Whiter, brighter eyes are the newest beauty trend. But there's a catch.

There's a viral new beauty trend we've been, er, seeing around the place. And it has to do with your eyes. More specifically, how... white they are.

Take a scroll through TikTok and you'll notice that using eye drops has almost become as normal as brushing your teeth in the morning. Just search 'eye brightening drops' and you'll come across tons of GRWM videos, with people touting them for reducing redness in minutes.

In short, these kind of eye drops have been formulated to make your eyes look like they've been Photoshopped.

Watch: Speaking of eyes, a makeup artist teaches us her techniques for a smokey eye with a twist... there's no black eyeshadow in sight. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

So, are eye-whitening drops actually effective? And is it true they can actually make your eyes... worse?

To find out, Mamamia spoke with Dr Jacqueline Beltz, ophthalmologist, co-president of the Australasian Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, CEO and founder of OKKIYO — Beauty for Sensitive Eyes.

What are eye brightening drops?

There are several different types of eye drops on the market, however the most popular brand (the one you're probably seeing all over TikTok) is classified as a medication and not approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for sale in Australia.


Dr Beltz said these eye whitening drops are "a weaker version" of a medication prescribed by ophthalmologists for glaucoma (an eye condition), and are intended "to reduce the appearance of redness in the eyes".

@rachelrigler tiktok made me buy it.... 🥵 #amazon #eyedrops #eyes ♬ yeezer - aaron

While this specific viral brand is not readily available in Australia, there are other popular brands on the market promising to deliver similar results when it comes to tackling redness. 

"These drugs all reduce redness in the eyes by causing vasoconstriction which means that the amount of blood flow and oxygen that gets into the eye is reduced," explained Dr Beltz, who said the most popular brand (the one that's not available in Australia) has this effect on veins in the eye, whilst the eye drops that are available in Australia affect the arteries. 

"Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to tissues, whilst veins take blood away from tissues," she added.

Can you become reliant on eye drops?

Yes, this is a thing. In fact, the overuse of anti-redness eye drops can result in something called 'rebound redness'. 

"Once we stop using these drops and the blood vessels dilate again, they usually dilate to a size even greater than they were before, in order to deliver the required nutrients and oxygen to the eye that it’s been starved of," explained Dr Beltz. 

"This is called rebound vasodilation, and it basically means that when the drops wear off the eyes can be even redder than they were before."



"If more anti-redness drops are used to combat that problem then a vicious cycle can start whereby a person feels dependent on these drops to have white eyes again."

It's also important to note that many of these viral eye drops contain preservatives which, if used frequently "can become quite irritating to the eyes and in many people can cause redness or allergies."

So, are eye whitening drops safe to use?

"The main concern with eye whitening drops is that their use might mask the signs of more serious eye problems," said Dr Beltz. "Many eye conditions result in red eyes, as the blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow and oxygen to an injured or inflamed area."

"Reducing the redness with anti-redness drops can be problematic as the extra blood flow is actually helpful and important for the body to heal these conditions but also because red eyes can be a symptom of a wide range of conditions such as allergies, conjunctivitis, corneal infections, glaucoma, uveitis and more."

As Dr Beltz goes on to explain, these conditions require specific treatment and if that treatment is delayed, some of them can permanently threaten vision. 

Meaning? It's always best to see an eye health professional for a diagnosis and management rather than wasting time using anti-redness drops.

Another common problem, Dr Beltz said, is the fact that many individuals hold on to these eye drops for a prolonged period of time, well past their 'use by' date — which is a lot easier than you might think. (Just check your bathroom cabinet!).


"Most preserved eye drops need to be thrown away 28 days after opening to avoid contamination with bacteria or fungi. I do worry that drops such as this that are not medically prescribed or intended for regular use can often sit around in the cupboard for way longer than that, potentially leading to infections that are much more serious than a little bit of a red eye."

"Finally, we do not know the long-term effects of using these eye drops. Studies done on this specific brand of eye drops overseas looked at results out to five weeks, but that’s not a very long time. As with any medications, care should be taken with use during pregnancy or breastfeeding and my advice would be to avoid them completely at that time."

What should you do if your eyes are always red?

If you're someone who regularly suffers from red eyes and use eye drops as your everyday go-to — it's not something to sit with. There are many medical reasons as to why you might be suffering from red or irritated eyes, and as our expert told us, self-diagnosis can be dangerous. 

So, buying and using different eye drops willy-nilly (and posting it to TikTok, encouraging other people to do the same) is not the answer.

"If you are concerned, definitely see your optometrist or ophthalmologist. Remember that a certain degree of redness is perfectly normal and that it’s not healthy or natural for our eyes to be completely white," said Dr Beltz. "In most parts of Australia, we are fortunate to have access to high-quality eye health providers. The first step if you have red eyes should usually be to make an appointment with your local optometrist."


Remember, your optometrist is your dedicated eye doctor, and will be able to diagnose any problems or concerns. "If they find anything more serious or if you don’t get better with treatment, they can refer you on to an ophthalmologist who is a medical specialist in eye health."

Again, it’s not natural or healthy to have totally white eyes, said Dr Beltz. "It’s okay with Photoshop, but not in real life. Those small blood vessels over the white part of the eye are really important for providing oxygen and nutrition to the eye and therefore for maintaining excellent eye health," she said.

According to Dr Beltz, the best way to keep your eyes healthy and clear is pretty straightforward: get enough sleep and eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. Protect your eyes from UV rays and don't sleep with your contact lenses in. 

"I prefer my patients not to use eye-whitening drops and I would not choose to use them myself, especially on a long-term basis. If you need eye drops regularly, I recommend preservative-free artificial tear drops that are available in Australia over the counter. These provide extra lubrication and help reduce irritation. If you suffer from hay fever, antihistamine eye drops can also be useful."

And remember, online purchases of medications is a really sticky area, and one that should be avoided. 

What are your thoughts on the eye-whitening trend? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: TikTok/@rachelrigler.

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