You Don't Have To Hide Away In A Cathedral Bell Tower If You Get A Sty

You CAN be seen in public even when your eyelid feels like it's going to explode. Here's how to deal with a sty, and do your makeup around it.
Publish date:
April 8, 2013
infections, lipsticks, nutrition, mascaras, Neosporin, sties

Is there anything worse than a sty? Yes; but for the sake of this article, temporarily believe it's the world's biggest tragedy so you can muster up lots of sympathy/empathy for me, because I have one right now.

Not only does it hurt, but a sty is often pretty obvious to onlookers, making your top or bottom eyelid look red and puffy. When I realized I was getting one a couple days ago, I started shouting incoherent curses like Yosemite Sam, knowing that my appearance was going to be at least slightly compromised over the next week.

I’ve been getting at least one sty a year for most of my adulthood. The worst one I ever got happened in 2002, on my upper left eyelid. I looked like Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. It took seemingly forever to clear it up--I ultimately went to a doctor--but I was actually pretty lucky when it came to being seen. I was working as a sales associate at the Anna Sui store in Soho, and half of the mannequins there have eye patches painted on their faces. The week I had that Quasimodo sty, I just wore an eye patch during my shifts, and everyone assumed it was just an Anna Sui thing.

Eye patches aren’t quite as easy to pull off stylishly elsewhere, though, so I’m not going to wrap up this article right now by saying, “Buy an eye patch. Bye!” Instead, let’s get to the bottom of this.


A sty can happen for a number of reasons. It’s more or less an eyelash follicle monster zit, so if that oil gland gets blocked up--bam!--sty.

Mine is probably a result of combination of not drinking enough water, eating crappily, and forgetting to wash my eye makeup off before bed several times recently. (I haven’t let the dogs lick my makeup off lately, so don't go blaming my boys.)

If you tend to rub your eyes a lot, that can cause it, too. I know, I know, it feels really good, but do something else that feels good and doesn’t cause sties instead. Give yourself a hand, foot or other-part massage.


Most sties go away within a week without treatment, but don’t just go acting like it’s a normal eyelid. Keep the area clean, and don’t go poking or squeezing at it, even if it gets a head. If it pops open, that could spread bacteria into your eye.

Wear your glasses instead of contacts until it’s gone, too. Perk: they'll serve as a distraction so people notice the glasses and not the inflammation.

Putting a warm compress on it can help bring about some relief. You can take it to the next level with an over-the-counter antibiotic, like Neosporin. (I’ve never quite understood ointments like Stye, because it’s, like, one-third mineral oil, which is comedogenic, so it clogs pores, and isn’t that what got us in this mess in the first place?)

Anyway, if it’s not going away after a week, visit a doctor. He or she will probably prescribe an oral antibiotic if it’s really stubborn.


No, you don’t. It looks worse to you than it does to anyone looking at you. Except for Olivia--she's grossed out by the mere mention of the word sty and refused to reply to my email asking her to take my picture for this article.

So, you shouldn’t put makeup directly on your sty, but that’s a great reason to finally try that bold-lip-bare-eye look that ridiculously chic women wear all the time. That’s what I’m doing!

My sty is on my lower lid, so I’m letting myself wear a little upper-lid mascara. However, I skipped shadow and liner because it directly touches the skin. I also avoided putting foundation, under-eye concealer and powder directly on it. I know it's tempting to try to cover up the redness, but YOU MUST RESIST.

So, how often do you guys get sties? Got any clever tips or tricks for speeding up the awfulness? Why does every spelling of sty/stye/sties/styes look wrong?