Back when I still lived in New York, I used to get a slightly yellow tint to the whites of my eyes. On hot days or when I stared at my computer screen just a little too long, this would turn into full-on red eyes. It was one of the things that made me realize I wanted to take care of my health by leaving that environment. Lo and behold, as soon as I left (on a sabbatical in France and back to my childhood hometown of Portland), my eyes became bright and white again. They even looked like they had a bluish tint, because I’d gotten so used to seeing them discolored.
Since a few weeks ago, however, I’ve noticed that they’ve become red again. Like sore muscles, unexpected fatigue, and general sense of unease, this could be one of the myriad consequences of the quarantine. Staying at home most of the time, staring at a computer for work, Netflix, or YouTube workouts, reading the news on my phone and FaceTiming with friends, all add up to a ridiculous amount of time spent focusing your retinas on screens. For me, hot weather and sun sensitivity appear to also play a role. Lastly, there are always allergens like pollen and dust to make life even harder for your eyes.
Red eyes generally don’t have serious health risks other than unsightliness. But people with red eyes are perceived as “sadder, less healthy, and less attractive” than those with clear white eyes, according to a study published in Ethology. (I’m not sure that had to be proven with an actual experiment, but oh well.) And seeing a sad, less healthy, less attractive face in the mirror just feels like the last straw after a pretty challenging year. We deserve better than this! So let’s pull ourselves up by our pajama pant strings and dive into natural remedies.
Natural remedies for red eyes
Omega-3 fatty acids
We’ve previously reported on how Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to maintaining the health of your eye, particularly keeping them well-lubricated and moist. Often, red eyes result from dryness, which can be from not enough tear production or too quick-drying tears. Try taking vegan Omega-3 supplements or my personal favorite, hemp seeds—I tend to add about a teaspoon to 2 meals a day.
Stare at a low, red light
A newly published University College, London study found that staring at a deep red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve your eyesight. Subjects over 40 reaped the most benefits: they were able to see better in lower lighting and also had higher color sensitivity. “Simple brief exposures to light wavelengths recharge the energy system that has declined in the retina cells, rather like recharging a batter,” said Professor Glen Jeffery, the lead author. Since redness often occurs when your eyes tire (especially from blue light), this could be an easy at-home eye therapy. The study used a deep red LED light—but how about staring at a campfire or a candle for three minutes? Whatever the optical benefits, even the sound of ungluing my eyes from screens and watching a fire feels soothing psychologically.
Cool compress or a cucumber eye mask
Soak a towel in cold water, wring, and lay on your eyes to constrict the blood vessels. If you have a gel eye mask, now is the time to use it! I also love to put cucumber slices on my eyelids and under-eyes, which not only constrict blood vessels but also provide silica (a collagen precursor), hydration, and brightening effect. In fact, this was what I turned to the other night, and I immediately saw a redness reduction.
Tweak your screens
I swear by f.lux for adjusting the warmth of my screen automatically depending on the time of the day. It’s made an enormous difference to my eye health and sleep! Increase the screen magnification to 110% (or whatever your heart desires) so you don’t have to be straining your eyes to read tiny letters. Reduce screen brightness manually to the lowest possible setting while still being legible. And obviously, look up every once in a while and gaze far away (brooding, dramatic expression optional).
Like 99% of health issues, this one is also connected to water. When any part of your body is dry (eyes, mouth, lips, skin, pelvic region), a key thing to consider is whether you’re drinking enough water. Check out these innovative ways to stay hydrated even if you’re so bored of water at this point.
Have you struggled with red eyes? What works for you?
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Photo: Gabriel Salas via Unsplash