The Best Way How To Clean Eyelashes After Lasik

The Best Way How To Clean Eyelashes After Lasik

Eyelashes feeling crusty after lasik? Wait, before you go ahead and wash off that crustiness, there are a few things to pay attention to. After-all, you don’t want to cause any healing issues with your eye after lasik.

It’s important to avoid rubbing the eye or splashing water in the eyes in the initial post-operative period after lasik. Using a wet washcloth in front of a mirror and lightly dabbing the skin will allow you to safely clean the eye gunk from your eyelashes. Once you get further out, you can resume your normal eyelash cleaning routine.

Cleaning the eyelashes isn’t absolutely necessary. Much of it comes from our own eye and doesn’t cause any issue.

So What Exactly Is Collecting On Our Eyelashes?

Before lasik you may have woken up at some point with eye sleep or gunk or crust (or whatever you may have called it). You clean if off in the morning before going on with the rest of your day.

You may not have really thought about it very much before lasik.

But the same thing happens after lasik. And this is the crustiness that you have a burning desire to clean off.

Crustiness from our natural tear film

On the surface of our cornea is a tear film. But this tear film isn’t just a single liquid. The tear film exists in layers.

Layers of the tear film on our cornea

Layers of the tear film on our cornea; image by NIH Image Gallery from Bethesda, Maryland, USA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons / modified from original

On the very surface is an oil layer which comes from tiny glands in our eyelids. At the bottom of the tear film is a mucous layer produced by cells within our conjunctiva (the white part of the eye) called goblet cells. These layers help keep the large-water like portion in the middle of the tear film from simply washing away.

This oil layer and mucous layer are in constant production. And as more forms, the old stuff has gotta go somewhere. Normally when we are awake, our natural blinking washes all this oil debris out through the natural drainage pathways of or eyes. But we don’t blink when we sleep. So instead, this debris collects at the base of our eyelashes and in the corner of our eye.

Crustiness from artificial tears

The same thing can happen with artificial tears. Artificial tears are designed to mimic the composition of our own natural tears. So, artificial tears contain various thickening agents such as carboxymethyl cellulose or sodium hyaluronate in order to increase the viscosity of the artificial tear drop and keep it on our eyes.

But similar to our own natural tears, this thickening agent can collect on our eyelashes and dry out. And in fact, you don’t even need to be asleep for this to happen. A single artificial tear eye drop contains much more liquid than can actually fit on the surface of our eye. This extra liquid must go somewhere, so some of it collects in our eyelashes.

The thicker the artificial tear, the more crustiness that will build up. Thus, the thickest of the artificial tears (gel-based tears), have quite a bit of crustiness that builds up on the eyelashes.

Goals To Keep In Mind When Cleaning Eyelashes

There are two main situations we want to avoid when we are cleaning our eyelashes after lasik:

  • Rubbing the eye
  • Getting water in the eye

Rubbing the eye

During lasik, a small flap is created within the cornea. This flap is folded back for the treatment and then re-positioned. This lasik flap must then heal and strengthen over time.

But until this flap becomes stronger, it’s necessary to avoid rubbing the eye. Rubbing the eye can cause this lasik flap to become disrupted or dislodged.

Getting water in the eye

With water carries the risk of infection. While rare, bacteria within water can slip underneath the healing lasik flap and create an infection within the cornea. This is especially the case during the early healing period before the natural barriers to bacteria on the cornea are restored.

But chemicals or contaminants in water can also cause extra irritation to the eye during the healing process. This can slow up the healing process after lasik.

Tips On How To Safely Clean The Eyelashes

It should be noted that this extra eyelid gunk doesn’t NEED to be cleaned off. It isn’t going to cause you any extra harm. After-all, much of that extra gunk or crustiness comes from our own eyes or artificial tears. But it can be annoying and drive some people crazy.

If you wish do clean your eyelashes within the first week or two after lasik, there are some ways to do it as safe as possible. Again, we want to avoid rubbing the eye or getting water in the eye.

  • Look into a mirror when cleaning. By looking in a mirror, you can see exactly where you are cleaning. This can prevent you from unintentionally rubbing your eye.
  • Look away from the eyelashes you are cleaning. This keeps the cornea and the lasik flap out of the way. This makes it harder to accidentally rub the lasik flap.
  • Use a damp washcloth to lightly dab your eyelashes. This avoids splashing any water into the eyes.

    • DON’T use soap which can get into the eyes.
    • DON’T use any rubbing motions. Lightly dabbing the eyelashes can gradually remove the extra built up crustiness on the eyelashes.
  • Instead of a damp washcloth, you can also use damp cotton swabs. These are a little more maneuverable, but BE extra cautious to avoid poking your eye with these swabs. A jab to the eye from a cotton swab is a good way to disrupt the lasik flap.
  • Following up the damp washcloth with a dry washcloth can complete the cleaning process. Again, its important to lightly dab instead of rub.

When can you resume normal cleaning?

The lasik flap heals considerably within the first week or two out from lasik. Once you get beyond this point, the water related restrictions start to disappear. You can go back to washing your face and eyes like you normally did.

However! Still pay attention to rubbing the eye. It’s good to avoid rubbing the eye for the first few months. Beyond that, it is very unlikely you will cause any issues with the lasik flap.

Note: in general, rubbing of the eye is best avoided for anyone, post-lasik or not. Chronic rubbing of the eye can weaken the cornea causing a condition called keratoconus or post-lasik ectasia.


For the first few weeks out from lasik, take extra precautions when cleaning your eyelashes. Especially avoid getting water in the eyes and rubbing the eyes. By being cautious, you can avoid causing any extra issues with your recovery after lasik.

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