The Best Eye Drops for Dry Eye

women putting in eye drops

What are the best eye drops for dry eyes? With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to decide. The best way to find the right dry eye treatment for you is to be evaluated by an eye doctor. 

We spoke with Dr. Kimberly Riordan, board-certified optometrist and Head of the Dry Eye Center for Excellence. She created a list of 8 highly effective eye drops for dry eye, including the newest options for 2024. Remember that no single brand works best for all forms of dry eye, and it’s common to try a few different brands before finding one that works best for you. Ask your doctor if these eye drops are suitable for your dry eye treatment plan. 

Types of Eye Drops

There are many types of eye drops on the market to help combat dry eye symptoms. The most common eye drop treatments for dry eye include artificial tears, gels, and ointments. Aside from brand names, Dr. Riordan says the key is to choose preservative-free eye drops. 

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears are the most common form of eye drops used for treating dry eye. They work to keep the surface of your eyes moist. 

Allergy Drops

If you suffer from allergies, you are probably also familiar with allergy drops. These drops are used when people need relief from itchy, watery, red eyes caused by pet dander, pollens, molds, and other allergens.

Preservative Free Drops

No matter what brand of artificial tears, gels or drops you choose, avoid anything with preservatives. That’s because preservatives can irritate the surface of your eye, causing the delicate material to break down, which makes dry eye worse. 

“If you expose your eye to preservatives multiple times a day, it can actually create dryness,” Dr. Riordan said. “We sometimes see staining on the eye from chronic preservative exposure, which makes eyes more red and irritated. In small quantities and small doses, preserved drops can be okay, but patients with dry eye should avoid anything with preservatives if possible.”

The Best Eye Drops for Dry Eye – New for 2024

iVIZIA Lubricant Eye Drops (NEW)

Why We Love It: Dr. Riordan recommends iVIZIA lubricant eye drops because they are preservative-free, include hyaluronic acid (HA, inactive ingredient), offer up to 8 hrs of relief, and are safe to use with contact lenses. Plus, there’s an option to buy them in a unique preservative-free bottle which prevents contamination.

Biotrue Hydration Boost (NEW)

Why We Love It: The Biotrue Hydration Boost eye drops were inspired by the formulation of our natural tears. They use naturally-inspired ingredients, like hyaluronan, which is a moisturizing element found in our tears. These drops are preservative-free and safe to use with contact lenses. Like with iVIZIA drops, you can purchase a specially designed bottle of Biotrue that protects against contamination.

Systane Complete Preservative-Free (NEW)

Why We Love It: Dr. Riordan has recommended Systane brand drops before, but the new Systane Complete preservative-free drops are the most advanced. They use nano-droplet technology to give up to 8 hours of relief in a single drop. They’re great for all types of dry eye and are safe for contact lens wearers. You can also purchase them in individual bottles or larger, preservative-free bottle options.

Oasis TEARS Plus

Why We Love It: These drops are preservative-free and have great lubrication to moisten the eyes and provide dry eye relief. Because the formula is more potent than others you normally find over the counter, it does a great job keeping tears on the eye’s surface to prevent irritation and dryness. These drops won’t be found in your local drug store, but the dry eye team at Florida Eye Specialists offers them at our Dry Eye Center.

Refresh Optive MEGA-3

Why We Love It: Refresh Optive MEGA-3 is another preservative-free option for dry eye. It is a lipid-enhanced lubricant eye drop that has been clinically shown to treat the signs and symptoms of eye dryness. The moisture-rich formula supports all three tear film layers and helps prevent tears from evaporating.

Optase Dry Eye Intense Drops

Why We Love It: Optase is a great brand with plenty of preservative-free options, including the Dry Eye Intense Drops and Optase Allergy Eye Drops. These drops use an advanced formula that brings the water in your natural tears to the surface of the eye, reducing evaporation and increasing eye comfort.

Systane Ultra (Preservative Free)

Why We Love It: These single-use eye drops are clinical strength and feature extended protection for long-lasting dry eye relief. The Systane brand offers many varieties of eye drops, so be sure to choose the Systane Ultra preservative-free option, which is perfect for sensitive eyes. 

Retaine MGD Eye Drops

Why We Love It: Made by Ocusoft, Retaine MGD Eye Drops are preservative-free and fast-acting for immediate relief of dry, irritated eyes. These drops clean, soothe and moisturize the eye, providing long-lasting comfort.

Is It Bad to Use Eye Drops Every Day?

Dr. Riordan explained that it is safe for patients to use eye drops daily. However, they need to be mindful of how often they are used per day, especially if their drops have preservatives.

“You need to be aware that tears with preservatives can be overused. If you use them regularly — four or more times per day, they can irritate the eyes more. You can make the condition worse,” Dr. Riordan said. “I recommend preservative-free tears because you can’t overuse those.” 

Where to Buy Eye Drops for Dry Eye

The top, preservative-free eye drops aren’t always available in-store.

That’s why the team at Florida Eye Specialists has partnered with Dry Eye Rescue to provide patients with the best products shipped directly to their homes and an exclusive 20% off their first order of Dry Eye products using code FES20 at checkout . We also give patients a 10% off coupon they can use toward every order using this link. It’s easy to set up a recurring shipment so you never run out of your favorite drops.

Signs You Should Try Eye Drops or Artificial Tears

Lubricating eye drops or artificial tears may help you if you have any signs or symptoms of dry eye, according to Dr. Riordan. That includes if your eyes are itching, if your eyes are tearing up, if you experience irritation, fluctuation of vision, redness, dryness, foreign body sensation and more. 

Contact lenses can be a risk factor for dry eye, so using drops before and after you put your contacts in can be helpful to restore the tear film. Be mindful that some artificial tears will say on the box if they’re okay to use with contacts. If not, we recommend waiting at least 15 minutes after using the drops before putting contacts in, and then wait to use them again until you take your contacts out. 

Use Artificial Tears If You Have…

  • Dry eye
  • Lasik
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Wear contacts

Is It Safe to Use Sodium Hyaluronate for Dry Eyes?

Yes, it is safe to use products with sodium hyaluronate for dry eyes, according to Dr. Riordan. “It’s essentially the same chemical as hyaluronic acid,” she explained. “You’ll find it in a lot of artificial tears because it helps attract and lock in moisture. In fact, if you see hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate listed in the ingredients, that’s a good thing.”

Can I Use Contact Lens Solution as Eye Drops for Dry Eyes?

No, Dr. Riordan and the specialists at Florida Eye Specialists would not recommend using contact lens solution for dry eyes. “Contact lens solution was created with preservatives and ingredients to kill microbes to clean and store contacts. Because of these preservatives and other chemicals, it’s not a good solution to lubricate your eyes,” Dr. Riordan explained. “In an emergency, like if you get something in your eye and it’s all you have to flush your eye, then use it, but we would not recommend it for daily use.”

What Are Lumify Eye Drops?

Lumify eye drops constrict the blood vessels to help resolve red eyes. According to Dr. Riordan, while they are sometimes used for patients with dry eye disease, it’s important to see a doctor first. “It’s best to understand why your eyes are getting red and treat the underlying reason,” she explained. “That way we can prevent your symptoms and help you find true dry eye relief.”

Visit the Dry Eye Experts in Jacksonville, Florida

Finding the right eye drops can drastically improve your eye discomfort. The key to dry eye treatment is breaking the cycle of irritation and inflammation by determining the cause of your dry eye. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Kimberly Riordan at our Dry Eye Center in Jacksonville, Fla. to begin creating a treatment plan that best suits your type of dry eye. 

About Florida Eye Specialists

Florida Eye Specialists is the largest multi-specialty ophthalmology private practices in Northeast Florida, with offices in Fernandina Beach, Gate Parkway/295, Mandarin, Northside, Ponte Vedra Beach, Riverside, Orange Park, San Marco, Southpoint, Nocatee, St. Augustine, Ormond Beach (International Eye Associates) and Palm Coast (Atlantic Eye Center). Schedule an appointment at one of our many locations.