We’ve all had an eyelash get into our eye, and though irritating, most lashes leave and soon as they enter. But what happens to eyelashes that stay in your eye for a long time? Here’s a quick look at the journey of eyelashes once they fall into your eye.

How Objects get into Your Eye

The human body has built-in mechanisms to help keep objects out of our eyes or remove them once they’re in there. Eyebrows steer away particle-laden forehead sweat. Blinking and tears flush objects to the surface while eyelashes help sweep them out.

But sometimes, a dust particle or small debris may find its way past your defenses and into your eye. This may happen due to lack of safety goggles or glasses, using contaminated eye drops or makeup, or entirely unexpectedly.

Where Eyelashes Go

Contrary to the myth, eyelashes rarely fall behind your eyeball. A layer of muscle and tissue block the front half of the eye from the back, and only with a tear in this lining from heavy trauma can this layer break.

Most of the time, when you feel an eyelash in your eye, it stays on the surface of the eyeball and may move underneath your upper or lower eyelid. The eyelash can move about the surface of your eyeball like an ice cube on a tile floor.

Your body will naturally remove objects from your eye by blinking and creating extra tears. Often, your eyes push out debris – including eyelashes – while you sleep and you’ll wake up with “sand” on the edge of your eyelids.

Smaller particles will travel down small drains in the corner of your eyes (called puncta) through the canaliculi and our your nose (the same reason your nose runs when you cry).

How to Remove Something from your Eye

If the natural process of tearing and sleep don’t remove foreign objects from your eye, try these tactics:

  • Avoid using your finger to minimize contamination
  • Gently rinse with clean water
  • Using unexpired eye drops
  • Blinking, but not too much or the object may scratch your eyeball
  • Gently wipe with an unused tissue or cotton swab
  • If nothing else works, see an eye care specialist