This post is adapted from the now deleted blog post by Dr. Glaucomflecken (Dr. Will Flanary, Ophthalmologist) Relevant Tweet by Dr. G

What Eye drops should I use?

There are a lot of eye drops over the counter at the pharmacy, so some have to be better than others, right?


There are good eye drops, bad eye drops, and some middle ground.

Before we get started, some notes:

  1. You don’t need the sales. Eye drops last a long time and frankly are not cheap, you are fine with just a bottle.
  2. Different brands (and generics) have different preservatives, but have the same active ingredients. This means they function the same but you may have an allergic reaction to the preservatives (you can also develop an allergy after some use). Feel free to switch across brands. Generic brands may cause slightly more reactions due to preservatives used, so if you can afford the name brand, do so. However generic is still good. You can also try some preservative-free options that brands often have.
  3. If you consistently need eye drops for more than a month, go see an ophthalmologist. They have very effective treatments that are not available over the counter.

The Good

Carboxymethylcellulose sodium, Polyethylene Glycol, and Propylene Glycol. The best and highest quality moisturizing eye drops. They provide moisture like no other.

Also known as Refresh Tears or Systane

Blink Tears and Thera Tears are also good. Blink Tears provides immediate relief while Thera Tears is much more long lasting while also working quickly.

The Middle Ground

As the next section will discuss, avoid “red eye reduction” drops. However if you MUST use them, use Lumify. Its ingredient is Brimonidine tartratate, a glaucoma medication and is very safe. If your eyes are constantly red, go see an eye doc because there is probably an underlying cause.

The Evil

Do not buy redness relievers. They are bad for you, your eyes, and your wallet. They work by constricting the blood vessels in your eyes to make the redness go away. However this does not resolve the root cause and will make your eyes “rebound” with redness after they wear off, making the problem worse than when you started.

They go by the names of Visine, Clear Eyes, Rohto, or anything with “Redness Relief” on the packaging. Any variations are just the game garbage with different marketing.

The Allergies

If your usual allergy relief methods are not cutting it, try Zaditor which contains ketotifen fumarate, an antihistamine. However Naphcon A should be avoided because it is just Visine with a different brand name and the “redness relief” properties. If that does not do the trick, ophthalmologists have a bunch of different options for you.

The Gels

For some longer relief, try Refresh Celluvisc, which is preservative free. It is a gel that sticks around for longer than drops, providing that sweet moisturization to the eyes. It may cause some blurryness for the first few minutes.

For overnight relief, use GenTeal Tears or Systane Gel. This is best for when you wake up with sandpaper eyes due to a CPAP or some other reason. Just be careful because your vision will be very blurry in the middle of the night for a quick trip to the bathroom.

In Summary

A Chart: