WATCH: We take a close look at eyes with the #mucusfishing trend

TikTokers are swiping at their eyes, claiming that pulling off the layer of mucus is #oddlysatisfying. But the practice has eye care professionals understandably disturbed.

Emma Jones 4 minute read March 22, 2022

The squeamish might want to look away from this beauty miss-advice: a viral health trend has Tiktokers pulling the mucus layer away from their eyes in a single stringy motion. Health-care professionals warn that this can lead to some serious infections.

In one video with 34,000 views, the TikToker uses a Q-tip to swipe at her eyes, while another video, with more than 50,000 views, shows a woman using only her fingers to do the deed. The hashtag #mucusfishing has 7.6 million views on the platform and is often accompanied by the hashtags #eyegoo and #oddlysatisfying.

Unsurprisingly, touching your fingers or a Q-tip directly to your eyeballs is not a good idea (especially during a pandemic), no matter how satisfying it might feel. Our fingers especially carry germs and bacteria, which can easily transfer to the moist surface of the eye. The surface of the eye is also extremely delicate, so pushing too hard can lead to scratches or abrasions.

“The potential risks of mucus fishing are bacterial or viral infections, eye redness, irritations, or cuts on the delicate surface of the eye, and potentially blindness,” Melissa Toyos, M.D., board-certified ophthalmologist and facial cosmetic surgeon told Shape magazine

Mucus naturally collects over the eyeball, mixing with your tears to create a protective film, according to Cleveland Clinic. This moist layer prevents your eyes from drying out and also lubricates the eyelid so it can move smoothly as you blink or close your eyes. The film also has properties that protect the eye from some bacteria and microbes — so removing it isn’t ideal.

Not a good way to deal with makeup

In some of the videos, the mucus pulled out of the eyeball has a black, stringy appearance. Dr. Anthony Youn, a U.S.-based plastic surgeon, took to TikTok to explain that this was from mascara that had got into the eyes. And while there are some negative side effects of consistently getting makeup in your eyes, pulling at the mucus layer isn’t a great way to deal with it. Instead, according to the Cleveland Clinic, gently rinse the eye with clean tap water or an eyewash solution (if you are wearing contact lenses, remove them first).

The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends applying makeup outside of the lash line to protect the eyes and the delicate oil glands found on the upper and lower eyelids.

Mucus fishing syndrome

Because our eyes need the mucus to stay healthy, when we remove it our eyes will naturally produce more. If someone were to get into the habit of removing the mucus layer, the eyes will also consistently produce more mucus than is typically needed. This can lead to “mucus fishing syndrome,” a spiral where you can end up pulling out the excess mucus more often, leading to even more mucus production.

“What people don’t realize is that by removing the mucus, the eye can become even more irritated resulting in more mucus,” Kerril Hickey, Specsavers Ireland chairman and optician told the Irish Mirror.

In short, the mucus is supposed to be there and shouldn’t be removed. If you ever feel there is an overproduction of mucus that is making it difficult to see, or if your eyes just generally feel uncomfortable, the best bet is to see a health care professional who can help you take effective, sterile steps to deal with the buildup.

Emma Jones is a multimedia editor with Healthing. You can reach her at emjones@postmedia.com or on Twitter @jonesyjourn.

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