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5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye

on February 19 | in Natural Remedies | by | with 39 Comments

5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye

3 Reasons To ♥ Pink Eye

1. It’s a nice break from giving the stink eye. Gotta mix things up, you know?

2. You can use it to repel awkward interactions – “Don’t come near, I’m CONTAGIOUS!”

3. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got. Who actually loves pink eye???

Fortunately, there are several natural remedies out there that mamas swear by. Today I’m going to share them with you, along with the supporting info/studies I found on each remedy. But first, let’s ask one very important question . . .

Is It Viral, Bacterial, or An Allergy?

Viral Pink Eye Is . . .

  • Typically marked by clear, watery drainage
  • Contagious
  • Likely to start in one eye and move to the other
  • Not treatable with antibiotics. “Most viral pinkeye cases have no specific treatment – you just have to let the virus run its course, which is usually four to seven days” (source)
  • Often somewhat alleviated by some of the comfort measures listed below. Immune system support may be helpful
  • Often difficult to discern from bacterial pink eye

Bacterial Pink Eye Is . . .

  • Typically marked by greenish yellow drainage
  • Contagious
  • Likely to start in one eye and move to the other
  • Usually treated with antibiotic eye drops. Some who prefer to avoid antibiotics use some of the natural remedies below.
  • Often difficult to discern from viral pink eye

Allergic Pink Eye

  • “Allergic pinkeye (caused by seasonal pollens, animal dander, cosmetics and perfumes) and chemical pinkeye (from chemicals or liquids, including bleach and furniture polish) are not contagious.” (source)
  • Clear, watery drainage is typical
  • Usually involves both eyes
  • “Allergic pinkeye symptoms should improve once the allergen source is removed and the allergy is treated. Chemical pinkeye requires prompt washing of the affected eye(s) for five minutes and an immediate call to the doctor.” (source) “Treatments” for the allergy may include an antihistamine. Nettle capsules or tea are considered by many to be a natural antihistamine, and preliminary studies indicate  (source 1,)

Natural Remedies For Pink Eye

Because pink eye can be highly contagious, it is usually recommended that individuals treat both eyes even if only one has symptoms.

5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye

Honey

Frank Dougan of Glasgow spent eight years searching for relief from blepharitis, a chronic bacterial eyelid infection that is somewhat similar pink eye. ‘Lots of doctors gave me eyes [sic] drops, I have a whole fridge full and I have spent a fortune but nothing worked,’ he told the UK-based Daily Mail. (emphasis mine)

So what did finally work? A jar of honey from the local Tesco, of course. His optician confirmed that she was no longer able to find any traces of blephartis.

Countless studies have affirmed honey’s antibacterial/antiviral properties, and it is well known for its benefits regarding wound healing. In fact, according to a Cochrane analysis of 19 clinical trials, this pantry staple works BETTER than antibiotic creams for burns. Here’s how I use it in my first aid kit.

So what do we know about its effectiveness with pink eye? Other than the fact that it’s a known folk remedy, there are a few studies worth mentioning. Though they don’t deal with pink eye specifically, they do seem relevant.

Studies that support the use of honey for eye infections

In this study, the application of honey significantly reduced the amount of bacteria found on and around the eye in patients that suffer from dry eyes.

This study notes that honey is being ” ‘rediscovered’ by the medical profession, particularly where conventional modern therapeutic agents have failed. Recent published reports describe the effectiveness of honey in rapidly clearing wound infection with minimal adverse effects, and also possible in promoting healing with minimal scar formation. Honey also has antimicrobial action against a broad spectrum of bacteria and fungi, both in laboratory studies and in humans. Its use in the eye ranges from treating post-herpetic corneal opacities, local conjunctival lesions and corneal edema with variable results.” (source, emphasis mine)

Also, though it is not not a study “there is evidence that the ancient Egyptians used honey to treat eye diseases, the Greek philosopher Aristotle is credited with being among the first to record medicinal use of honey for the eyes as far back as 350 B.C. Honey was also widely used in India to treat eye disease and has been used by traditional healers in Mali to prevent scarring of the cornea in cases of measles. There is also evidence that honey was used by the medieval English to treat eye diseases.” (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4)

What kind of honey should I use?

While many kinds of honey have demonstrated antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, manuka honey is thought to be particularly potent due to high levels of the compound dihydroxyacetone. Personally, I use local, organically raised honey.

How mamas use it:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/4 cup pure water
  • pinch of salt (optional)

Dissolve raw honey and optional salt in pure warm water. Don’t get the water too hot or it may destroy some of the beneficial properties of the water. If your water is not super pure (reverse osmosis, distilled, etc), consider boiling it and allowing it to cool before creating your mixture. Using a clean dropper, place a 1-2 drops in each eye every few hours as needed.

Breast Milk

5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye According to this article, a “particular antibody in the breast milk, called immunoglobulin A, prevents the pink eye bacteria from attaching to the mucosal surface of the eye. This limits the growth of the bacteria, helping to end the eye infection.” (source)

So what does the clinical data say? Well, this article examines three studies that look at the impact of colostrum on newborn eye infections. The antimicrobial properties of colostrum and breast milk are well-documented and there does seem to be some evidence of benefit for use with eye infections, but at least one of the studies where the evidence seems overwhelmingly positive was not well constructed. 

Seriously, though, moms swear by it.

Bonus awesome breast milk fact: A few years ago researchers noticed that cancerous lung cells in a test tube died on contact with breast milk, so they isolated the key compound responsible and began injecting it into tumors. So far, trials with rats have shown that “after just seven weeks a highly invasive brain cancer called glioblastoma was seven times smaller in those treated with HAMLET [the nickname for the breast milk compound].” (source)

How to use it

Squirt a little breast milk directly onto the surface of the eye. “Lift your eyelid slightly to help the breast milk circulate underneath. Continue this treatment three times a day for a couple of days, or until the eye infection has cleared. If your symptoms persist or worsen, though, seek medical advice.” (source)

Colloidal Silver

Natural-Immunogenics-Sovereign-Silver-Dropper-684088232333The use of silver solutions for eye infections is nothing new. Until the creation of erythromycin, an antibiotic ointment, silver nitrate drops were routinely used in newborn’s eyes to prevent certain types of bacterial infection. In some hospitals they are still used, but most doctors prefer the ointment because silver nitrate can cause irritation.

Silver nitrate is created by combining silver with nitric acid, while colloidal silver contains only silver particles suspended in water. It is my understanding that colloidal silver is less irritating. (Please note that in mentioning its routine use in newborns is not an endorsement. I recommend that you research before consenting to it or any other “routine” procedures.)

Did I find an resounding endorsements from physicians? Not really, but I did find comments from M.D.’s who said simply that their patients swear by it and that it might be worth trying. (source 1, source 2)

Wondering if colloidal silver is safe? I like Emily of Holistic Squids take on it.

How to use it

This is the kind I keep on hand. Those who rave about this remedy typically say they use 1-2 drops in each eye three to four times per day.

5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye

Herbal Tea Poultices

According to Prescription For Nutritional Healing, “Calendula, chamomile, fennel and/or eyebright teas can be used to make hot compresses. Eyebright can also be taken orally in capsule or tea form. It is good for any eye irritation or inflammation. The tea can also be used to rinse the eyes.

Caution: Do not use chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed. Do not use during pregnancy or nursing.” (Prescription For Nutritional Healing, page 421) Note: Many herbalists and OB-GYN’s say chamomile is perfectly fine during pregnancy and while nursing. (source)

Some individuals add a little salt to their tea as it brews to boost the astringent quality of the poultice.

How to use it

According to some sources, distilled water is recommended because any impurities in water could exacerbate the infection. You can find instructions for making chamomile and calendula eye soothers at Mother Earth News.

5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye

Salt Water Wash

Saline (salt water) eye drops are often recommended for pink eye. Some store bought brands contain lubricants and other medications for various conditions, but you can make a simple solution at home. Kathryn Darden, a Rodan + Fields Dermatologists consultant, explains how to use a salt water wash:

“Distilled water is recommended since tap water can contain chemicals and impurities, but many people use plain tap water. Boil one cup of water with one half teaspoon (up to one teaspoon) of salt and let the liquid cool completely before using.

Use an eye cup or an eye dropper to rinse the eye with the cooled salt solution. The solution can be used as an eye rinse and also as a nasal solution for sinus and allergy issues.

Rinse the affected eye several times a day. After rinsing, a gentle eye cream can help soothe the delicate skin of the eyelids but should be kept out of the eyes to avoid further irritation.” (source) According to Kathryn, you should discard the solution after two days and make a new one to avoid bacterial contamination. I personally would probably make a new batch each day.

Comfort Measures

Warm Or Cold Compress

“To reduce pain and to remove the discharge of bacterial or viral pinkeye, use a cold or warm compress on the eyes. Make sure to use a different washcloth for each eye to prevent spreading any infection. And use clean washcloths each time. Clean the eye from drainage by wiping from the inside to the outside of the eye area.” (source)

Raw Potatoes

Fresh slices of cold, raw potato are also said to be soothing.

Pink Eye Prevention

FCLO-liquid-capsRecurring pink eye infections are associated with Vitamin A and B (especially B2) deficiencies, so it may be worth exploring supplementation if infections continue to occur. (source 1source 2,)

As I write about here, fermented cod liver oil is one of the best sources of natural Vitamin A. Here’s why:

Almost all brands of cod liver oil on the market go through a process that removes naturally occurring vitamins A&D. Green Pastures makes the only traditionally fermented cod liver oil, which preserves naturally occurring vitamins and also contains co-factors that may increase the body’s ability to absorb the A&D.

You can order Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil here. For a list of If this brand is not an option, the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends cod liver oil that has the correct ratio’s of synthetic vitamin A&D here.

Fermented cod liver oil is also a source of Vitamin B2. (source)

When To See A Doctor

According to the CDC, “Most cases of pink eye are mild and get better without treatment. However, some forms are more severe. Severe cases need to be looked at by a health care provider and may require specific treatment and close follow-up. If you have pink eye, you should see your health care provider if you have—

  • Moderate to severe pain in your eye(s)
  • Blurred vision or increased sensitivity to light
  • Intense redness in the eye(s)
  • A weakened immune system, for example, from HIV or cancer treatment
  • Bacterial pink eye that does not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use
  • Symptoms that get worse or don’t improve
  • Pre-existing eye conditions that may put you at risk for complications or severe infection” (source)

The CDC also recommends that all babies with pink eye symptoms be seen by a health care provider.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I don’t play one here on Mommypotamus. These remedies are shared for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose or cure any disease. None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. See my full disclaimer here. 

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39 Responses to 5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye

  1. Jennifer Reed says:

    Breastmilk cleared up my kid’s pinkeye in less than a day! I don’t know what I’ll do when my children have weaned… hmmm

  2. melissa says:

    This article is great, and so many options! I will give one suggesstion from personal experience: breast milk is a lot easier to apply to the eye with a spoon than trying to squirt it!

  3. Charlotte says:

    I hadn’t heard about using honey or silver. Every now and then my kids will get pinkeye, and lately I’ve used breastmilk or even raw cow’s milk to successfully treat it. We’ve never had it fail us yet! It soothes the eyes, too. Last week, my 4-yr-old got it in one eye, and I immediately dabbed breast milk on it. Within 3 hours her eye was totally fine, and the other eye never got it! I love how easy it is to cure, when I used to think we had to have days of antibiotics.

  4. Erin says:

    I used breast milk for my son’s pink eye and it worked wonderfully. So, when my mom got pink eye and I happened to still be breastfeeding my youngest I offered her some. She thought I was nuts, but tried it and it worked for her, too. Of course, she tells everyone she knows and I get strange looks. I had not heard about using honey in eyes, but have heard of it for cuts and things. I had a bad reaction to colloidal silver (a friend offered me some after I fell asleep on a beach and burned my skin to a crisp), but I generally don’t do well with metals.

  5. Cait says:

    I had pink eye in December, and though I wasn’t positive if it was viral or bacterial, I decided to try ionic silver (which a friend makes) after a few days since we were going to be traveling. I put a few drops in each eye every few hours and also used wet black tea bags on my eyes and rinsed with very diluted raw apple cider vinegar. It went away, thankfully! It’s good to have some more ideas as well.

  6. Monica says:

    I’ve used CPTG essential oils for pinkeye with dramatic, amazing, fast results. I dab a drop of melaleuca and a drop of lavender on the bones around the eye (very careful not to get in the eye) and the pinkeye went away SUPER fast. I only use medicinal grade oils, no synthetics. If you want to know more, message me at monica@keepitessential.com. Trying to get drops into my toddler’s eye is crazy hard. It’s easy with the oils. Great article!

  7. Jami says:

    I am just getting over viral pink eye(s) (the last phase of a 3 week cold for me). I used a combination of chamomile tea bags (after they steeped my tea) and Lavendar essential oil. I did the tea at night, but during the day I applied the Lavendar every few hours. Simply drop a bit of oil on your finger and trace a pair of “glasses” around both eyes, on the brow bone, down the nose bone, and across the cheek bone. Don’t put the oil in the eyes! Even around the far outside of the eye, you may feel a bit of stinging and your eye may water a little for the first 10-15 minutes after you apply it to the skin. Cleared up super fast!

  8. Sarah says:

    This is great!! Did you send it to Bob Costas so he make it through hosting the Olympic coverage easier? :)

  9. myranda says:

    breastmilk is best… but when that runs out, colloidal silver helped up out! Got over in 2 days… faster than our cousins from whom my LO got it from (they were on dr’s meds).

  10. Erin says:

    I never had pink eye in my life and missed the initial signs that first day when my kids developed it. My the next day, they looked like vampires and could barely open their eyes. I started putting breastmilk into their eyes immediately and by the next morning, no more signs of pink eye! My husband dropped it into my eyes just as a precaution but I never seemed to develop it. Breastmilk rocks!

  11. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this! Why do you say not to drink chamomile tea while nursing? I have read that it is safe to drink, so I’m curious…

    • Heather says:

      Hi Michelle! That’s actually a quote from the book Nutritional Healing. I believe the thinking is that chamomile has such strong anti-inflammatory properties that it can act similarly to aspirin in the body. However, many herbalists and OB-GYN’s say it is perfectly fine to use. I have update the post to reflect both perspectives.

      • Michelle says:

        Thank you so much! I must say, we got your cookbook when I had just had my 2nd son, and the liver chili is what I believe raised his iron levels to perfection, which were extremely low. But, my boys LOVE the flavor of the liver chili. It is really satisfying and delicious, and I don’t feel over-burdened by the liver flavor at all.

        Can I ask a question about the cod liver oil? We use the fermented cod liver oil at our house – Blue ICe – but I can never find the appropriate dosage information for children and adults. Is there somewhere to get an accurate idea of how much they should get each day? My pediatrician was less than helpful with this and I would like to print out the information so I am giving the proper dosage. I’ve been hesitant to do use it.

  12. Beverly says:

    I spent the last year+ battling blepharitis. Countless trips to the best ophthalmologists in my state and many prescriptions later, I still had it…even worse than when it started. One day it flared up so bad that my eye was nearly swollen shut and was the most painful it had ever been. I broke down and asked for an antibiotic drop from my regular physician, but a miscommunication with her staff left me with no prescription. I don’t know why I thought to use my homemade raw apple cider vinegar, but I put some on a Q-tip and painted my eyelid and lashes with it several times that day. This is what finally worked!! I also use a homeopathic eye drop called Similasan for dry eyes. I will continue to use the ACV every morning and every night before bed to keep blepharitis at bay.

  13. Liz says:

    Hey Heather!
    Thanks for this post! I’ve been loving your natural remedy posts lately. I was wondering if you’d do one on treating yeast infections naturally? So much information out there and it’s hard to sift through.

    Thank you!

  14. Jennifer says:

    Hi there, thrilled to see this article! And I just have to say that you are an inspiration. I love your site and have used mulitple recipes that you have posted from soap to homemade peanut butter cups. Ok, so to the eye thing. I’m a huge proponent of local honey, so I was thrilled to see this and I am also really loving the Sovereign Silver. A friend introduced me to the Silver a few months back and I’ve used multiple times over the winter including for my dry winter eyes. A few years ago I attempted contacts and from then on I have had some severe eye issues. Needless to say I no longer attempt to wear them. Anywho, I have had some killer infections and it’s just scary when you wake up with pain in your eye and you can’t see. So, now that I’ve discovered the silver and used it a bit over the winter when I felt like something was coming on, I feel so relieved that I can ward off any attempts at infection for the future. But I will also be utilizing the honey. We keep about 1/2 gallon on had at all times and use for all sorts of stuff. Thank you Heather! YOU ROCK!

  15. Esties says:

    Excellent timing!My little boy is having a terrible time with his eyes..it seems as he has blocked tear ducts.Since week 1 hes had watery,seeping, crusty eyes.Now he has conjunctivitus!Its been 3 weekd and we’ve tried breast milk,chamomile tea bags,saline washes,antibiotics:(.Nothing has worked.He’s 10 months old and we are facing an operation to open the ducts at 1 year if no improvement but a naturopath had told us its not a good option.Anyone been through this with their baby?Hes so fed up of me cleaning his.eyes..Im sure he’s traumatised:(

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Esties,

      I am so, so sorry for your troubles! Unfortunately, I am only too familiar with what you are going through! Our firstborn developed a blocked tear duct just before his first birthday. Well, really, it must have been blocked that whole first year but was never a problem and never even noticed by us or his pediatrician. It got very bad after the first birthday and we had the duct probed, which was unsuccessful. A second surgery with an occuloplastic surgeon was also unsuccessful and he finally needed a complete tear duct reconstruction at Boston Children’s Hospital, with one of the country’s few pediatric occuloplastic surgeons. That being said – my son had a congenital problem (strange because neither his father or I ever had this problem as babies!) and it is extremely rare that this will happen. Usually, from what I have been told, the probing is enough. We did practice comfort measures on and off for the 10 months during his surgeries. Eyebright compresses helped with the irritation from drainage. We tried antibiotics but really they did nothing because they cannot unblock a tear duct. I would recommend that you go to a good children’s hospital, if you are near one, to seek a professional opinion if the duct remains blocked after the first year. Apparently, most blocked tear ducts resolve on their own by the first birthday, so you don’t even have to worry about it yet. Try the eyebright compress. It is very helpful.

    • Lydia says:

      My second had the same problem. I felt like I had to warn everyone we saw that he wasn’t sick, that it was just a phase.
      His naturally cleared up around 1 1/2 years. We just constantly cleaned them and I would use breast milk every night while he was still nursing. One morning he woke up with clear eyes and we have not had any problems since. It may just take a little longer depending on the child.

    • Darlene says:

      My daughter had plugged tearducts. We “milked” her tearducts several times a day. You can google it.

  16. Esties says:

    Thank you so much Michelle for your answer!That sounds like quite an ordeal that you all went through but it’s good to know that your son is doing so well now:D
    We were ok with thought of the operation because its been 10 months with little to no improvement.However as I mentioned in my previous comment the naturopath said that the operation causes problems later on such as when swimming,biking,etc excrssive tear

    • Esties says:

      opps:P
      excessive tearing(but thats what we are experiencing now!)
      I will deffinately be starting him on FCLO/BO asap!Great recommendation Heather!Iv finally found a great source
      that is affordable for us here in Spain.Iv been wanting to get this for months.Can’t wait!:)
      (Oh the things we get excited over these days!new cloth diapers,FCLO haha!)

  17. Heidi says:

    I used breastmilk successfully for all my babies’ and kids’ pink eye episodes. Now it’s been 11 yrs since I weaned “the baby”…. so, I’ve used eye bright herbal poultices for eye infections and irritations and it’s worked really well.

  18. […] Instructions For 5 Natural Remedies For Pink Eye Infection […]

  19. Grace says:

    Are these remedies supposed to work for the viral kind? Our family has been battling a cold with pink eye and we’ve religiously been doing breast milk for a couple weeks with no obvious improvement. My baby suddenly got it bad and we’ve tried colloidal silver for a day and still no improvement. Was considering taking her to a dr and getting some eyedrops but I guess if it’s viral it won’t help… starting up some essential oils, hopefully it will clear up soon.

  20. […] you happen to be around someone with this very contagious condition then make sure you have these 5 natural remedies for pink eye in your back pocket, ready to […]

  21. Hi Heather, Happy to find your wonderful site and to find this article! I’m about to rub that lovely lavender oil around my eyes, so glad we have it on hand. It’s THE best remedy for itchy bites or eczema too! If you have the chance, I’d be honored if you checked out my blog at eatbeautiful.net. My first cookbook is due out in January, focussing on grain-free, sugar-free baking and treats, all with a focus on gut-healing, inspired by the GAPS diet and Weston A. Price. Thanks again for your contributions! I’ll look forward to using your site as a great reference in the future too! Cheers! BTW, I’ll comment again how fast the pink eye goes away with the use of lavender oil. :)

  22. Okay, a quick update for anyone who might benefit. I used the lavender oil on my face, around my eyes in the shape of glasses, like an above reader commented/suggested, down my nose and on my cheekbones. The discomfort from pink eye improved 25% immediately. Redness was 75% improved by the end of the day, reapplying every two hours throughout the day. This was a really fun and encouraging experiment/remedy. Now, day 2.5, I wish that I’d also tried the honey drops in my eyes. I think the combination, assuming the honey is effective, would have been perfect. I was going for easy, honestly. My eyes look normal now, my vision is mostly-perfectly restored; there’s just a little discomfort left. All in all the lavender essential oil was great! And if there’s ever a next time, I’ll try the combination of the internal honey-water solution and the external lavender oil. Thanks, Heather, for the great insights, really empowering and fun.

  23. Pallas says:

    I just wanted to say that I recently got pink eye in both eyes, though much worse in the left. I always have active Manuka honey (16+) on hand, so I mixed 1/4 cup distilled water with 1/4 tsp honey (perhaps a littttleee extra). It cleared my eyes up immediately. I kept using it, every 3 hours for 3 days, and my eyes stayed clear.

    This is faster than both the Sulfa drops and the Erythromycin “gel” ever have worked.

    Thanks for the tips here!!

  24. Kim says:

    I just wanted to add a remedy that I tried many years ago. It worked like a bomb. I admit that it is not the most comfortable remedy but my pink eye was gone in 3 days. It was suggested to me by my gp who always tries to give natural cures as well as medications. Ice blocks / cubes on the eyes for as long as you can stand it and as often as possible. I put mine in a plastic bag that I knotted at the top and wrapped it in a dishcloth. He explained that the ice blocks killed the “germs” as they only thrive in warm conditions. I might try the honey and lavender combination just to see how it works though.

  25. Kim says:

    Just wanted to add, it was about 15 years ago and I was very young so can’t remember clearly but I think it was the viral kind as I don’t remember any yellow drainage coming out of my eyes.

  26. Leah says:

    Thanks for this! So far, breastmilk has been very effective when our two little ones have icky eyes. How cool is that!? I’m wondering if you could share more information on colloidal silver and it’s uses specifically related to babies/children…

  27. Celeste says:

    Excellent well researched, well-written informative post. I woke up in the middle of night and realized I had pink eye and a busy day today. Instinct said colloidal silver and so I sprayed some in and that relieved the symptoms a bit. I would never have thought of honey, though, so thanks for that tip. Using that as well and it’s very comforting. When my daughter was nursing breast milk was used as a cure all, too. Again thanks for the tips.

  28. Vicky says:

    Raw honey always works for us. I tried breastmilk a couple times when my son was still a baby but to no avail. I have successfully used straight raw honey on myself, my husband, my 4 year old son and his 5 year old friend. It burns like the dickens but there is simultaneously an almost cooling sensation when it first touches the eye (odd i know but its the only way to explain it). Only 1 application on each of us worked but I did a 2nd application on my son and his friend just in case. My son’s friend’s mom (who is from Germany) was baffled by the success and has continued to use it successfully on herself and her 4 year old daughter as well. It’s definitely not fun since it has a burning sensation and it makes you feel like a baby while you fight not rinsing it out of your eye but it works. I just bribed the kiddos with brownies and they hated doing it but the brownies got them to try it at least. Thank god it worked after the first application :)

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