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Can a $3 Beauty Hack Going Viral on TikTok Stop Watery Eyes? MDs Say Yes!

Hint: You likely have all you need already at home

If your eyes tend to water in the cold, sending streaks of mascara down your face, you’ll want to pay attention to a new hack circulating on social media that shows how to stop watery eyes at home. A TikTok video with more than 20 million views reveals that applying petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) around your eyes can prevent your eyes from running. But does it work, and is it safe to use around the eyes? “Vaseline is cheap, clean and widely available. Its thick and sticky consistency allows for safe application and can be utilized by anyone wanting to keep their skin hydrated due to its protective qualities,” says Ephraim Singh Atwal, MD, medical director of Atwal Eye Care and Buffalo Ambulatory Surgery Center. “Allergies are rare with Vaseline, and it is safe for most people to use.”

However, doctors say there are risks when putting the multi-purpose balm around the eye area, so it may not be for everyone. Read on to find out if it’s right for you and how to use it safely. 

What causes eyes to water?

up close shot of woman with watery eyes

Epiphora is the medical term for watery eyes, which affects millions of people. Watery eyes can be caused by more than a dozen conditions, including allergies, eye infections, blocked tear ducts and certain weather conditions. But dry eyes is actually a major cause. In fact, when eyes are exposed to cold and wind, they lose moisture, causing dryness and irritation. Tear glands go into overdrive to combat this dryness, producing excess tears as a protective response. “Putting Vaseline in the corners of my eyes before leaving the house to stop my eyes from watering is the best thing TikTok has ever taught me,” content creator Ayaat Mishaal claims. Because it’s so common (and annoying), most people will try almost anything to make it stop. 

How does the Vaseline eye hack work?

While there haven’t been any specific studies yet on this technique, doctors say there is logical reasoning behind it. “The Vaseline itself may provide a hydrophobic barrier that prevents the tear film from running past the waterline of the eyelids, which keeps the tears on the surface where they are managed by the eye appropriately,” explains Dr. Atwal. “It may also melt onto the surface of the eye, which could provide some extra tear stability similar to oil on water, thereby eliminating the need for eyes to increase tear production,” he continues. 

Doctors agree that this trick may prevent tears from running down your face but won’t prevent them from forming entirely.  “It works more by redirecting the tears to go down the right pathways in your eye, to drain correctly, through the punctum (the openings of the tear ducts). Also, if the tears end up on the Vaseline, they’re not bothering or irritating your skin,” says pediatric ophthalmologist Naomie Warner, DO of Nevada Eye Physicians

Here, TikTok user @rlsiesky shows how she uses Vaseline to keep her eyes from watering as a reaction to the fragrance in her makeup:

How to do the Vaseline eye hack safely to stop watery eyes

bottle of petroleum jelly for how to stop watery eyes at home
Douglas Sacha/ Getty

If you want to learn how to stop watery eyes at home, it’s important to understand the correct safety procedures when applying anything to your eye. First and foremost, you want to grab a brand new Vaseline container, not one you’ve dipped your fingers into, as that can cause bacterial contamination, which can transfer the germs to your eyes. The same goes for the tube kind — if it’s touched your lips or fingers, you shouldn’t use that same tube around your eyes. 

Related: 10 Brilliant Uses for Petroleum Jelly That May Surprise You

“Wash your hands well before applying it, and use a sterile cotton tip to dab a small amount around your eyelid gently on both the top and bottom, below the lash line and avoiding the lashes. Throw that cotton tip away and use a new one every time,” advises Dr. Warner. 

“Ensure that you apply the vaseline to the skin around the eyes only and not to the waterline, as it could clog the small ducts in your eyes, which are essential for healthy ocular function,” says Dr. Atwal. The thick ointment can lead to blurry vision when used too close to the eyes. 

Related: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Skincare Secret Costs Less Than $3

When not to use Vaseline to stop watery eyes

Vaseline is an occlusive meant to provide a barrier or a block. That means it can also clog sensitive pores in the thin skin around the eyes, leading to a condition known as milia, or milk spots, which are small, white cysts. If you’re prone to milia, doctors say you should avoid this altogether. 

Also, if your eyes are constantly watering, it may signify something more serious. “Excessive eye-watering can be a symptom of dry eye disease, caused by the eye overcompensating for the moisture it lacks. Because dry eye disease is a multifactorial problem and can be addressed medically, seeing your eye care professional is essential to diagnose and treat the contributing factors instead of just managing the symptoms via hacks,” warns Dr. Atwal. 

No Vaseline? How to stop watery eyes at home without it

Vaseline can be a preventative for the dryness that leads to watery eyes, but so can several other doctor-recommended alternatives. Here is how to stop watery eyes at home if you don’t have Vaseline on hand.

1. Apply castor oil

tube of castor oil for eyelashes and eyebrows with leaves in background
Mariya Borisova/Getty

The thick, odorless oil made from the castor plant is known to help nourish and condition lashes, making them look thicker and glossier. “Castor oil is an ingredient that eye doctors have used for centuries to treat dry eyes,” says Dr. Halil-Campo. “When applied topically to the lid, it can help support the tear film and relieve discomfort.

Related: Castor Oil Proven to Regrow Hair on Head, Eyebrows + Eyelashes — For Pennies A Day!

2. Use artificial tears

“Using preservative-free artificial tears before applying your makeup is an excellent way to ensure you’re giving your eyes the best chance to stay well lubricated and comfortable while applying your makeup,” advises Dr. Atwal.

3. Wear sunglasses

A good pair of sunglasses (or goggles, if participating in outdoor sports) that provide a barrier for your eyes prevents this issue from happening in the first place, says Dr. Atwal. 

4. Drink more water

Need more reason to get six glasses a day? Most people don’t realize dehydration can also affect your eyes. “Staying hydrated will help your eyes stay well lubricated and help your vision function better overall,” advises Dr. Atwal. 

5. Enlist a warm compress

If your eyes are parched and irritated, warm compresses can help, suggests Dr. Warner. Place the warm compress over your eyes and keep it on for three to 10 minutes, she instructs. 

6. Extra virgin olive oil

Drinking this daily provides antioxidants, vitamin E and squalene, which help moisturize the skin around the eyes and prevent dryness, attests Dr. Choi. He recommends taking two tablespoons a day for the most benefits.

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