Crusty eyelashes in the morning aren’t necessarily a cause for concern. But if you notice other symptoms, like burning or watery eyes, the crust may result from one of these underlying conditions.
Eyelash crusts can be itchy and uncomfortable. While a little bit of residue in the morning is typical, anything beyond that could signal an underlying eye condition.
These crusts form due to discharge from the eyes that builds up on the lashes. In severe cases, it can cause pain, redness, and difficulty opening your eyes.
If you have crusty eyelashes, the most effective treatment approach depends on the underlying cause. Here are a few of the most probable explanations to know about.
Also known as eye inflammation, blepharitis is a pretty common condition involving red, swollen, and itchy or irritated eyes. It can also cause tears or eye discharge, creating crustiness around the eyelids and eyelashes.
Blepharitis isn’t contagious and typically doesn’t cause any long-term health complications.
Other common symptoms include:
- eyes burning, stinging, or swelling
- watery eyes
- light sensitivity
- foam-like tears
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) also causes swelling and redness, especially on the white part of your eye. Your eyelids and lashes might also accumulate a crusty residue due to the buildup of a yellowish discharge. These crusts can make it challenging to open your eyes.
Pink eye is common and can be contagious.
Symptoms often include:
- pink or red eyes
- eyes itching or burning
- watery eyes
- white or yellow eye discharge
- swollen lids
- light sensitivity
- a sensation that there’s something in your eye
Eyelash mites feed on dead skin cells and may cause itching. In more severe cases, the mites can cause blepharitis. Since eye crustiness often accompanies blepharitis, the same is true for advanced cases of eyelash mites.
Common Demodex mites cause eyelash mites.
Other symptoms include:
- rough or scaly patches on the eyelids
- eye redness
- facial skin conditions worsening (like eczema or psoriasis)
In mild cases, the mites might not cause any symptoms.
Though treatment may vary based on the condition you have, there are some steps you can take to remove the crusts and soothe your eyes gently.
Here’s what to do:
- First, wash your hands with soap and warm water.
- Get a clean cloth or compress.
- Add a tiny drop of baby shampoo or a cleanser approved for sensitive skin to the compress.
- Dampen the cloth with warm water.
- Remove the crusts from your lashes with closed eyes by gently wiping them with the cloth for about 10 to 15 seconds.
- Rinse your eyes clean.
- Always wash your hands afterward (in case of a contagious condition like pink eye).
Depending on how crusty your eyelashes are, you may have to repeat the cleansing process several times throughout the day until your eyes heal.
In the meantime, here are other tips to keep in mind:
- To soothe the pain, irritation, or inflammation associated with the crusts, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help. Keep in mind that they can’t treat an infection like pink eye.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops (often called artificial tears) may also help hydrate the eyes and ease itchiness.
- Avoid using contact lenses or makeup until your eyes heal to prevent further irritation or the spread of bacteria.
- Avoid sharing makeup or anything that can touch your eyes, just in case you have a contagious condition like pink eye.
Further at-home treatment may also vary based on the type of condition you think you have. For example, some people report that tea tree oil helps with mites (though a
If you think you have eyelash mites, you can dilute tea tree oil with water in a ratio of about 1-to-1 and gently clean your lashes.
If you think you have a mild to moderate case of pink eye, artificial tears may help ease symptoms.
In many cases of blepharitis, pink eye, or eyelash mites, the symptoms will go away on their own.
For instance, pink eye often resolves on its own in
Talk with a healthcare professional if you have:
- severe eye pain
- vision blurriness
- extreme light sensitivity
- changes in vision
- bloodshot eyes
- skin conditions that worsen
- symptoms that don’t resolve after a week of at-home care
Experts also recommend contacting a doctor for pink eye if you have a weakened immune system due to conditions like cancer or HIV.
If you have a skin condition, like rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis, that’s worsening, also contact a doctor. Skin and eye inflammation often go hand-in-hand and may need treatment together.
If your infant has eye crusts, talk with a pediatrician as soon as possible. In the first few months of life, a baby’s eyes are more susceptible to infection or blocked tear ducts.
Some degree of eye crustiness when you first wake up is pretty typical. But in more severe cases, this buildup could signal a condition like pink eye, blepharitis, or eyelash mites.
You can often treat these conditions at home by regularly cleaning your eyes, using OTC eye drops, and taking pain relievers to ease inflammation.
But if symptoms worsen or don’t resolve within about a week, talk with a healthcare professional. They can treat your condition with antibiotics, prescription eye drops, or another method based on your diagnosis.