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This Barber In China Has Been Cleaning People’s Eyeballs With A Razor Blade For More Than Four Decades


This barber uses a knife to clean his customers’ eyes. 62-year-old Xiong Gaowu, who lives in Chengdu, China, follows an ancient eye scraping process on those willing. The literal name of the process translates to “blade wash eyes,” which is an apt description.

Xiong practices his eyeball scraping craft on the side of the street for eager customers. He first rolls his customers’ eyelids back and then scrapes them with his knife, which is known as an eyeball cleanse. Then the shavings are collected with an iron rod held beneath the eyelid. Afterward, the process is done, and the customer can enjoy their newly shaved eyelids until they feel like they need an update.

Image Source: Chudesa

The benefit that Xiong’s customers supposedly get from the process is the opening up of moisturizing sebaceous glands on the eyelid. Once scraped, the glands will secrete an increased amount of an oily liquid called sebum, supposedly keeping the eyes fresher. Many of Xiong’s clients claim that prior to visiting him, their eyes were dry and irritable. After scraping, they are well lubricated. The happy customers pay Xiong 80 yuan, which is the equivalent of $12.  

Eyeball cleaning is an ancient craft in China, but few people still practice it. While not recommended, doctors in China claim that the practice is relatively safe in the hands of an expert, as long as the equipment is sterilized.

Image Source: Hindustan Times

Xiong has specific advice for those interested in taking up eyeball scraping as a career. “You should be gentle, very very gentle,” Xiong told Reuters. “It was difficult at the beginning, but it became a piece of cake afterwards.”

Are you brave enough to get your eyeball scraped?

There are no accounts of anyone performing blade-eye treatments on themselves. So it looks like if you want to get this treatment, you’ll have to convince a steady handed friend or travel to Chengdu.

Image Source: Weibo

While now practised on the roadside, 60-70 years ago, the blade-eye treatments used to be common in Chinese hospitals. However, back then it was used to treat a very specific condition called trachoma, instead of just helping dry eyes. As hygiene and medical practices advanced, eyeball scraping fell out of favor in hospitals. Trachoma, which is similar to pink eye, is now treated through oral medications.

Though the U.S. doesn’t have anywhere where customers can get this specific eye scraping treatment, there is a similar but much worse procedure that is actually practised by ophthalmologists. This is called corneal scraping and involves actually scraping a patient’s eyeballs, as opposed to the eyelids. The process begins by the ophthalmologist applying anaesthetic eye drops onto eyes. Then, the ophthalmologist scraps the patient’s corneas with a platinum loop or a needle, removing anything that might have infected them. Sometimes, the ophthalmologist will polish the patient’s eyeballs once the procedure is done. This practice is only used in a medical setting, and it is only ever performed to remove bacterial infections. Unfortunately, the recovery is extremely painful. A bandage contact lens must be added to reduce pain, but even then the patient will usually suffer.

Image Source: Tuyen Lab

Clearly, the painless eyelid scraping process is far preferable to the corneal scraping practice, though its benefits aren’t proven. Hopefully, you never have to have a corneal scrape.  

Header Image Source: Wikipedia