A stye (hordeolum) is a red bump, sort of like a pimple, that forms on the outside edge of the eyelid.
Your eyelids have lots of tiny oil glands, especially around the eyelashes. Dead skin, dirt, or oil buildup can clog or block these small holes. When a gland is blocked, bacteria can grow inside and cause a stye to develop.
Symptoms of a stye include:
- pain and swelling
- increased tear production
- a crust that forms around the eyelid
- soreness and itchiness
“Styes usually go away on their own within 7 to 10 days,” Dr. Michele Green, New York-based cosmetic dermatologist, tells Healthline.
If your stye isn’t painful, it may be a chalazion. Treatments for chalazions and styes are similar, but a chalazion may take longer to heal.
Here are five ways to speed up the healing process for styes.
Home Remedies for Healing Styes
Use a warm compress
A warm compress is the most effective way to treat a stye. The warmth helps bring the pus to the surface, and dissolves the pus and oil so the stye can drain naturally.
Wet a clean washcloth with warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot. Wring the cloth so it’s damp but not dripping. Then gently place it over your eye for about 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t squeeze or try to puncture the stye.
You can do this three to four times each day.
Clean your eyelid with mild soap and water
Green advises avoiding harsh, synthetic chemicals when cleaning the eye area. Instead, she says, ingredients should be hypoallergenic and nonirritating.
“The skin around the eyes is much thinner than the rest of your face. Therefore, you need to be very careful with products you apply to your eye area,” Green says.
She recommends using OCuSOFT to cleanse eyelids because it’s been shown to be effective against bacteria commonly found on the eyelid. Its formula effectively kills seven different strains of bacteria, according to Green.
You can also choose a tear-free baby shampoo and mix it with a bit of warm water. Use it with a cotton swab or clean washcloth to gently wipe off your eyelids. You can do this every day until the stye is gone. Cleaning your eyelids also helps prevent future styes.
Another option is to use a saline solution. It can help promote drainage and break down bacterial membranes.
Use a warm tea bag
Instead of using a warm cloth compress, you can use a warm tea bag. Black tea works best because it helps reduce swelling and has some antibacterial properties.
Add boiled water to a mug, then drop a tea bag in it, as if you were making tea to drink. Let the tea steep for about 1 minute. Wait until the tea bag cools enough to place over your eye, then keep it on your eye for about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a separate tea bag for each eye.
“You can use black tea as a compress twice daily to reduce swelling and any discomfort associated with a stye,” Green says.
Take OTC pain medication
Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain med like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to get relief. Follow the instructions on the package to make sure you’re taking the correct dose.
If the stye is causing serious pain and interferes with your day-to-day activity, visit your doctor.
Avoid wearing makeup and contact lenses
Avoid wearing makeup if you have a stye. Makeup can irritate the eye even more and delay the healing process. You can also transfer bacteria to your makeup and tools, and spread the infection to your other eye.
Wash your reusable brushes regularly. Throw out any eye products that are over 3 months old.
If you wear contact lenses, stick with glasses until your stye heals. Bacteria from the stye can get onto the contacts and spread the infection.
Change to a new set of contact lenses when the stye heals to prevent reinfection.