I often wake up in the morning with itchy eyes. Most of the times they’re also puffy and sometimes even watery. Later, during the day they get sort of dry – probably because I stare at the computer screen for far too long (but hey, that’s where I work, no way to avoid it!).
Ironically, I’ve had this problem for so long I wasn’t even noticing it anymore! Until one day, when I came across this article on lavender essential oil. No, it’s not about eyes, it’s about eyelashes. Apparently, a simple trick of adding 1-2 drops of lavender EO to your mascara does wonders making your eyelashes healthier and as a result – thicker and longer. But what’s that got to do with irritated eyes?
What’s really making your eyes itchy, swollen, watery or dry?
Some tiny little mites
Why don’t we have long and healthy lashes in the first place? There’s no mystery behind this, really. It seems most of us (and the chances do get higher as you grow older) have mites living in the sebaceous glands that are connected to the hair follicles, primarily those in the face area – eyelashes and eyebrows (you can read more about these mites here). I can’t say this surprised me – this world is full of parasites, but it is a bit scary.
In most cases, there are no symptoms but there is evidence these mites can cause blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids). Also, mite feces (yes it’s disgusting!) is a known allergen – dust mites are the most common source, but we can’t really exclude that one type of mites who just happen to live at the base of our eyelashes, can’t we?
Sadly, you can’t get read of the mites in your eyelashes with only warm, soapy water – it won’t reach the hair follicle and it will probably just make your eyes sting like hell. However, there are a few essential oils with antibacterial properties that can be used to get rid of them.
The first one that would come to mind is tea tree oil – but it doesn’t have a very attractive smell and I don’t think its suitable for use near such a sensitive area like the eyes are. Lavender oil is also anti-bacterial but it’s a much gentler essential oil well tolerated by most skin types, plus it smells great!
Sure you can be allergic to mites and not just those that are living at the base of your eyelashes. There are many types of mites – starting with dust mites of course. They’re in your mattress, in your carpet, in your clothes….they’re everywhere. There are also tons of other allergens you may get a reaction too.
While allergies come with many symptoms eye irritation is definitely a common one. So even if you’re not trying to eradicate mites from your eyelashes, lavender essential oil is known as a natural antihistamine so it can help reduce allergy induced inflammation.
Staring at something for too long
This seems a very broad definition but only because it is. If you work in front of the computer – you’re staring at that screen at least 8 hrs/day and you may already be experiencing symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
Maybe you’re a seamstress and you’re straining your eyes for hours trying to get perfect stitches. It really doesn’t matter what you’re staring at, as long as you’re doing it for hours on a daily basis…you get the idea. The end result is your eyes become irritated.
I literally start crying when it’s windy outside. Dry and/or really low temperatures can also cause eye discomfort. It may just be seasonal, but you could still use a way to combat this problem.
There are many other factors that can lead to eye discomfort, these are just some of the most common ones. If you’re not sure what exactly is irritating your eyes I suggest you pay attention to how, where and when it occurs (perhaps even write it down in a journal) until you get to the bottom of it.
The simple solution that works – Lavender essential oil
It doesn’t work just for mites, but in this case lavender oil acts in two different ways – first it kills them, then it reduces the inflammation they’ve caused. So I added two drops of lavender EO to my mascara and I applied it when my eyes were badly in need for something to soothe them. And it worked! Quite miraculously might I add.
I’m not easy to impress – but it took about 10 minutes since I applied the mascara for my eyes to return back to their normal selves.
For the skeptics – How does lavender essential oil work?
I’m also a skeptic by the way – I don’t believe in magic, I like facts so I won’t tell you that lavender essential oil simply works (even though I’m successfully using it on myself) because once you understand how it works, you’ll realize why it can be effective to reduce eye discomfort caused by a whole host of factors, not just mites. So let’s cut to the chase.
Its main compounds are linalool (~29%) a monoterpene alcohol compound with antiseptic, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and linalyl acetate (~33%) , an ester that contributes to the strong scent of lavender EO and is known to have sedative and anti-spasmodic properties.
Lavender oil includes low amounts of several monoterpenes which also have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial therapeutic properties. However, there are lots of different monoterpenes and as a result their properties can greatly vary. For example myrcene – one of the monoterpenes found in lavender essential oil has an analgesic and sedative effect.
Eucalyptol, also known as 1,8-cineole which as you might already suspect is one of the main components of Eucalyptus leaves, is also found in lavender oil but in smaller amounts. This compound is a well-known expectorant, which is why eucalyptus oil is used in so many over the counter and homemade medicines for cough and colds.
Ketones are another group of compounds contained by lavender essential oil in small quantities but their importance shouldn’t be underestimated.. They have excellent mucus easing properties and promote skin regeneration. The only problem with ketones is pregnant women are advised to steer clear of essential oils containing a high amount of them. Luckily, that’s not the case with lavender essential oil.
Last, but not least – let’s not forget about sesquiterpenes, a very important part of lavender EO. These compounds have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties. This is what makes lavender oil so useful for relieving allergy-related inflammation. Another essential oil rich in sesquiterpenes and famous for its soothing properties is chamomile oil.
I think one can easily write a book just discussing the compounds of lavender oil, so I’m not going to go any deeper into the subject. My goal was to describe the main constituents of this wonderful essential oil so you can see how they all act in an incredibly complex synergy when it comes to healing our ailments.
How to use it
Most essential oils cannot be used on the skin (or anywhere else on your body) without diluting them in a carrier oil first. However, lavender oil is one of the exceptions. It is very mild and most skin types can tolerate it even in its pure form.
Obviously it would have to be an organic, 100% natural essential oil that’s approved for cosmetic use, so choose your brand carefully.
If you’ve never used lavender EO before you may want to perform a skin patch test first. Apply 1 drop of lavender EO on your wrist or elbow and leave the area uncovered for 24 hours. If you get a reaction you might want to redo the patch test but with the essential oil diluted in a carrier oil (such as virgin olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil…etc.).
For eye discomfort and other mild allergic reactions you can use lavender oil by itself. For more severe cases you can include it in a blend.
Studies show lavender essential oil may reduce inflammation of airways in individuals with bronchial asthma and a study done on rats revealed its ability to suppress immediate-type allergic reaction. This means lavender oil has great potential to treat various types of allergy symptoms – which is great news indeed!
The original article I read was using a couple of drops of lavender EO added to a regular bottle of mascara. This is a super easy way to get lavender oil onto your lashes and as close to your eyes as possible without actually getting it into your eyes (which is definitely not recommended!).
However, I don’t use mascara on a daily basis and this might also be your case. Another way to use it is to take 1 drop of oil onto a finger and apply it on your nose bridge. I also lightly touch the ends of my lashes with my finger (using what’s left on it).
I’m too lazy to do this but you can buy an empty mascara tube fill it with a carrier oil (castor oil makes a great choice in this case) and add a couple of drops of the EO to it. Then you can use it just like you would a mascara.
We’re always told to be patient with natural remedies – most of them work over time and you need to be persistent for visible results. My experience with using lavender essential oil to soothe irritated eyes is definitely an exception so I truly hope it works the same for you.
Have you ever used lavender essential oil to reduce eye discomfort or treat allergies? What other natural remedies have you found to be effective against these problems? We’re always eager to hear about our readers’ experiences so let us know about yours in the comments section!