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10 Ways to Reduce Eye Redness Without a Prescription

Home remedies for red eyes

The worst thing about waking up with red, bloodshot eyes isn't the fact that they instantly make you look sick and/or hungover. It's that usually they're accompanied by itching (if it's allergies or irritation) or a headache (if you maybe had too much wine the night before). In short, bloodshot eyes aren't fun—particularly if you're already not feeling great.

We spoke to Andrew Iwach, M.D., a fellow at the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the Executive Director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco, to see how to prevent and deal with red eyes. Of course, if your symptoms are unusual or they last for longer than a few days, Iwach says to contact your ophthalmologist. But for cases that aren't serious, you can pretty easily remedy red eyes without a trip to the doctor.

How to Soothe Red Eyes
Getty Images / Cristina Cianci

Below, we've round up the best ways to deal with red eyes straight from an expert.

01 of 10

Apply a Warm Sock Compress

Specifically, use a cotton sock filled with uncooked rice that's been microwaved. It sounds weird, but it's an effective option. It works because it provides gentle heat over a longer period of time rather than, say, a warm washcloth, Iwach explains. "Heat actually helps the oil go through the glands," he says, which helps reduce irritation. Make sure you know what the sock is made of, though—if there are a great deal of synthetics like plastic woven throughout, the sock will melt.

Bombas four solid ankle socks
Bombas Women's Lightweight Calf 4-Pack $56 $53
Self-heating eye mask
Spacemasks Self-Heating Eye Mask $5

If you're not a fan of creating your own, you can also try to keep a couple of these self-heating eye masks around.

02 of 10

Take a Break from Your Smartphone

Light from screen bothers eyes

Ben Kolde/Unsplash 

When you don't blink enough, your eyes aren't properly lubricated, which can cause redness. If you spend a lot of time on your phone or computer, try taking "blink breaks" every few minutes to keep the moisture balance of your eyes intact. Similarly, you can get "screen sickness" that will leave you feeling awful—it's the same as carsickness, but you get it from scrolling.

03 of 10

Take Breaks from Wearing Makeup

Woman applying lipstick outside

Getty Images

Unfortunately, according to Iwach, your makeup could be causing your red eyes. And he doesn't just mean makeup like eyeliner and mascara. Even your face powder could be a culprit. Try weaning yourself off of different products one at a time for several days and take note of the state of your eyes to pinpoint what's bothering you.

04 of 10

Wear Sunglasses When You're Outside

Crowley Black
Saint Owen Crowley $220

This feels intuitive, but some people don't love the look of sunglasses, so they grin and bear it without paying attention to the damage the sun might be causing. If you're dealing with red eyes, it's time to let that notion go.

05 of 10

Make Sure Your Eyes Are Totally Clean

Bioderma Sensibio H2O
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water $15

Iwach notes that you should definitely make a point to clean the base of your lashes, as this can be where irritants congregate. Iwach explains that there are oil glands along the margins of your eyes and that sometimes this oil accumulates and acts like flypaper for irritants—not just makeup—that cause red eyes.

06 of 10

Use a Cold Washcloth

Ugg Classic Luxe Wash Towel
Ugg Classic Luxe Wash Towel $9

Iwach says that, generally, applying cold temperatures to your eyes can help reduce inflammation and redness and make your eyeballs feel better—just make sure to use a soft and clean washcloth.

07 of 10

Apply Cucumber Slices

Two women with cucumbers over their eyes

Getty Images

Iwach says that laying slices of cucumber on each eye works in a similar way to the cool washcloth. Pro tip: Place your cucumber slices in the fridge beforehand for maximum cooling relief.

08 of 10

Stay Hydrated

S'Well Milky Way Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
S'well Milky Way Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle $35

Dehydration can cause your eyes to become bloodshot. The solution is obvious: Stay hydrated. (Here's exactly how much water you should drink in a day.)

09 of 10

Use Artificial Tears

Visine Advanced Drops
Visine Advanced Redness + Irritation Relief Lubrication / Redness Eye Drops $3

The most obvious—and probably least time-consuming—option is to use artificial tears (aka, eyedrops). Iwach calls them the safest, simplest solution for irritated eyes because they can help flush irritants out and combat dryness.

10 of 10

Don't Sit Under the AC

Iwach says to make a note of where you sit in your office or in your home. Are you near a fan? A vent? A window? If you notice you have red, irritated eyes, it could be from the air blowing in your face.

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