6 Things Almost Everyone Gets Wrong When Treating Tired Eyes

Photographed by Myesha Evon Gardner.
A recent editorial in New York Magazine's The Cut addressed one of the most relatable questions that plagues us this time of year: 'How do I look less tired?' In it, I learn that caffeine eye cream is a marketing ploy, which has me thinking, what other eye-care myths need busting.
Curious to go a bit deeper on the care and keeping of my own small, dry and easily-fatigued eyes and the thin skin under and around them, I recently jumped on a call with ophthalmologist Dr. Ashley Brissette, MD, who breaks down the habits that keep her eyes naturally bright (she doesn't even wear under-eye concealer). Really, it's all about avoiding irritants and doing less.
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"If you follow these tips, the less you'll have to do," explains Dr. Brissette. "You'll find that your lashes just naturally look better and grow better because there's no bacteria that's sitting [on the lash line], causing discomfort and causing your eyes to look more red. Your eyes will feel and look better in the long run."

Only washing your face at night

The common logic has always been: wash your face at night to remove all your makeup. But Dr. Brissette says we should be cleansing our eyes — our lashes and lids — like we brush our teeth, gently and twice a day.
You might think you can just splash your face with water in the morning, but no. "It's important to remove sleep crust and hydrate around the eyelid skin," Dr. Brissette explains. Otherwise, the sometimes-microscopic crusties in and around our eyes can cause unnecessary irritation and rubbing as the day goes on, making you look tired. Of course, you want to wash your eyes before bed, too, for the obvious reasons. "As we go about our day, bacteria, dust, pollen, and pollution builds up on the eyelashes and lids and it sits there and irritates the eye," says Dr. Brissette. Irritation leads to lash line redness, inflammation, and the look of fatigue.

Rimming your waterline

To make eyes look bigger, makeup artists love to recommend the tightlining, when you use a white eyeliner to rim your lower lashline. Dr. Brissette says this will cause you more problems than it's worth with potential swelling of the lash line. "I say no tightlining around the rim of the eyelid because that's right on your eye where the openings for the oil glands are," explains Dr. Brissette. "If you're tightlining, you're clogging those oil glands with the makeup, so you have to be careful."
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Another rule: no waterproof mascara. "It's so difficult to remove that you end up really puling and tugging on your eyelids and lashes, which irritates them and leads to redness and irritation, which leads you to wear more makeup to cover it up," Dr. Brissette explains. If you're wearing mascara, find a formula (maybe consider a tubing mascara), and look for a brand that's ophthalmologist tested.

Icing the under eyes

We've all heard of the frozen spoon trick to get rid of puffy eye bags — and it works in the short term. But Dr. Brissette counters that heat, specifically a warm compress, is actually more beneficial. "The heat helps to soften the oil production that comes from the base of the eyelashes," Dr. Brissette explains. "Hold warm heat over your closed eyes for a few minutes. If you can do that a few times a week — just sit and meditate for five or ten minutes while it's on — not only does it feel really good on your eyes, but it also helps with lubrication that prevents dry eyes."
Dr. Brissette recommends the Bruder Mask, which you can just microwave. You can also use a towel, run it under hot water, but a mask will hold the heat better.

Using 'anti-red' eye drops all the time

Dr. Brissette likes the Lumify eye drops — which are amazing — but says they should be considered 'occasion' drops, not for everyday. "If you have an event that you need to go to and your eyes are red, or you're going to a wedding and you want your eyes to pop, I'm fine with that," she explains. "But you don't want to be using something like that all the time because it constricts the blood vessels on the surface of the eye, that's how it makes your eyes look more white."
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For more regular use, Dr. Brissette, recommends switching in an allergy eye drops, which you can get over the counter.

Forgoing eyelid sunscreen

@abrissettemd Replying to @megdaylewis sunscreen for eyelids #BigInkEnergy #nyc #sunscreen ♬ original sound - Dr B
Raise your hand if you remember getting sunscreen in your eyes as a kid? It stings, which is why you may have avoided getting your face sunscreen anywhere near yours eyes as an adult. However, Dr. Brissette says that the thin skin over and around our eyes is especially prone to skin cancers. The inside of your eye can develop skin cancers too, so it's important to always wear sunglasses when you're outside. Beyond the cancer risk, your eyes can develop sunspots and wrinkles as well, which doesn't bode well for long-term eye and skin health.
Because its hard to put sunscreen on your eyelids, Dr. Brissette recommends the power-brush ones. "Powdered sunscreens are really effective," she explains. "I recommend you close your eyes and use the powder with the brush and sweep it gently over your closed eyelids, that's a really good way to get the sunscreen in that area without it melting into the eye and causing irritation."

Buying a TikTok-trendy lash serum

With #lashgrowthserum seeing 85.8M views on TikTok alone, it's easy to feel incentivised to buy one. However, Dr. Brissette warns that many popular lash serums formulated with prostaglandin may predispose you to styes, eyelid irritation, and orbital fat loss, essentially sunk-in eyes that could leave you looking permanently tired.
"I talk to patients about the long-term side effects that comes from using these lash serums which is fat atrophy," says Dr. Brissette. "It's called periorbital fat atrophy and it's a known side effect of those compounds. The fat behind your eyes starts to atrophy if you overuse these lash serums and that gives a hollow, sunken-in appearance to your eyes as you get older. If my patients don't want to give up lash serum and I tell them that their eyes are going to look sunken in down the road, they stop."
If you still want to use a lash serum, look for one without prostaglandin. "You can try to do an organic or natural lash serum," says Dr. Brissette. "Most of those have peptides in them, or even oil ingredients that help lubricate the lashes — it's all about keeping them clean and hydrated." Though Dr. Brissette says: "Honestly, if you take care of your eyelids and lashes, you'll find that they look longer and better."
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