What’s an ingrown eyelash?

When the eyelash grows inward instead of outward, it’s known as an ingrown eyelash. As it grows, it can irritate your eye and eyelid. Ingrown eyelashes are more common in adults and can occur on either the top or bottom eyelid.

An ingrown eyelash can be the result of inflammation, trauma, or an issue with the eyelid. Over-the-counter remedies can treat symptoms such as pain and irritation. Ultimately you must remove the eyelash to avoid future problems.

Symptoms and causes

You may notice signs of an ingrown eyelash when the area around the eye becomes red and sore. You may also experience blurry vision (due to the irritation) or watery eyes.

Certain eye conditions might also contribute to ingrown eyelashes:

  • Blepharitis: Occurs when the edge of the eyelids become inflamed.
  • Distichiasis: An extra row of eyelashes grows closer to the eye than normal, which rubs against the eye, causing irritation.
  • Trichiasis: The entire eyelid is turned inward and the eyelashes rub against the eyeball. If trichiasis persists, it can cause scarring and damage to your cornea. This is typically a secondary effect from inflammation.

How to treat an ingrown eyelash

Children can get ingrown eyelashes, although they are more common in adults. The treatment is similar for both groups. You can treat symptoms such as pain, redness, and irritation with eye drops and ointments. These products are available by prescription or over the counter.

At-home remedies include warm compresses or soothing ointments. To make a warm compress, first take a clean cloth and soak it with warm or hot water. Then apply it to the irritated area for up to 10 minutes.

Natural fixes can also bring relief and may include:

  • aloe vera
  • coconut oil
  • honey
  • cucumber

You can apply a small amount of aloe vera or coconut oil to the eyelid to help soothe. Honey can be stirred with warm water and dabbed on with a cloth. You can cut the cucumber and chill the slices before placing them over your eyes.

These at-home treatments will not get rid of your ingrown eyelash, but they can help with the discomfort and irritation.

If your condition is severe or recurring, you may need surgery to treat it.

Removing an ingrown eyelash

It is safe to remove an ingrown eyelash. In fact, eyelash removal is necessary to relieve the pressure and eliminate the problem.

You can pluck the eyelash yourself or have another person do it for you. Another person may be able to see the lash better. The eyelash will likely grow back and could be even more irritating when it does. To avoid future problems, you will likely have to seek help and a more lasting fix from an ophthalmologist.

In removing the eyelash, the doctor will grab the lash with forceps or pincers and pluck it out. You may need eye drops to help with the discomfort as your eye heals.

Doctors can also assist you in eyelid surgery or radio surgery. In radio surgery, a doctor passes a current into the root of the eyelash via radio waves. This will get rid of the eyelash and should help a recurring condition.

Other treatments include cryosurgery, where follicles or lashes are frozen and removed, and electrolysis, which uses electricity to remove hair.

Some treatments might be more painful or have a longer recovery period than others.

Learn more: Cryosurgery »

The bottom line

Ingrown eyelashes can cause pain and irritation, and they are a common problem. You can treat the symptoms with a variety of home remedies and over-the-counter eye products.

But if you wish to relieve yourself from potential problems or for a more permanent solution, you will have to seek medical attention. An ophthalmologist or optometrist can help you choose the best plan of action for your condition.

You should seek a doctor or medical attention when the irritation becomes severe or if you’re prone to ingrown eyelashes. It’s important to catch any problems early to avoid long-term damage to your vision or your eye.