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How Do I Treat an Ingrown Eyelash?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An ingrown eyelash occurs when one of the eyelashes begins to grow in an inward direction, toward the eye. Symptoms may include swelling of the hair follicle or the development of a bump, called a stye, that may obstruct part of the vision. Without proper treatment, the eyelash may eventually scratch or damage the cornea of the eye. It is not generally considered safe to attempt to treat an ingrown eyelash at home due to the possibilities of creating more damage to the sensitive eye. It is much safer to allow a healthcare professional to remove the eyelash or perform other procedures as deemed necessary.

Epilation is the name of the medical procedure that is most commonly used to remove an eyelash that has become ingrown. For this procedure, the healthcare professional will typically place a special type of eye drops into the affected eye in order to numb it. He or she may then use a magnifying glass to locate which eyelash needs to be removed. Epilation forceps, similar to tweezers, will then be used to basically pluck out the eyelash. This is usually a short procedure, and removal is practically immediate.

Electrolysis may also sometimes be used to treat an ingrown eyelash. This procedure involves the use of an electrical current to kill the cells responsible for the formation of the eyelashes. For many patients, this is a permanent method of eyelash removal, although some will experience later regrowth. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed to prevent infection. Hot or cold compresses may be used following this procedure to reduce some of the associated swelling that may develop.

Cryotherapy treatment is also a possibility. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze or destroy the hair follicle in order to prevent the eyelash from growing back. This is considered to be a safe and effective treatment option that requires a minimal recovery time.

In some cases, surgery may be done in order to correct the growth pattern of the eyelashes or to cut out the affected eyelash. Occasionally, the surgeon may decide to cut out an entire section of eyelashes in an attempt to prevent the condition from returning. In most instances, an eye specialist known as an ophthalmologist will perform any of these procedures, although other specialists, such as a cosmetic surgeon, may sometimes be consulted for assistance.

Can I Remove an Ingrown Eyelash Myself?

An ingrown eyelash can be uncomfortable and may cause a lot of pain. Typically, you will notice a red bump forming where the ingrown eyelash is located. To deal with the pain, you may feel the urge to take care of the ingrown eyelash yourself. For a case that is not severe, this could be as simple as plucking the eyelash from the area where the redness is located.

However, the reality is that this could be dangerous, leading you to cause damage to your eye. Often, when you are dealing with an ingrown eyelash, the safest way to approach the issue is to get help from a medical professional with the proper tools and knowledge to take care of your eye safely.

Can an Ingrown Eyelash Cause a Stye?

In many ways, eyelashes function just as other hairs on your body do. If an eyelash is not growing properly, it can become trapped under the surface of the skin, leading to ingrown hair. This causes the affected area to become red and irritated, and it can also lead to the formation of a blemish or stye.

In many ways, a stye is similar to an acne blemish, with the main distinction being that it occurs on the edge of the eyelid, often within a gland. Styes occur on either the upper or lower eyelid and can become quite painful, especially the larger they get. If a stye continues to grow for a long time, it can cause your whole eyelid to appear red and puffy.

Styes typically occur when there is a blockage of a gland on your eyelid. This blockage comes from dirt, oil, debris or ingrown eyelashes. Along with redness, you may also notice your eyes watering more frequently or find a crust forming around your eye. Sensitivity to light and itching also occurs if your stye is bad enough.

How To Prevent Ingrown Eyelashes

While a stye may be an unpleasant and painful thing to deal with, the good news is that there are steps you can take to help prevent them. One of the best things you can do is make sure that you are practicing good hygiene, especially if you wear makeup or use contact lenses.

Remove Your Makeup Every Night

If you wear makeup, it is important to wash it off before going to bed at night. Additionally, you should ensure that you are not using old or expired products, like mascara, eyeshadow or eyeliner, near or on your eyes. It is also a good practice to avoid sharing your makeup items with anyone else, as you do not want to transfer germs or expose yourself to infections like pink eye.

Be Careful With Contacts

If you wear contacts, you need to make sure that you are washing your hands thoroughly when you put them in and take them out. In addition, don't forget to replace your contacts when you need to instead of using the same pair for too long. Something else that you need to avoid if you want to prevent styes is rubbing your eyes, as this can put bacteria from your hands near your eyes, and you will end up rubbing debris into the glands along your eyelashes. This can be particularly important to avoid if you have allergies.

Overall, if you want to prevent styes, providing fewer opportunities for bacteria to be near or enter your eyes is key. By making sure that you wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes when unnecessary, you can help prevent styes from developing.

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Discussion Comments
By tolleranza — On Aug 24, 2011

@saraq90 - I have a family member that had trichotillomania as well and her eyelash growth luckily continued after she finally beat the habit. An interesting fact my family has learned about now is that obsessive compulsive disorder is connected of to trichotillomania or vice versa, so be aware of that.

Secondly in learning about the disorder to better understand my family member's eyelash pulling, I never read that it necessarily caused ingrown hair. I did read that ingrown hairs understandably tend to get picked at and made worse when someone with a hair pulling disorder gets one, because they are particularly aware of them.

By Saraq90 — On Aug 23, 2011

I have had my eyelashes hurt before but I had never heard of this ingrown hair business. When I have an ingrown leg hair it hurts and is quite annoying so I can only imagine if you had an ingrown eyelash!

My sister used to pull her eyelashes out, I think that is actually considered a disease something called trichotillomania or something like that. Does that put her at greater risk for having an ingrown eyelash later?

By Azuza — On Aug 23, 2011

@ceilingcat - It can be hard to resist picking at bumps and protrusions in the skin. I don't blame you for trying to get rid of that stye on your own.

I actually had no idea that an eyelash could be ingrown, but I've experienced ingrown hairs on other parts of my body. Normally mine are induced by shaving and I've found that exfoliating helps. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like much can be done to prevent an ingrown eyelash!

By ceilingcat — On Aug 22, 2011

@manykitties - I agree that trying to correct this condition yourself is probably a bad idea! I'm guilty of always picking at things, and it usually ends badly for me.

This isn't exactly the same, but I once gave myself an eye infection picking at just a regular stye! Luckily, an ingrown eyelash wasn't involved. But styes by themselves are pretty uncomfortable, so I tried to pop it.

I ended up introducing bacteria into the area when I was picking at it and gave myself an infection that was far more uncomfortable than the regular stye! It sounds like the same thing (or worse) could happen if you pick at an ingrown eyelash.

By sunshined — On Aug 21, 2011

Not only can humans get ingrown eyelashes, but animals can too. I had a golden retriever who had one eye that was constantly watering and drooping.

When I took her to the vet, he said that she had an ingrown eyelashes that were growing inside, instead of outside her eye. He told me that there was a possibility she could eventually lose sight in that eye if she didn't have surgery.

She was a young dog, and the surgery was not very expensive, with a limited down time, so we went ahead with the surgery.

She recovered quickly and never had any problems with her eye after that. I can imagine how aggravating it must feel to having an ingrown eyelash. Anytime I get even a small eyelash or piece of dirt in my eye, it can be painful.

By nanny3 — On Aug 21, 2011

When I was a child, I had an ingrown eyelash go wild. Well, actually, I had three ingrown eyelashes go crazy and it actually caused me to have to have glasses for a while.

I had three eyelashes that had grown backward, and I guess they eventually come back out the other side of my eyelid or something. Regardless, they ended up scratching my eyeball pretty badly.

I had been complaining that my eye was bothering me to my mother for a while, but she couldn’t see anything. I suppose most of the real action was happening kind of undercover. It probably didn't help that extremely long eyelashes run in the family.

Regardless, an ingrown eyelash can become serious if left untreated; not to mention that they really hurt. And by all means, if you have a child complaining of irritation over a long period of time have it checked out by a professional eye doctor.

By wander — On Aug 21, 2011

When you go to your doctor to talk about the removal of an ingrown eyelash make sure you let them know whether or not you have had them before. I went to a new doctor for epilation and had no idea that there were other procedures that were more permanent until much later on. Epilation can sting quite a bit and isn't a solution if the same area keeps giving you trouble.

From my experience, I would say that electrolysis worked well enough to keep my ingrown eyelashes at bay. Just be aware that there is some recovery time involved because your eye can swell quite a bit after the procedure.

By manykitties2 — On Aug 20, 2011

If you find yourself struggling with a ingrown eyelash, whatever you do don't try and pull it out yourself. I noticed the small bump on my eye line and thought it would be easy enough to take care of and I almost stabbed myself in the eye with tweezers.

Also, the little bump where the ingrown eyelash is can be really sensitive. I didn't realize how much so until I started poking at it. Unless you want to explain to the people you live with why you are crying your eyes out do not poke that ingrown eyelash. Go to a doctor.

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