What do Japanese Eyewashes Do Anyways? Ft. Rohto Lycée Eye Wash

As a former swimmer, contact lens wearer, and all around clumsy person, there’s a lot of weird things that have made their way into my eyes. Despite this, I’ve spent very little time and effort dedicated to their health and maintenance. Recently, I learned of Japanese eye washes and immediately wanted to try them out! What are these mysterious eye-rinse liquids and what do they do? I picked up a bottle and set out to find out!

rohto lycée eye wash

There seem to be two brands that dominate the Japanese eye wash market: Rohto, which makes the Lycée Eye Wash, and Kobayashi, who makes the Eyebo Eye Wash. Between the two, I choose Lycée because I’ve used their eye drops before and they are awesome – intensely cooling and refreshing! Also, the bottle is super pink and I like pink things.


lycee rohto eye washThis eye wash is very simple to use. Do not use this eye wash until after you have removed your contacts, if you wear contacts. You fill the rubber cup that is provided with the wash up to the line indicated, hold the cup up to your eye, lift your head to better submerge your eye in the eye wash as needed, and then move your eye balls around while blinking. After I finish with one eye, I dump out the liquid, rinse the rubber cup with tap water, refill, and repeat with my second eye. The cup has a bit of suction action that helps keep the liquid from spilling all over your face, but depending on how vigilantly I blink, I sometimes get a few trickles of eye wash run down my face. I don’t really mind this because I use this eye wash before using a second cleanser so any eye wash on my face gets removed ASAP.

I’ve been using this eye wash for a month. At first, I used it daily. The eye wash always leaves my eyes feeling fresh and hydrated after I rinse them, but most of the time, it does not pick up any makeup, dirt, or oil from my eyes. I know that this is a good thing – I’m glad my eyes are usually clean – but I had been prepared for it to unearth much more residue!

However, if there is anything in my eye, this wash does a great job picking it up. I don’t wear eye makeup frequently, but when I do this eye wash always manages to pick up some pigment, regardless of how well I think my oil cleanser has removed my makeup. Also, this wash is awesome at removing rogue eyelashes, which I seem to get a lot of. This eye wash will also remove any oil cleanser or sunscreen that gets into my eyes. These are all things that I am sure over time, the eyes are capable of cleaning up themselves, but this eye wash speeds up the process and therefore reduces any incidental discomfort. If you’ve ever had to deal with cloudy vision from having oil in your eyes, you probably know that it only lasts a few minutes, but those minutes are really annoying and uncomfortable!

What’s In This Thing Anyways?

Going into this product, I was extremely curious about what was in it, what those things were meant to do, and if I should be worried about the impact to the health of my eyes. Armed with google translate and my very limited knowledge of Japanese, I set out to learn as much as possible about what is in this eye wash, starting with Rohto’s website, where I found the full ingredients and a handy infographic, all of which I have attempted to translate into English:  and the full list of ingredients. Here is my attempt at translating into English:

<有効成分 // Active Ingredients>
  • ビタミンB12 0.001% // 0.001% Vitamin B 12
  • ビタミンB6 0.01% // 0.01% Vitamin B6
  • 酢酸d-α-トコフェロール(天然型ビタミンE) 0.0025% // 0.0025% acetic acid d-α-tocopherol (natural vitamin E)
  • 硫酸亜鉛水和物 0.01% // 0.01% Zinc Sulfate (aka Naphazoline)
  • クロルフェニラミンマレイン酸塩 0.003% // 0.003% chlorpheniramine maleate
  • コンドロイチン硫酸エステルナトリウム 0.01% // 0.01% chondroitin sodium sulfate
  • L-アスパラギン酸カリウム 0.1% // 0.1% potassium L-aspartate
<添加物 // Other Ingredients>
  • ヒアルロン酸Na // Hyaluronic Acid
  • ホウ酸 // Boric Acid
  • ホウ砂 // Borax
  • d-ボルネオール // d-borneol
  • ゲラニオール // Geraniol
  • ベルガモット油 // Bergamot Oil
  • エデト酸Na // Sodium EDTA
  • ポリオキシエチレン硬化ヒマシ油 // PEG-4 Castor Oil
  • pH調節剤 // pH Adjustor

My attempt at translation. If anyone actually knows Japanese and wants to help a girl out, let me know???

My very clumsy attempt at translation. I only know enough Japanese to order food + beer, tell people they are pigs in human clothing, and talk about the weather, which according to my Japanese friend is a way to pick up men. Who knew?

Let’s take a look at a few of these ingredients. The inclusion of Vitamins B6, B12, and E, zinc sulfate (aka naphazoline), and hyaluronic acid will reduce inflammation and soothe the eyes. Turns out, hyaluronic acid, which is ubiquitous in skincare, is also a common dry eye treatment. A study in Russia found hyaluronic acid to be effective in providing relief from dry eye symptoms. It also has been shown to improve the corneal epithelial barrier and in severe cases of dry eye, reduce the occurrence of epithelial lesions.

Zinc sulfate, more frequently know in the US as Naphazoline, is a vasoconstrictor and the active ingredient in Clear Eyes and All Clear eye drops. It reduces redness and swelling by constricting blood vessels. There is some concern over the use of vasoconstrictors in eye drops because overuse can lead to a rebound of redness and swelling. However, most of the concern seems to be centered around another vasoconstrictor, tetrahydrozoline (NOT in this eye wash), which is found in Visine. In a comparative study, the effects of naphazoline are shown to last longer than tetrahydrozoline, meaning it is less likely to result in overuse, and that neither vasoconstrictor results in rebound vasodilation.

Edited to add: The purpose of vasoconstrictors is 100% cosmetic and regular use is generally discouraged because it can exacerbate dry eye or mask underlying eye issues. If your eyes are frequently red, see a doctor. 

Chlorpheniramine maleate is an anti-histamine.

In this study in rats, Vitamin B 12 was shown to accelerate healing, specifically the re-epithelization and corneal re-innervation, after mechanical injury to the eye. Also, when used with hyaluronic acid, it can attenuate oxidative stress associated with dry eye and reduce inflammation.

Lastly, boric acid is not listed as an active ingredient but is an ingredient frequently used to rinse eyes. It has a soothing effect and exhibits antibiotic and anti-fungal properties.

Edited to add: This eye wash also contains Sodium EDTA, which is a buffering agent and preservative. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid any eye product that contains preservatives if you suffer from dry eye because of its potential to irritate the conjunctiva and cornea, which in turn can result in an unstable tear film. Sodium EDTA seems to be one of the lesser problematic preservatives, but still carries this risk

Overall, it seems like Rohto has stuck a bunch of soothing, hydrating, and anti-inflammatory ingredients into this eye wash making it not only effective at removing debris from your eyes but also making it at least temporarily effective at treating the symptoms of dry eye. From my experience, it does a pretty good job at it. As mentioned earlier, my eyes do feel hydrated after using this eye wash, without any irritation.

The Takeaway

This eye wash offers a really easy way to remove any foreign particles that have gotten into your eyes, including makeup residue, rogue eyelashes, cleansing oils, or other floaters. It also leaves my eyes feeling soothed and hydrated for many hours after use. Although I don’t use this every day, I really enjoy having it around for when I do feel the need to give my eyes a rinse.

Edited to add: Due to this eye wash’s inclusion of naphazoline and Sodium EDTA, please avoid this eye wash and/or consult your eye doctor if you suffer from dry eye or have frequently red eyes. A cheap, dry-eye friendly, preservative-free and vasoconstrictor-free alternative to rinse your eyes is a simple saline solution

I purchased this from amazon (450 ml bottle, 80 ml bottle). It is also widely available on ebay.

rohto lycee review

Disclosure: Product purchased and paid for by me. Affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.

9 thoughts on “What do Japanese Eyewashes Do Anyways? Ft. Rohto Lycée Eye Wash

    • V. Rex says:

      Hmm, I guess it mostly depends on how bothered you are by those things that get in your eyes. I’m pretty sure that our eyes are perfectly capable of cleaning themselves out over time, but I happen to be very impatient so this wash definitely serves a purpose for me!


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