The beauty and wellness industries emphasize the importance of staying hydrated, but your skin isn't the only part of your body that requires moisture. When your eyes aren't properly lubricated, dryness and all that comes with it (scratching, burning, tired eyes) is around the corner.
Luckily, promoting hydration and overall eye health is easy with simple everyday hacks, from taking an antioxidant-rich eye health supplement (like mbg's eye health+) to downloading an app that alerts you to blink.*
What is eye dryness?
According to the vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at OmniActive Health Technologies Deshanie Rai, Ph.D., FACN, eye dryness is exactly what it sounds like: When the eyes don't generate optimal amounts of tears to keep themselves moist and hydrated.
Eye dryness can lead to occasional grittiness, scratchiness, irritation, and more. And let's be real—if your eyes are burning, watering, or feeling sore at times, it's tough to focus on whatever it is you're trying to accomplish.
The question is, what causes eye dryness (and all that comes with it) in the first place?
It all starts with the lacrimal and meibomian glands, Rai explains. These special eye glands create a tri-layered tear film made of solute proteins, electrolytes, antioxidants, and ascorbic acid that lay across the outer surface of the eye, nourishing the organ and maintaining its moisture. (A robust film, of course, assumes you're regularly consuming adequate amounts of electrolyte minerals, antioxidants, and vitamin C).
The film also provides a layer of protection against free radicals and other stressors—like dust, pollutants, and other foreign substances—to ensure clear visibility.
Eye dryness occurs when something changes in the makeup of the tear film, Rai says, citing oxidative stress (an abundance of free radicals floating around the area) as a common offender. "[Oxidative stress] can impact all three layers in the tear film," Rai tells mbg. "Additionally, these changes could reduce the tear volume and alter the composition of the tears, stimulating a series of events that can trigger pro-inflammatory pathways."
Why eye hydration is more critical now than ever.
As society's digital dependency increases steadily, keeping your eyes hydrated is just as important as moisturizing your face and body.
"We live in a digital world where we are almost dependent on our digital devices to conduct work and socialize, as well as for entertainment, and our blinking time is considerably reduced when using a computer [or smartphone or tablet]," Rai explains. "As a result, our wide-open eyes are more prone to dryness and eye strain."
In a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers found that smartphone usage can hinder the eye's tear film1 and cause more oxidative stress around the eye. But note: The study took place in 2018 (pre-pandemic), and the participants' ocular health was evaluated after one to four hours of smartphone usage. The results of a survey conducted by Statista in 2021 reveal a more grim digital use prevalence: Almost half (46%) of respondents spent roughly five to six hours on their phones, daily.
Fact: "The pandemic has further increased our 'screen time' (time viewing screens of computers, handheld devices, etc.) versus before the pandemic," Rai says. She adds that other aspects of an indoor environment, such as low humidity and draft air, can also make eye dryness more prevalent.
6 tips to promote healthy, hydrated eyes.
So, what can you do to combat eye dryness and actively promote healthy, hydrated eyes on the daily? For starters, try these easy, actionable tips:
Take a hydrating eye health supplement.
One of the easiest ways you can enhance your overall eye health is to add a comprehensive eye health supplement rooted in the latest clinical research to your daily routine.*
mindbodygreen's eye health+, for example, is a vegan-friendly, plant-powered formula chock-full of eye-loving phytonutrients and botanicals that are clinically shown to promote antioxidant density, provide photoprotective light-filtering benefits, buffer against eye strain, support visual sharpness2, and help maintain healthy ocular blood flow.*
To combat eye dryness, specifically, eye health+ is intentional (and innovative) with its inclusion of Patagonian maqui berry extract.* Native to Chile, this fruit extract is rich in anthocyanin polyphenols (i.e., highly protective and potent antioxidants) that are clinically shown to promote tear production3 and combat eye fatigue4.*
Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake.
The age-old saying "you are what you eat" rings true here—the types of food you consume directly affect your eye health, and one of the most important nutrients to include in your diet is omega-3 fatty acids. Examples of foods rich in omega-3s include chia seeds, hemp seeds, and fatty fish like tuna and salmon.
According to a paper published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, the retina (the part of the eye that converts light into signals that are then computed to images in the brain), specifically the membranes of the photoreceptors in the retina, is largely made up of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA5. However, because the human body does not produce omega-3s EPA and DHA efficiently, making sure we consume enough through diet and supplementation is critical.
But for incremental, targeted health gains or if you're simply seeking to consume a purified, sustainable source of EPA and DHA in your daily nutrition ritual, take advantage of an omega-3 supplement like mbg's omega-3 potency+, which contains 1,500 milligrams of 100% sustainably sourced marine omega-3s EPA and DHA.
Drink more water.
Another easy way to quench your eye's thirst is to simply drink more water. After all, "eye dryness" is just a fancy way of saying your eyes need some extra moisturization!
Blinking helps protect the eyes from debris, pollutants, air temperature effects, and some free radicals. The more you can combat external environmental stressors, the less likely you are to have dry eyes.
You can set an alarm on your phone or leave a Post-it note on your work desk to remind you to blink often. There are also smartphone apps that remind you to blink every few seconds with the gentle nudge of an icon.
Break up your screen time.
In a world where virtually everything is becoming, well, virtual—stepping away from the screen can feel almost impossible. You don't need to take a digital detox if you don't feel it's sustainable. You should, however, break up your screen time to give your eyes a break from blue light exposure and digital eye strain.
Rai's advice is to follow the 20-20-20 rule: "Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away from the screen for 20 seconds," she explains. Optometrist Mary Ann Ellement, O.D., previously told mbg you can also close your eyes—tightly at first, and then relax them. Open and repeat the sequence four times, up to four times a day.
Readjust your computer screen.
The eye level of your computer screen could also be contributing to your eye dryness. See, when your computer screen is above eye level, your eyes need to open wider to take everything in, thus increasing the surface area of your eyeballs susceptibility to dryness, making your eye's ciliary muscles work harder to focus, and even upping the chances of debris and other environmental stressors flying in.
Adjusting your screen so that it's below eye level makes it so that your eyes don't have to open as much, slowing the evaporation of the tear film between blinks.
Eye dryness can be unpleasant (and just plain distracting!). In some cases, it can even affect your visual performance and productivity.
Luckily, implementing small changes to your lifestyle can help nurture and elevate your ocular health in a major way. Stellar strategies include making smart adjustments to your work environment, making a conscious effort to blink more throughout the day, and adding a high-quality, holistic eye health supplement (like mbg's eye health+, which boasts botanical bioactives clinically shown to lubricate your eyes) to your daily wellness and longevity routine.*
Julia Guerra is a health and wellness writer reporting for mindbodygreen, Elite Daily, and INSIDER. Formerly the beauty editor for BestProducts.com, she's contributed to Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, PopSugar, and more. A book worm and fitness enthusiast, her happiest moments are spent with her husband, family, sipping tea, and cuddling with her Tabby cat, Aria.