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3 Ways To Soothe Burning Eyes That Don't Involve Rubbing, From An Optometrist

Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
By Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Image by Javier Díez / Stocksy
December 2, 2020

Walking in blustery winters, wearing a mask, or making uninterrupted eye contact with a computer screen are just a few factors that can trigger the temptation to rub your eyes. As satisfying as it can be in the moment, that seemingly simple act can have deleterious effects on eye health

According to optometrist Carly Rose, O.D., the side effects of rubbing your eyes go beyond just a red and irritated look. "We know eye rubbing is linked to keratoconus, allergies, glaucoma, dark circles under your eyes, and wrinkles," she says in a TikTok video. "You can also injure the surface of your eyes, your eyelids, or cause infections." 

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While all of that sounds pretty undesirable, it can be hard to resist the temptation to rub—especially when eyes become dry, itchy, or invaded by a pesky piece of fuzz. 

Rather than trying to talk yourself out of the pain (though mindfulness and breathwork may help reduce pain temporarily), Rose recommends these three eye-rubbing alternatives: 

1.

Tap along the orbital bone.

Using the tip of your index finger, gently tap along the orbital bone (aka the bone surrounding your eye socket). This type of eye massage may increase blood flow to the area and help drain fluid, which may help de-puff eye circles rather than exacerbating them. So, essentially gua sha

2.

Use a cold compress.

Wet a washcloth with cold water and rest it over both eyes. This should help relieve any itching. According to Rose, "For allergies: [Rubbing] busts open your mast cells, releases more histamine, and makes the allergies worse!" So this alternative is not only more soothing but actually far more beneficial in the long run. 

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3.

Rub your earlobes.

Even Rose admits this one sounds a bit strange, but rubbing your earlobes with your index finger and thumb can help. Look, it might not be the most effective option, but for minor irritation, the soothing trick could be a helpful distraction. 

Bottom line.

For most people, eye rubbing is the natural reaction to dry or irritated eyes, but the potential consequences aren't worth the temporary relief. Trying one of these three optometrist-approved alternatives is safer for your overall eye health. If you continue to suffer from symptoms, consider visiting an eye doctor who may be able to prescribe eye drops or other suitable solutions. 

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Abby Moore
Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager

Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.