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Should You Use Drops to Whiten Your Eyes?

Flip through any fashion magazine and check out the close-ups of those chiseled models’ faces. Among other things, you might think that crystal clear, white eyes are the norm. And, in the fashion world, they are—thanks to the art of photo shopping.  

In the real world, not so much.

Bloodshot eyes caused by allergies, staring at computer screens, or contact lenses left in for too long are more like it. But when trendsetters like fashion designer Tom Ford decreed (as he did in “Tom Ford’s Grooming Commandments,”) that, “like white teeth, white eyes matter,” bloggers around the world started beating the drum for eye-whitening drops. Often called “redness relieving drops,” they contract the eye’s blood vessels through a process called vasoconstriction.

John A. Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist, Amy Lin, MD, doesn’t think whitening drops are such a great thing, at least not all the time.

“I do not recommend whitening eye products on a routine basis because the continued constriction of blood vessels can cause them to become even more dilated than normal when the effect wears off,” she noted. “There’s a real rebound effect, and your eyes can become even redder than they ever would have been. Plus, nearly all of these eye drops contain preservatives that can be toxic to the surface of the eye when used repeatedly. I think they are fine for very sporadic use—maybe if you are getting your picture taken or for an interview or something like that, but definitely not for daily use.”

What about Going Blue?

A recent fashion blog extolled the virtues of another “beauty hack” that it called “master-level eye-brightening drops with a blue tint that correct any stubborn yellowness for surreally white peepers.” Though they “sound intriguing,” Dr. Lin said “they seem to work for whitening, but they stain everything else blue—from eyelids and skin around the eyes to clothing. I imagine they would stain contact lenses as well. I would say proceed at your own risk with blue drops.” 

Au Naturel

The best way to keep your eyes happy and clear? Get enough sleep, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and protect your eyes from UV rays and dry air—especially this time of year. Anything from air conditioning to sitting around a campfire can dry your eyes. In that case, preservative-free artificial tears are your best bet. Or, prescription eye drops prescribed by a licensed eye care provider can help.

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