • Quick relief

What We Don't Like
  • Packaging can be messy

If your dryness is on the mild side, reach for these drops. Not quite as intense as some of the others on this list, they’re ideal if your eyes just feel slightly scratchy or gritty from time to time. A drop or two works instantly, making your eyes feel so much more comfortable.

Active Ingredients: Polyethylene glycol | Concerns: Dryness, itchiness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 1 oz.

Best for Moderate Dryness: TheraTears Extra Dry Eye Therapy

TheraTears Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

 Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Preservative breaks down on contact with eye

  • Thin consistency

What We Don't Like
  • Not as hydrating as other formulas

For more moderate dryness, this formula is a great choice. Created by an ophthalmologist and the result of nearly two decades of research (color us impressed), it’s an electrolyte-balanced option that does a great job at hydrating the eye. Plus, it’s another option that’s preservative-free.

Active Ingredients: Sodium carboxymethylcellulose | Concerns: Dryness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 1 oz.

Best for Severe Dryness: GenTeal Tears Lubricant Eye Gel

GenTeal Tears Lubricant Eye Gel

 Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Ideal for nighttime use

  • A little goes a long way

  • Thick, gel-like consistency

What We Don't Like
  • May temporarily blur vision

A thick gel, like this, is best for the most extreme dryness—you know, the kind that can hurt. Just a tiny squirt fully coats your eye and delivers long-lasting relief, whether you’re using it day or night. Just FYI though, if your symptoms don’t improve after using these (or any other drops for that matter), see your eye doc as you may need a prescription-strength option, notes Dr. Hilal-Campo.

Active Ingredients: Hypromellose | Concerns: Dryness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.34 oz.

Best for Redness: LUMIFY Redness Reliever Eye Drops

4.9
 LUMIFY Redness Reliever Eye Drops

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Eases redness

  • Quick relief

What We Don't Like
  • Small package

More often than not redness and dryness go hand-in-hand. Enter these redness relieving drops, which use brimonidine, an active ingredient that completely knocks out redness in less than one minute. The results also last for eight hours, making these a great pick to use on bleary-eyed mornings.

Active Ingredients: Brimonidine tartrate | Concerns: Redness | Dosage: 1 drop every 6 to 8 hours | Size: 0.08 oz.

Best Multitasker: Similasan Complete Eye Relief

Similasan Complete Eye Relief Eye Drops

Courtesy of Walgreens

What We Like
  • Multi-purpose

  • Good value

  • Natural ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Short shelf life

These standout drops address not only dryness but pretty much every eye problem we could think of: redness, watering, burning, grittiness, and irritation. But equally noteworthy is the fact that this is the only homeopathic option on the list, relying on natural ingredients such as wildflower known as Eyebright rather than chemicals.

Active Ingredients: Belladonna, euphrasia officinalis, mercurius sublimatus | Concerns: Redness, watering, burning, dryness | Dosage: 2 to 3 drops as needed | Size: 0.33 oz.

Best Oil-Based: Ocusoft RETAINE MGD Ophthalmic Emulsion Eye Drops

Ocusoft Retaine MGD Preservative-Free
What We Like
  • Preservative-free

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Contains mineral oil

“It’s being increasingly realized that the majority of dry eye patients may have meibomian gland disease, meaning the oil layer of the tears isn’t produced as well,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo. For these people, drops that contain oil, like this one, are extremely helpful. In particular, this one contains mineral oil, which makes it long-lasting and soothing, she says. The caveat? Some people can be allergic to mineral oil, so discontinue use if you experience irritation.

Active Ingredients: Mineral oil | Concerns: Dryness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.01 oz.

Best for Contact Lens Wearers: Opti-Free Replenish Rewetting Drops

Opti-Free Replenish Rewetting Drops
What We Like
  • Suitable for contact lens wearers

  • Hydrating formula

  • Quick relief

What We Don't Like
  • Contains preservatives

Dryness (and itchiness and redness and every other eye issue) only becomes more challenging to treat when you’re also wearing contacts. Enter this mild formula that instantly re-wets and moisturizes contact lenses (so there’s no need to take them out) and also removes any minuscule particles that may be irritating.

Active Ingredients: Citrate/borate buffer, sodium chloride | Concerns: Dryness | Dosage: 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.33 oz.

Best Single-Use: Bausch & Lomb Soothe XP Emollient (Lubricant) Eye Drops - Preservative Free

Bausch & Lomb Soothe XP Preservative-Free
What We Like
  • Hydrating formula

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Contains mineral oil

“Some people prefer drops that come in individual-use vials, which they find easy to carry and use,” points out Dr. Hilal-Campo. These fit the bill, another preservative-free drop that moisturizes the eye, prevents tear loss, and comes in single-use, sterile vials.

Active Ingredients: Mineral oil | Concerns: Dryness, burning | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.5 oz.

Best for Irritation: Rohto Cool Max Redness Relief Eye Drops

Rohto Cool Max Eye Drops

 Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Cooling effect

  • Long-lasting

  • Good value

What We Don't Like
  • Menthol can irritate sensitive eyes

A secret weapon in the arsenal of many pro makeup artists, these drops instantly cool upon contact, a soothing sensation that can’t be beaten when your eyes are not only dry but also red and irritated. And per the dryness part of things, they rely on a micro-emulsion formula that targets all three layers of tear film to keep your eyes comfortably lubricated for up to eight hours.

Active Ingredients: Polysorbate, naphazoline hydrochloride | Concerns: Redness, burning, dryness | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops up to 4x daily | Size: 0.4 oz.

Best Preservative-Free: Biotrue Hydration Boost Dry Eye Drops

Biotrue Hydration Boost Dry Eye Drops

Amazon

What We Like
  • Preservative-free

  • Suitable for contact lens wearers

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive per ounce

Those with super sensitive eyes may want to opt for preservative-free options, and this is a choice pick. Plus, not only are they preservative-free, but they’re also pH-balanced, contain a protective antioxidant, and are instantly hydrating and soothing. You can use them even if you’re wearing contacts, and they’re a good way to ward off dryness even before it starts, too.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin | Concerns: Dryness, burning, itching | Dosage: 1 to 2 drops as needed | Size: 0.33 oz.

Final Verdict

The SYSTANE Gel Drops are our overall favorite dryness-relieving drop, with a thicker texture that makes them extremely lubricating. The Refresh Relieva Eye Drops are inexpensive and preservative-free and so are the Bausch & Lomb Soothe XP Emollient (Lubricant) Eye Drops - Preservative Free, which come in handy, single-use vials. And for contact lens wearers, the Opti-Free Replenish Rewetting Drops, which you can drop in even while still wearing your contacts, can’t be beaten.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo is a board-certified ophthalmologist in Oakland, New Jersey. She is renowned for her expertise in correcting a wide range of disorders of the eye, both medically and surgically.

What to Look for in Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

Preservative-Free

According to Dr. Hilal-Campo, preservative-free drops, often marketed as preservative-free tears, are the best over-the-counter drops for dry eyes, given that preservatives can be irritating and exacerbate dryness for many.

Active Ingredients

Common ingredients used in these types of drops include carboxymethylcellulose, glycerin, polyethylene glycol, and propylene glycol. It is possible to have an allergic reaction to these, which is why it’s important to know which one you’re using. “It often requires some trial-and-error to find a product that’s best for you,” points out Dr. Hilal-Campo.

FAQ
  • How often should you use eye drops for dry eyes?

    Dr. Hilal-Campo says that you should never use eye drops for dry eyes more than four times a day. “They have preservatives in them that are toxic to the cornea and conjunctival epithelium when used more frequently,” she says. However, she notes that preservative-free formulas can be used as frequently as needed. “But, if they’re being used more than four times a day, you should consider going to your eye care professional to get a prescription medication,” she adds.

  • How many drops should you put into dry eyes?

    How many drops should be inserted per dose will depend on each individual formula and what their directions indicate. According to Dr. Hilal-Campo, one drop per eye is typically considered a full dose, however, some formulas may indicate inserting up to three drops at a time.

How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. As a long-time contact lens wearer, she’s very familiar with a dry eye situation (and the best products that can help).

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The 10 best eye drops for dry eyes that will relieve itching and redness. Prevention. https://www.prevention.com/health/health-conditions/g39311500/best-eye-drops-dry-itchy-eyes

  2. Rahman MQ, Ramaesh K, Montgomery DM. Brimonidine for glaucomaExpert Opin Drug Saf. 2010;9(3):483-491. doi:10.1517/14740331003709736

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