How to Use an Eyelid Scrub for Dry, Flaky Lids

Plus the best eyelid scrubs to try.

<p>Anastasiia Korotkova/Getty Images</p>

Anastasiia Korotkova/Getty Images

If using a facial cleanser on your eyes isn’t cleaning as thoroughly as you’d like, you might want to consider using an eyelid scrub. And no, contrary to what it sounds like, an eyelid scrub is not some sort of abrasive formula with sugars or beads that you’d typically find in, say, a lip scrub.

Below, we go over everything you need to know about eyelid scrubs, including what, exactly, they are, what the benefits are, what the risks might be, and how to use them.

What Is an Eyelid Scrub?

According to Dr. Jeannette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mt Sinai School of Medicine, an eyelid scrub is a gentle cleanser or wipe that’s used to clean the eye area of any dirt, bacteria, or oils. “It can help reduce any inflammation as it keeps the area clean,” she explains.

You can typically find an eyelid scrub in a few different formulas, including wipes, solutions that you use with a cotton round, or sprays that you spray directly onto your closed eyes.

Benefits of Eyelid Scrub

Eyelid scrubs have a plethora of benefits, and can be really helpful in terms of maintaining eye and eyelid health. Eyelid scrubs are recommended to help remove any foreign body agents, like particles from eye makeup, as well as bacteria, parasites, yeast, or fungus. “They can also be used to open the meibomian gland pores, which are essential glands on our upper and lower eyelids that secrete oil to keep liquid from evaporating too quickly from the eye,” explains Dr. Max Parikh, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist and refractive surgeon at Nvision Eye Center in San Diego. “When used successfully, eyelid scrubs can even treat blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid), improve dry eyes and decrease redness in eyes.”

Some other issues that eyelid scrubs can help treat include ocular rosacea and styes (chalazions). “They can help remove any accumulated debris such as dead skin, dirt, oil, and dried tear film, and are also useful to remove makeup and prevent clogging of pores,” explains Dr. Brett Frieman, DO, a board-certified ophthalmologist in Red Bank, NJ.

Risks of Using an Eyelid Scrub

In some situations, these scrubs can make the underlying condition worse. If the patient has a sensitivity to any of the components in the scrub, it can trigger an allergic reaction or inflammatory response, according to Dr. Parikh. “It also just may not solve the problem the patient is aiming to treat,” he says.

Additionally, if it is done too vigorously, eyelid scrubs may cause trauma to other structures in or around the eye, though this is rare. “Rubbing your eyes always comes with risk and is both a sign and symptom of keratoconus, a progressive eye disease where the cornea thins and weakens over time, forming a cone-like shape, distorting vision and, in severe cases, requiring a corneal transplant,” explains Dr. Parikh.

Finally, patients who have sensitivity or allergies should probably avoid eyelid scrubs or carefully choose the best method of applying them. Allergies can cause eyes and eyelids to become red, swollen, and itchy. “When patients have itchy eyes, they tend to rub them constantly, which may injure or weaken other structures of the eye (i.e., worsening keratoconus, displacing a LASIK flap, opening an incision from a previous eye surgery like RK or cataracts),” warns Dr. Parikh. “Thus, in general, we try to avoid recommending products or medications that can trigger an allergic response and exacerbate another condition.”

How to Use an Eyelid Scrub

Eyelid scrubs are an important part of proper eyelid hygiene. Eyelid scrubs should be performed twice a day for routine care and three to four times a day for active inflammation, according to Dr. Frieman. Always ensure you wash your hands before applying the product to prevent introducing bacteria to your eyes. Be gentle to avoid irritating the delicate skin around your eyes.

“The pre-moistened pads are the easiest to use,” explains Dr. Frieman. “With the eyes closed, but not so tightly that the eyelids are scrunched, I recommend wiping from the inner part of the lid near the nose outward towards the ear. Start with the upper lid and then the lower lid.” It is important to cleanse the lashes but not to allow any solution to get in the eye itself. The act of rubbing the lid gently also helps movement of tear secretions from the meibomian glands located in both the upper and lower lids.

If you experience persistent discomfort, redness or swelling, discontinue use of the product and consult your eye doctor. “Ensure you’re maintaining good eyelid hygiene to help manage any symptoms of eyelid conditions,” suggests Dr. Parikh.

DIY Eyelid Scrub

All doctors we interviewed recommended using a tearless baby shampoo as a DIY eyelid scrub, if you’d prefer not to purchase an eyelid scrub. “Cotton makeup remover pads with baby shampoo can be used safely as an eyelid scrub,” says Dr. Frieman. “Baby shampoo is less likely to irritate the eye than soap.” Note that a regular hand towel may be too coarse for your sensitive lids.

All you need to do is first splash water on your eyelids. Then apply a small amount of baby shampoo to a cotton round, and rinse the cotton round under a bit of water also. Apply this to your eyelids and very gently sweep the cotton round back and forth across your lids. Then thoroughly rinse your lids with clean water and pat dry.

Best Eyelid Scrubs

1. OCuSOFT Lid Scrub Original Eyelid Cleanser

This is one of the best-selling eyelid scrubs on the market and was recommended by all the doctors we interviewed. “This eyelid scrub is a highly effective and doctor-recommended scrub as it will provide relief and keep the area clean and comfortable,” explains Dr. Graf.  OCuSOFT also has several types of eyelid scrubs, including a separate foaming cleanser that can be used with cotton pads.

2. Twenty/Twenty Beauty Easy on the Eyes Daily Hygiene Facial Spray

Dr. Parikh likes to recommend eyelid scrubs that are hypochlorous acid-based, like this pick from Twenty/Twenty Beauty. Developed and tested by an ophthalmologist, Easy on the Eyes Daily Hygiene Facial Spray features hypochlorous acid to help calm any inflammation on your lids and keep the area clean and free of styes or other eye irritations.

3. Systane Lid Wipes

Dr. Graf also recommends these wipes to her patients. “These are pre-moistened pads that are very user-friendly and will keep your eye area clean of any dirt, debris, or oils,” she explains.  

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