What to Do if You Get Perfume in Your Eye

  • By: Nathan Cherry
  • Time to read: 7 min.

So, you sprayed your perfume or deodorant in your eyes. They’re stinging and burning, and you can’t see a thing. 

What should you do? 

First thing’s first, calm down. You’re not going to lose your vision or cause any serious damage unless it was a huge amount. 

If you get perfume in your eyes, there are a few key steps you should follow. Wash your hands, rinse your eyes for up to 15 minutes, and contact emergency services or your doctor if pain and irritation is severe or persists. 

Here is exactly what you should do if you get perfume or deodorant spray in your eyes. 

First, don’t panic 

Though it might seem silly, keeping calm might mean the difference between a short term annoyance and a long term problem. 

Unless a significant amount of perfume or deodorant spray gets into your eyes, you will more than likely get off with nothing more than some redness and itching. 

It’s true that perfume contains ingredients that can cause burning, irritation, and, in significant doses, damage to the eye tissue. 

Ethyl alcohol (or ethanol), the same kind of alcohol used in the production of alcoholic beverages, is also used in perfumes. However, ethanol can also serve as an alternative fuel for cars, was used as rocket fuel for a number of years, and is a common antiseptic. 

It’s definitely not something you want in your eyes. It can scratch your cornea, and lead to more long term damage if not properly removed. 

Perfume also contains essential oils, a known skin irritant (when undiluted), as well as chemicals such as acetone (used in nail polish remover), formaldehyde (a toxic carcinogen and embalming agent which you might remember from your high school biology lab), and methylene chloride (widely used as a paint stripper). 

When diluted and applied to the skin in a perfume formulation, these ingredients are perfectly safe for human use. But when the eye is exposed to them, they can cause serious irritation, a burning sensation, and, in large doses, serious damage. 

So while you shouldn’t panic, you need to take the following steps to ensure that your eyes are properly cleaned. 

Wash your hands thoroughly

You will be getting up close and personal with your eyes and might potentially even be touching them. 

Before starting to clean your eyes, wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water. This will help prevent any further contamination of the eyes if you happen to touch your actual eye tissue. 

Remove your contact lenses

If you can, try to take out your contact lenses before washing your eyes, and after washing your hands. 

I of all people know how difficult it can be to take out your contacts if your eyes are irritated. 

However, it is possible that some of the chemicals in perfume might get trapped beneath your contacts during contamination, and therefore it is imperative that you remove your contacts at the first opportunity, either before or during eye washing. 

Don’t rub your eyes

Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t rub your eyes. 

This can cause further irritation, contamination, and damage to your eyes and the skin around them. 

Do not, under any circumstances, rub your eyes if they’ve been contaminated with chemicals. 

Best case scenario

If you have it on hand, the best method of irrigating and cleaning the eyes after a contamination would be to use a medically made eye wash solution along with a sterile eye wash cup. 

These solutions are made up of mostly purified water, along with trace amounts of other ingredients, and are widely available for an affordable price. 

Best of all, you can make an eye wash fairly easily at home, if you so choose. 

Using an eye wash solution, of course, would give you the best results if you sprayed perfume in your eyes. 

However, it’s more than likely you don’t have an eye wash solution lying around your house.

So what should you do?

Rinse your eyes

To ensure that the harmful ingredients in perfume or deodorant that have contaminated your eyes are removed, you will need to rinse your eyes out with water. 

You might have seen videos or been lectured about this procedure as part of your safety training in high school chemistry class, or perhaps even had the misfortune to have had to perform it yourself.

Basically, if your eyes are contaminated by chemicals in the lab, you must wash them out immediately. Laboratories have eye wash stations on premises for that very purpose. These stations shoot a concentrated stream of water directly into the eyes, and are quite effective at removing contaminants. 

An eyewash station in a laboratory.

However, if you’re just your everyday, ordinary average Joe, it’s exceedingly unlikely that you have an eyewash station installed in your home. 

So, if you’ve sprayed perfume in your eyes, how do you wash them out at home? 

There are a few different methods. 

With all of these methods, make sure that you use lukewarm, not hot or cold water. 

Pour water into the eye from above

One simple way is to pour water into the affected eye from above, just like applying eye drops. 

If you’re able to, pry open the eye(s) and pour a thin stream of water into the eye from overhead. You can use a teapot, a pitcher, or even just an ordinary cup. 

You must, however, continue this process for at least fifteen minutes – more, if the irritation persists. 

Rotate your eyes in a circular pattern so that the water penetrates behind the eye as well. Blink frequently to ensure that all parts of the eye are being rinsed. 

Irrigate the eyes with a thin stream of water from above – like applying eye drops.

Submerge your eyes in water

This method involves filling up a large bowl or basin with water. Again, be sure that this water is lukewarm, not hot or cold. 

Put your eyes into the water and open them. Once your eyes are open, begin to rotate them in a regular, circular pattern, to ensure that the water is reaching every part of your eyes. 

Make sure you come up for air, of course. 

Allow your eyes to soak for fifteen minutes or more in order to ensure that the contaminants are properly rinsed out. 

Wash your eyes with a showerhead

Get in your shower and turn on the showerhead. Again, lukewarm water. 

Raise your head directly into the stream, open your eyes just like you’re applying eye drops, and let the water rinse your eyes for fifteen minutes or more. 

Just like for the other methods, try to rotate your eyes in a circular pattern to make sure that the water is getting into all those nooks and crannies. 

What then?

If you experience only minor exposure, a good, thorough eye wash should be enough to fix you up right the majority of the time. 

However, there are a few things you can do if the pain and irritation persists after rinsing. 

Apply ice to the eyelids

If you are experiencing a strong burning sensation, pain, and irritation of the eyelids after rinsing out your eyes, try putting an ice pack, a plastic bag with ice cubes in it, or simply a bag of frozen fruit or vegetables to the eyelids. 

This can help reduce the burning and any potential swelling.

Apply eye drops 

If your eyes are still irritated after eye rinsing, applying some common eye drops could help. 

Although eye drops are normally used for dry and itchy eyes, they can be useful for easing eye irritation and burning as well. 

Just make sure you rinse your eyes thoroughly with water or eye wash solution first before applying the eye drops. 

Contact your doctor or emergency services if pain and irritation persists

In the unlikely case that you are still experiencing pain and irritation to a severe degree after rinsing your eyes, it’s time to contact emergency services. 

If pain and irritation is not severe, but continues over a number of days, it’s probably time to get in touch with your doctor and find out what’s what. 

The Final Word

It is very unlikely that your eyes would be exposed to a large enough dose of harmful materials from one spray of perfume to cause severe pain, irritation, or hospitalization. 

It’s true that perfume contains potentially harmful ingredients that can cause corneal scratching and tissue damage if left unattended. 

However, unless you’re dousing your eye in the stuff, a simple eye rinse should be more than enough to set you straight. 

That being said, getting perfume in your eye is not something to be taken lightly. Measures should be taken immediately to remove any contaminants from your eyes. Rinse your eyes thoroughly in lukewarm water for at least fifteen minutes, if not more. If pain and irritation persists, contact your doctor or, in severe cases, emergency services. 

If proper measures are taken to address the contamination, you will more than likely be A-OK. 

Just be sure to watch where you’re spraying next time.