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5 Worst & 5 Best Eye Drops for Red Eyes | Visine, Rohto, Lumify

August 17, 2016 10 min read

5 Most Common Red Eye Causes

Visine and Clear Eyes are the most frequently used eye drops available on the market. What if I told you that these drops could potentially make your dry eyes worse?  

All “redness-reliever” drops do, in fact, remove the redness from your eyes, but your eyes also get addicted to the redness remover, making you rely on the drops even more than before to keep your eyes white.  

This is a fantastic marketing technique by those companies! You’re forced to continue purchasing the eye drops to keep your eyes white.

Also, when your eyes are red and irritated, there is usually an underlying cause. Figuring out the cause by seeing an eye care practitioner is always best. Here is a basic guide to why your eyes might feel like they do and what to do about it.  


1. Dry Eye Syndrome

The most common symptom of dry eye syndrome is burning.  Warm compresses and omega-3’s are a great starting point to get the oils moving and increase the quality of the oil your glands produce.  

We also prescribe  Heyedrate Lid & Lash Cleanser to keep the eyelids clean and functioning properly, which helps dry eye.   

If you need an eye drop, the over-the-counter drop we prescribe the most is  Oasis Tears Plus Eye Drops.  Keep in mind that artificial tears just cover up a problem and do not fix it, but this one is preservative free and is a great option if you like the symptom relief from using eye drops.

2. Allergic Conjunctivitis

This condition will cause intense itching, especially in the corners of the eyes. Eyes will be watery as well. A great over-the-counter drop for itchy eyes is  Alaway. Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if you're still not getting relief with  Alaway, as you could be dealing with something else. Click here to check price of Alaway on Amazon

3. Viral Conjunctivitis (what you know as "Pink Eye")

This condition is  contagious! You may notice redness, watery eyes, and general discomfort. This may spread from one eye to the other over the course of a few days, and it may spread to other family members as well.

There is  no treatment for "pink eye" since it is viral. Frustrating, I know!

But make sure to keep the eyelid area clean with a  hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanser. This will help prevent the spread as it is HIGHLY contagious, like stated above.  To learn more about pink eye, click here.

4. Bacterial Conjunctivitis

This is often accompanied by yellow, goopy discharge. Eyelids are often  stuck together in the morning. This can be treated by cleaning the eyelids more thoroughly both morning and evening.  

We suggest using  Heyedrate Lid & Lash Cleanser both in the morning and at night after washing your face. You should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist for an antibiotic if you've got severe discharge or goopiness that persists despite cleansing your eyelids.

5. Contact Lens Complications

There are MANY conditions that fit into this category. Some contact lens complications  can be sight threatening. Symptoms are often intense redness, pain, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.

Give your optometrist a call immediately if you notice any of these symptoms and especially if you've slept in your contact lenses recently (a big no-no!)  

Contact Lens Dryness

If your contact lenses are dry, switching to a more frequent replacement lens, such as daily disposables (lenses that you throw away every day), is best.  

If you do not throw your contact lenses away daily, switch to a solution without preservatives, such as  ClearCare(please read the use instructions carefully and avoid eye contact). When using ClearCare, your lenses will need to sit in the solution for atleast six hours before you put them back into your eyes.

Click here to check the price of ClearCare on Amazon

As you can tell, an eye exam is essential to make sure you get the correct treatment for your red eyes. This does not mean you should call your nearest Urgent Care center...most eye doctors are always on call and would be happy to see you, even on weekends!

RELATED: 5 Solutions for Contact Lens Dryness | Best Contacts For Dry Eye

5 Best Eye Drops for Red Eyes


1. Lumify

Lumify is the latest and greatest redness reliever on the market. Released in mid 2018, this eye drop contains brimonidine tartrate 0.025% and it's the first of it's kind. This medication has traditionally been used for years as a glaucoma medication, because it helps to lower the eye pressure.


However, many were noticing that brimonidine gave their eyes a white, bright look, completely eliminating any redness in their eyes. Because of this side effect, Lumify was born.

Small studies have shown that Lumify does not demonstrate the same rebound redness effect that other redness relievers do, such as Visine and Clear Eyes. And this is great news for those of you who occasionally need redness relief.

Lumify is intended to be used up to four times daily, although we recommend using this medication only for special occasions and no more than once per day. We'll get to the why on that later!



This hypochlorous acid cleanser is a great answer for those of you with red, irritated eyes. We love this cleanser because it's helping to get to the root of the problem instead of just treating the red eye symptom.

By cleansing with hypochlorous acid, you're removing microorganisms from the skin of your eyelids, which would normally lead to blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction, and dry eye disease.

This solution is super easy to use as well. Simply spray it onto your closed eyelids, rub it in, and let it dry. You can also spray it onto a cotton ball or round for application, if you prefer, or you can easily just spray it on and go. There's no need to rinse it off and it has a 2-year shelf life.

Oasis Tears Plus

If you love using eye drops for symptom relief of your dry, scratchy, red eyes, then this one is a great choice. It's preservative free and won't irritate your eyes at all. You'll love the feel of this lubricating eye drop, and you'll be able to use it as much as you want due to the lack of preservatives. It comes in small, single-use vials for your convenience. We also love the mission of this company, and they distribute directly through doctors so you know you're getting a quality product.


Refresh Advanced PF

Refresh Advanced PF is a favorite of those in the dry eye community because it's been around awhile and it usually never disappoints. This is a non-preserved artificial tear that includes no additional chemicals which would irritate the eyes. The goal of artificial tears is lubrication of the tissues on the ocular surface, and this is a great option for daily use.


Retaine MGD

This eye drop was a favorite of ours for many years, and we prescribed it often in our clinics. The preservative free Retaine MGD is going to be a great choice when you want something to give you relief of those dry, irritated eyes at the end of a long day, and you can feel free to use these as often as you'd like since they contain no preservatives. These also come in small vials for ease of carrying with you.


5 Worst Eye Drops for Red Eyes

Wait, what?! Yes, you may have noticed that we put Lumify on both the good and bad list. First of all, Lumify is great for relieving redness of the eyes quickly and efficiently. It has also shown no rebound redness in studies, which makes it superior to other redness relievers on the market. However, we can still only recommend this for occasional use because it is not an artificial tear and it does contain benzalkonium chloride (BAK), which is a preservative that can further irritate the eyes. If you have a wedding or a big meeting coming up, go ahead and use a drop. But please don't make it a habit!


Visine solves the red eye problem by causing the affected blood vessels to artificially constrict. Tetrahydrozoline HCl 0.05%, the active ingredient in Visine, causes this physical shrinking of the conjunctival blood vessels.

This accomplishes the immediate goal of lessening the eye’s redness, however, as the medication eventually wears off, rebound redness may occur, which makes the initial problem that much worse.

Truthfully, we just can't recommend Visine use because this rebound redness, where your eyes become just as red as (if not more red than) before, may actually become the default condition of your eyes when used too often.


We feel the same way about ClearEyes as we do Visine. The traditional ClearEyes includes lubricants, but it is also made up of Naphazoline Hydrochloride 0.012% (which is used as the redness reliever).

This is no better than other redness relievers on the market, and you'll still experience rebound redness when using it too often.


If they claim to "get the red out", you should just steer clear. If it's generic in any form, you should tread lightly. Generic eye drops are not as tightly regulated as branded eye drops, which most often have a specific profile of ingredients and preservatives.

Generic drops (even those that only provide lubrication) may change formulas from time to time and you may end up being sensitive to something you never were sensitive to before. This may be because an ingredient or concentration of the product changed, but the packaging did not.


This one makes the bad list because we have friends who love the tingle of these drops, yet they're no better than other redness relieving eye drops out there! Specifically, we're talking about the redness relieving Rohto drops, but they truthfully all contain BAK and should be used sparingly.

The redness reliever drops contain Naphazoline hydrochloride 0.012% as well as menthol, which help to get rid of the redness and also give that cool feeling. If you're into using these every once in awhile for a wedding or meeting, we're alright with that. However, these should only be used for occasional, as-needed use. 

Not convinced? Click here to learn more about why you should never use these drops!

What We Use In Our Clinic:

- Dry Eye Symptoms → Heyedrate Lid & Lash Cleanser
- Nighttime Dryness → Retaine PM
- Itchy Eyes → Alaway

FAQs About Visine and Clear Eyes Eye Drops

Is Visine bad for your eyes?

Visine contains vasoconstrictors that basically shrink the blood vessels of your eyes temporarily. While this helps with redness in the short term, it does not address the underlying reason why the redness is occurring. Ocular redness can occur due to many things, including inflammation and infections, and these should be addressed by an eye care professional. Visine and other redness relievers should be used sparingly because overuse may cause “rebound” redness, which is a worsening of the redness symptom. In addition to this, using the medication too often could cause damage to the vessels.

What is the best eye drops for dry eyes?

We recommend using preservative free eye drops because preservatives can often be irritating to those with sensitive eyes. Many over-the-counter and prescription eye drops contain preservatives such as benzalkonium chloride (BAK). When looking for a great artificial tear, look for one that is preservative-free. We like Oasis Tears Plus PF, but there are many others on the market as well.

What does Clear Eyes do to your eyes?

Clear Eyes works by narrowing swollen blood vessels to reduce the symptoms of eye redness. Naphazoline is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it shrinks the small blood vessels on the front of the eye, making them appear less noticeable. Redness relievers like Clear Eyes are most often used for temporary relief of minor eye redness, but they should not be used long term.

How is Lumify different from Visine?

In general, redness relievers such as Visine (and similar drugs) work by constricting blood vessels on the eye. Visine, Clear Eyes, and other vasoconstrictors work directly on the eye's alpha-1 receptor, which is present in the arteries of the eyes. Lumify also constricts vessels, but it acts on the alpha-2 receptors, which are present in the veins. Since arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to the eye, while the veins do not, Lumify doesn’t inhibit the flow of oxygen and therefore avoids rebound redness.

What eyedrops are used for pink eye?

Pink eye is used as a blanket term for conjunctivitis, or an inflammation of the conjunctiva. However, conjunctivitis can be caused by many things, most commonly viruses, allergies, or bacteria. The cause of the pink eye will determine which eye drops are necessary (if any). For example, if the infection is bacterial you may need an antibiotic from your eye doctor. However, pink eye is also often used when speaking specifically about viral conjunctivitis. For this form, eye drops are not going to help. With viral conditions, time is the greatest healer.

What gets rid of pink eye fast?

Pink eye, specifically when talking about viral conjunctivitis, will go away on its own in a few days. In the meantime, ensure that you’re keeping your face and eyelids clean with thorough face washing and a hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanser. We recommend Heyedrate Lid and Lash Cleanser. You can also use cool compresses for symptom relief. Unless the pink eye (conjunctivitis) is bacterial, you will not need an antibiotic, although using artificial tears may be soothing. Visit your eye doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Can you treat pink eye at home?

There is currently no medication known to help with viral conjunctivitis, and the allergic and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis may or may not be helped through medication. Treatment for pink eye at home should include proper face washing and eyelid cleansing with a hypochlorous acid cleanser, artificial tears as needed, and cool compresses for symptom relief until the pink eye clears. Make sure to see your eye care practitioner for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

How can you tell if pink eye is viral or bacterial?

While both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can look similar (think pinkish-red eyes), there are a few differences. Viral will show watery discharge, may spread easily from one eye to the other, and may begin after having a cold or upper respiratory infection. Bacterial often leads to yellow, mucus discharge from the eye and is usually only present in one eye, although it can occur in both. Patients will often wake up with their eyes stuck together if they have bacterial conjunctivitis. 

One Love,

Dr. Jenna Zigler

9 Responses

victoria a walker
victoria a walker

June 20, 2020

Systane made my lashes fall out and I’ve used every drop including xiidra and only clear eyes works. My lashes are growing back and my vision is no longer blurry. Systane, rhoto, refresh, retain, a gel steroid, lotemax and the antibiotic steroid drop, ocusoft wipes and avenovo gave me hell for 2 years! Clear eyes, tea tree shamppo from the vitamin shoppe, an electrical warming eye mask and HEYEDRATE LID AND LASH CLEANSER killed the blurry vision and brought my eyes back. I was drinking 2 gallons of water a day and still had eyes that were getting worse and it turns out it was the expensive drops!


May 08, 2019

Thank you Jenna Zigler…keep the great posts and emails coming, I use the Lid and Lash Cleanser and have great results….I recently had cataract surgery and have extreme dry eyes now, bloodshot, I’m devastated that this has to happen now..Very stressful for me on a daily basis..I am trying everything. Keep the advice coming and God Bless for all that you and your husband are doing.

Deb Marsh
Deb Marsh

May 08, 2019

I was diagnosed with MGD, what eye drops would be for me? I love your products I have all apart from the eye drops,
So I would appreciate your advice.


November 21, 2017

Great post!

Dr. Jenna Zigler
Dr. Jenna Zigler

April 28, 2017

Hey VLL,
Every person and every dry eye is different. I would recommend our Omega-3 Dry Eye Formula, especially if you are not already taking a great one. Every dry eye patient should be on them.


April 28, 2017

I have extreme dye eye and CANNOT use Rostasis. So, I use the generic form of artificial eye drops at Walmart, 24/7. During Allergy months, a lightly lubricated one in the evening morning. I was given a tube of brand name gel for bedtime but it is just too goopy. Since plugs, drops, glasses, you name it have failed, I live with this condition W/O complaint, but I will not purchase expensive drops because a Dr. told me to.

Dr. Travis Zigler
Dr. Travis Zigler

December 28, 2016

Hey Marcie,
Visine/Clear Eyes can be used on special occassions when something like this occurs. Just don’t make it a regular occurence to use them.

One Love,
Dr. Travis Zigler

Joan Hendrix
Joan Hendrix

December 23, 2016

Chronic dry eye. Wear only glasses. Caused by a immune disorder.sjrogens.


December 22, 2016

I have meeting tomorrow and have really bad redness in one eye would it be bad to use them just tomorrow? Ive been using a alergy eye drop and its slowly looking better. I just dont want to be self conscious during my meeting tomorrow..

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