The brand claims these eye drops can give you brighter, whiter, peepers. But, wait, is that really necessary?

By Melanie Rud
November 26, 2019
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Credit: ljubaphoto/Getty Images

Red, bloodshot, stressed out—call them what you will, there's no denying that irritated eyes can make you look sick and tired...even if you're not. In fact, using eye drops as a prep step is one of those secret tricks makeup artists use all the time to make their clients look bright-eyed and alive.

And while there are plenty of drops out there that can help, there's one on the market that's getting a lot of attention recently. Bausch & Lomb's Lumify Redness Reliever Eye Drops (Buy It, $11, amazon.com) launched last year and claim to work in just one minute and keep redness (caused by minor irritations, and not serious issues such as conjunctivitis or glaucoma) at bay for up to eight hours, with no rebound redness.

So, how exactly are these Lumify eye drop different for the others on the shelves? And are they safe to use?

What causes red eyes in the first place?

There are many different reasons your eyes could be red. Everything from eye dryness and fatigue to allergies to too much alcohol and excessive time spent staring at screens. Still, no matter the underlying cause, the end result is the same. The blood vessels on the surface of the eye dilate or expand, causing a red appearance. (Related: The Best Blue Light-Blocking Glasses to Save Your Eyes from All That Scrolling)

How do Lumify eye drops claim to work?

The key ingredient in Lumify eye drops is brimonidine tartrate. It's the same ingredient used in prescription eye drops that are used to reduce pressure in the eyes and treat glaucoma, though, in Lumify, it's at a much lower concentration of .025 percent. Lumify drops are the only OTC drops on the market that contain this ingredient, which causes constriction and narrowing of the blood vessels in the eye, says Adam Moss, M.D., an ophthalmologist in Edina, MN. The end result is whiter, seemingly brighter eyes. (Related: 3 Eye Exercises You Should Do to Improve Your Eye Health)

But how are Lumify eye drops different than other drops?

First, a quick biology lesson. There are two types of blood vessels: Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart throughout your body and veins carry blood back to the heart. In the case of your eyes arteries deliver the oxygenated blood to the eye and the veins carry it away, explains Dr. Moss.

Other redness-relieving drops, such as Visine Redness Relief, use an ingredient called tetrahydrozoline, which causes constriction of both the arteries and veins. "When the arteries are constricted, it results in decreased blood flow to the tissues of the eye. When the tetrahydrozoline wears off, the arteries dilate again and become even larger to make up for the decreased blood and oxygen that was being delivered. This is called a rebound effect and results in increased redness that can be even more bothersome than before treatment," explains Dr. Moss. What's more this continued, frequent use can ultimately lead to chronic redness. While this doesn't affect the overall health of the eye, it can be a frustrating cosmetic issue, he adds. (Related: This Scary Photo Is Proof You Need to Take Off Your Mascara Every Night)

However, the brimonidine used in Lumify constricts only the veins; this means oxygen is still being effectively delivered to your eye and you don't risk the same rebound effect, says Dr. Moss. Avoiding this cyclical problem is the main difference between Lumify and other redness-relieving eye drops on the market. While Lumify also touts speedy and long-lasting results, Dr. Moss says this isn't entirely new. Other options also work just as quickly and have results that last up to eight hours. Plus, the duration of results and effectiveness can vary from person to person, he adds. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About LASIK Eye Surgery)

So, are Lumify eye drops safe?

First, you should know that Lumify eye drops have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of "ocular redness" only. So, you shouldn't expect them to lubricate dry eyes, alleviate itch, or combat any other eye issues, nor should they take the place if eyedrops that are clinically crafted to help with those symptoms and conditions. (Related: Why Your Eyes Are Dry and Irritated and How to Find Relief)

The biggest risk of using the drops is developing a sensitivity or allergy to either the active ingredient, brimonidine, or the preservative used, benzalkonium chloride, says Dr. Moss. This can show up as worsening redness, discharge, pain/irritation, tearing, and vision changes, he explains. If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue use and see your eye doctor.

However, one big caveat with Lumify eye drops is that you have to remove contact lenses before use. You should also wait 10 minutes before putting them back in. FWIW, this is a typical recommendation for most eye drops, no matter their intended purpose, since there's a theoretical risk that the contacts could absorb the ingredients in the drops, explains Dr. Moss. This. in turn, could change the properties of the contacts, impacting their effectiveness. (Related: Do You Have Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome?)

Dr. Moss also notes that because Lumify doesn't have the same potential for rebound redness, it can be a better option for more frequent use. But, remember that Lumify still contains preservatives to which some people may be sensitive to if used too frequently, says Dr. Moss.

How do you use Lumify eye drops?

Lumify's package says that the eye drops can be used every six to eight hours up to four times per day, which mirrors instructions you might find on other redness drops. However, if you are actually using Lumify drops that often, it's important to consider out why your eyes are so red in the first place, says Dr. Moss. "If you're using them more than once or twice per day, or more than one or two days per week, you should see your eye doctor for an exam to make sure that the redness is not a symptom of a larger or more serious problem," he says. (Related: Jennifer Aniston Confesses Her 10-Minute Workout Secret)

The bottom line: If you're using Lumify occasionally to knock out temporary redness after a long day staring at the computer or late-night sipping martinis, it's all good. "When used sparingly in an otherwise healthy eye, I think Lumify is a safe medication to use as needed," says Dr. Moss. But if you're relying on them (or any other redness-relieving drops, for that matter) daily, and/or have any of the other aforementioned symptoms, make an appointment with your eye doc to get to the root of the redness issue.

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