Years spent cleaning eyelids makes it easy to fall into bad habits and cut corners. Sometimes mistakes can occur unintentionally and compound over time.
Even small changes to your daily eyelid hygiene can have profound results after a few months.
Are you guilty of these 3 mistakes?
1) Using Warm Tap Water
Heat before cleaning flushes the Meibomian glands and loosens the crust. This makes your life much easier. Yet, most people use warm tap water. According to Dr R Scott Lowery, MD tap water is not ideal for cleaning eyelids.
There are two issues with warm tap water:
* It's not an effective heat source
* It may contain impurities
The heat dissipates quickly after wetting a washcloth with warm water. This means you have to continually wet the washcloth to get an adequate amount of heat.
Talk about an inefficient use of your time.
There are also all types of impurities within tap water. Warm water in particular contains dissolved metals. Many older homes or apartment blocks have pipes that contain lead. These metals can leach into the warm water.
The Journal of Environmental Health in 2002 found that tap water represented 14 to 20 percent of total lead exposure. Yep - we don't want these impurities going into your eyes.
In addition to these, many household hot water systems are not hot enough to kill bacteria.
Even though the water leaving the plant may be clean, when it's stored in your water tank and heated, bacteria can build up. In an effort to reduce the energy bill and preserve the life of the system, the thermostat of the hot water system may be set relatively low.
This can inadvertently provide an ideal environment for bacteria to multiple. Nasty bacteria can form as a result.
Without meaning to fear-monger - the main take-home message is that your tap water may contain impurities.
What's the alternative?
- For preparation, instead of warm washcloth soaked in tap water, consider using a warm compress mask instead. Heat your eyelids up with warm compress such as a Bruder Mask beforehand. A Bruder Mask uses beads that actually moisturise your eyelids.
- Instead of cleaning your eyes with shampoo and warm water, use an eyelid cleansing solution.
- Replace rinsing your eyelids with tap water with a saline solution.
This will ensure you minimise bacteria and other impurities entering your eyes.
There are number of saline solutions that people use for rinsing and storing contact lens. Just be sure not to use a contact lens cleaning solution for your eyes!
Follow instructions exactly and only use as directed by health professional. Which leads us to the next mistake....
2) Using Dirty Cleansing Solutions
Check the expiry and follow instructions! Any solution kept open for a period of time will contain bacteria. Your cleansing solution and shampoo can become a source of bacterial infection.
If you are using a saline solution to rinse off the eyes, be mindful these usually have an expiry date within 30 days after opening. Keeping it longer will lead to more problems, so don't feel guilty about tossing out a bottle even if it's half full. That also applies to the 3/4 full baby shampoo bottle that you've had for 6 months.
Ensure the top is always closed, protective cap placed on, and keep the lid screwed on tightly to prevent bacteria from entering.
If you want to be safe keep your solutions refrigerated. One study suggested that saline solution refrigerated was bacteria-free after 1 month. Whereas solutions kept at room temperature were positive for bacteria after 2 weeks.
Not strictly following the instructions can lead to more bacteria and worsening of symptoms. If any solution makes your eyes more irritated, stop using it immediately.
As a rule of thumb, consider changing your cleansing solutions every 3 months.
3) Forgetting To Properly Disinfect Hands
There would be no point going to all the effort of using saline solution, buying the right cleansing agents only to have dirty hands applying it!
Using the right soap and antibacterial agent can help remove most of the nasties. Hand sanitiser does not remove all bacteria or pathogens, so best to stick to the old fashioned way.
The scrubbing routine is just as important - CDC suggests the following routine:
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
The last point is important - don't dry your hands on your body towel or use a communal towel. Get yourself a fresh one, or use a disposable paper towel.
Bypassing these mistakes will take time initially. But once you get into the habit you will save time, since you won't need to clean your eyelids as frequently.
Consider using eyelid cleansing solutions with a clean saline solution to rinse. Don't forget spending 20 seconds to disinfect those hands as well!
This may give your eyelid hygiene a much-needed boost.