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

October 13, 2020 12 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, irritated 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, Irritated Eyes

Burning is an incredibly common symptom that goes along with dry, irritated eyes.  Warm compresses and omega-3’s are a great starting point to get the oils moving and increase the quality of the oil your eyelid glands produce.  

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

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 at least 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, Irritated Eyes

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 eyelid inflammation and dryness.

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 our 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. 

What We Use In Our Clinic:

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

FAQs About Red Eyes

Why are my eyes red? What causes red eyes?

When your eyes are red, there’s always one immediate cause, and it is always the same: Red eyes are caused by dilated blood vessels in the eye and the eyelid. The dilation of these small blood vessels leads to enhanced blood flow to the area. This blood flow is what leads to visible red eyes. The most common causes for red eyes include dry, irritated eyes, allergies, a foreign body (something in your eye), eye infections, a scratch or abrasion, and acutely high eye pressure. Anytime you have a red eye, you should see your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a proper diagnosis.

How to get rid of red eyes | How to treat red eyes

First and foremost, see your eye doctor. Without a proper diagnosis, you won't know the right treatment for your red eye. Red eyes are often due to inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva (the clear covering over the entire eyeball) or cornea (the transparent surface on the front of the eye). According to the American Optometric Association, the most common causes include bacterial and viral infections or allergic reactions.

Treatment always depends on the cause. But there are a few things you can do to avoid problematic red eyes in the first place. The most effective prevention is good hygiene:

  • Wash hands thoroughly.

  • Do not touch your eyes with dirty hands.

  • Change towels and washcloths daily.

  • Do not use another person's eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, or other cosmetics.

  • Wash hands before handling contact lenses.

  • Don't forget to replace your contact lens case frequently.

  • Follow the recommended replacement schedule for your contact lenses.

How to get rid of red eyes without eye drops?

We've already discussed proper hygiene, both in general and for your eyelids. The most important thing you can do is make sure you have a great eyelid hygiene routine in place. This means removing all makeup and washing your face at the end of the day. We recommend using a hypochlorous acid cleanser after that to ensure that your lashes are clean. Simply spray the solution onto your closed eyelids, rub it in with clean fingertips, and let it dry. 

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 dryness?

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.

Why does weed make your eyes red?

When you smoke or ingest cannabis, the THC lowers your blood pressure and dilates your blood vessels and small capillaries. This increases blood flow to your eyes and makes your eyes appear red. Of course, the smoke can also cause irritation, so your eyes may appear more red if you've been smoking vs. using edibles. In addition, the amount of THC you've used will make a difference in how red your eyes are.


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