How to Get Rid of a Stye—the Right Way

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021

You can usually treat these pesky and painful eyelid spots at home—but make sure you follow these directions for how to get rid of a stye and heal safely and soundly.

Red hot water bottle

Start using warm compresses

The first tip for how to get rid of a stye is to start treatment the second you feel a stye coming on—tenderness and a painful swollen lump along your eyelid are the first indications. “Start warm compresses if you think you may have a stye,” says optometrist Randy McLaughlin, OD, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “You should use warm compresses as hot as the eyelid can stand for five to ten minutes at a time, four times a day.” See what eye boogers indicate about your eye health.

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Toss out your eye makeup

Unfortunately, if you’ve used your mascara or eyeliner in the days leading up to the stye, it’s probably time to toss that item and pick up a new one. “It is possible that the makeup is contaminated with bacteria that can cause another stye,” warns Benjamin Bert, MD, ophthalmologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA. “It is also possible that the makeup itself is blocking the opening to the oil glands in the eyelid, which can also cause a non-infectious stye to form.” Do yourself a favor and toss the eye makeup you were using pre-stye so you don’t risk another infection.

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Keep your eyelid clean

Cleaning your eyelid regularly can help reduce the amount of bacteria and help speed healing, according to Dr. McLaughlin. He suggests cleaning the affected areas with a Q-tip and a small amount of baby shampoo, which won’t irritate your eyes. Check out these 13 tips for healthier eyes.

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Don’t wear your contacts

For the duration of the stye, you should switch back to your eyeglasses until the eyelid heals. And Robert Melendez, MD, of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, recommends thoroughly cleaning your lenses and lens case or, ideally, switching to new lenses to prevent another infection. Beware of 18 other contact lens mistakes that could ruin your eyes.

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Just say no to “popping”

Even if a stye looks like a pimple, it can be all too tempting to squeeze the pus out of it. But that’s definitely not how to get rid of a stye—and it could lead to complications, increasing the time it takes to heal and causing a secondary skin infection that could require prescription antibiotics to clear up. Again, try applying a warm compress to the stye about four times daily for approximately 10 minutes each session. “It is important not to make the compresses too hot, as that can cause a burn and additional inflammation,” Dr. Bert says. “Instead, you want to use a compress that is just warm enough to melt butter.”

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Take over-the-counter meds for the pain

They won’t help your stye heal faster, but taking an over-the-counter pain reliever could help make the time it takes to heal a whole lot less irritating for you. The best over the counter medications to treat the pain, according to Dr. Bert, are ibuprofen or acetaminophen. As the pressure in the stye is relieved the pain will be alleviated. Learn the 13 secrets your eye doctor may be keeping from you.

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See a doctor if it doesn’t get better

If your stye doesn’t improve after a few days of following the compress-and-cleaning method, then it’s time to consult a doctor for more advice on how to get rid of a stye. “The biggest mistake people make is waiting too long to seek treatment via an eye-care professional,” Dr. McLaughlin says. Try these 10 home remedies for dry, irritated eyes.

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Avoid behaviors that make a stye more likely

The best advice for how to get rid of a stye is not to get one in the first place. And that means not only keeping the area around your eyes clean, but also thoroughly cleaning your hands, contact lenses, and anything else that touches your eye, advises Dr. McLaughlin. Be sure to swap out your eye makeup regularly—and not sharing with others; finally, be sure to wash away your eye makeup thoroughly every night. Discover health conditions eye doctors often find first.