Can nutritional ingredients help with dry eye?


Emerging trends and developments in dry eye–relief ingredients.

Photo © Antonioguillem

Photo © Antonioguillem

Products to help cope with dry eyes are in more demand than ever as screen time soars. More consumers today want nonpharmaceutical options for relief and are seeking solutions that move beyond artificial tears.

Overall, global eye health supplement sales exceeded US $1.5 billion in 2019, with 6.1% CAGR forecasted through 2027.1 Will this steady market growth include an expanded share of supplements for dry eye? New ingredient developments make this space an interesting one to watch.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Suppress Inflammation

Some emerging dry eye ingredients are tackling a unique problem: dry eyes caused by wearing a face mask. Tricia Kent, PR representative for supplement brand VitEyes (Farmington Hills, MI), says that rather than using a reactive Band-Aid approach like eye drops to cope, nutritional supplements like omega-3s actually help proactively maintain healthy tear production.

“Supplements work in the body 24/7 to help with occasional dry eye from the inside out,” Kent explains. “Omega-3s help to maintain healthy tear film in the eye, while other ingredients can assist in stimulating tear production.”

VitEyes’s branded Tear Support product is an occasional dry eye–relief product containing omega-3 fatty acids, borage seed, flaxseed oil, and turmeric. The product is formatted as a softgel. VitEyes noted in a 2020 press release that omega-3 oils “help to suppress inflammation of the tear gland and support a healthy tear-film oil layer.”2

Bioactive Blends Outperform on Convenience

While artificial tears have the advantage of consumer familiarity and market dominance, they don’t stand up where it counts: convenience. Sara Zoet, assistant director of global communications for ingredient supplier OmniActive Health Technologies (Morristown, NJ), says that while 75% of consumers use artificial tears to manage dry eyes, a 2020 OmniActive survey found that over 60% of consumers say artificial tears are inconvenient to use and don’t offer lasting relief.

“Occasional-dry-eye supplements offer a wider, more convenient variety of delivery formats including softgels, gummies, and liquids,” Zoet notes. “While artificial tears still dominate the market, supplements have gained notable traction.”

The complexity of dry eye and the many variables that can influence its duration and severity mean it’s important to use nutritional ingredients that target several aspects of dry eye syndrome like tear volume, eye hydration, and the mechanisms involved in inflammation, Zoet says. OmniActive’s patent-pending Nutritears formulation is a blend of lutein and zeaxanthin isomers, curcuminoids, and vitamin D3 created using the company’s proprietary Integrated Actives process. Zoet says these active ingredients are combined in a way that enables smaller dosing and greater consistency relative to conventional product blends.

“OmniActive selected three bioactives based on how they work from a mechanism-of-action perspective to address the multifactorial nature of occasional dry eyes,” Zoet states. “Nutritears serves as a multimodal approach and has been clinically shown to improve eye hydration and moisture, lessen tear loss, and improve healthy tear production.”

Carotenoids Reduce Dry Eye Symptoms in Rats

Carotenoids have been studied for a variety of eye health benefits, ranging from reducing intraocular pressure to soothing inflammation. Now, new animal research is demonstrating that the carotenoid capsanthin can help reduce dry eye symptoms.

“For the first time, this dry eye study investigated the potential of capsanthin in managing dry eye,” says Sevanti Mehta, president of Unibar Corp. (Houston, TX). “The capsanthin extract CapsiClear was examined in three doses over seven weeks in benzalkonium chloride–induced dry eye in albino Wistar rats. The researchers discovered that all three doses had a significant therapeutic effect on some dry eye symptoms.”

The animal study assessed the effects of Unibar’s branded CapsiClear, a capsanthin extract standardized to 50% capsanthin, on albino Wistar rats with artificially induced dry eye. The rats were supplemented for 7 weeks with either 1.03 mg/kg, 2.53 mg/kg, or 4.22 mg/kg of CapsiClear. After 7 weeks, all three groups of rats experienced decreases in intraocular pressure, as well as increased tear break-up time, increased tear volume, and decreased corneal inflammation.3

Dry Eye Market Expected to Grow

With screen time growing and consumers looking for nonpharmaceutical solutions, the dry eye market is primed for growth. Ingredients like carotenoids, botanicals, and omega-3s are proving their efficacy in relieving the inflammation, pressure, and discomfort associated with occasional dry eye, giving finished-product brands ample formulation options.

As this market continues to grow, brands can capitalize on this market opportunity with supplements that are convenient, effective, and built on ingredients that can leverage consumer familiarity. Judging by current developments and research on ingredients centered on dry eye relief, the future looks bright.


  1. Grand View Research. “Eye Health Supplements Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report by Ingredient Type, by Indication (AMD, Cataract, Dry Eye Syndrome, Inflammation), by Formulation, by Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2020-2027.” Published September 2020.
  2. Wearing a face mask may cause occasional dry eyes. News release. VitEyes. July 8, 2020.
  3. Shanmugham, V.; Subban R. Capsanthin from Capsicum annum Fruits exerts Anti-glaucoma, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory Activity, and Corneal Pro-inflammatory Cytokine Gene Expression in a Benzalkonium Chloride–Induced Rat Dry Eye Model. J Food Biochem. 2022, 46 (10), e14352. DOI: 10.1111/jfbc.14352
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