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Makeup and Eye Safety

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Cosmetics have come a long way from the toxic powders used in the Renaissance and Victorian eras.

We’re very happy that modern makeup is free of ingredients like lead, arsenic, and mercury. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s all perfectly safe to have around the eyes. The old saying might be “beauty is pain,” but as eye health professionals, we have to draw the line at beauty regimens that risk eye infection and injury.

The Closer to the Eye, the Bigger the Risk

Even with makeup that is completely free of toxins, there will always be some risk if you’re applying it very close to your eyes. That’s what makes waterline eyeliner, false eyelashes or eyelash extensions, and color contacts the riskiest types of cosmetics. They all increase the chances of eye infection because bacteria can build up on them and then get into the eyes.

This can also be a problem with mascara, because all it takes is a single use to contaminate a mascara wand. Eye shadow and eye liner meant for the outside of the eyelid rather than the waterline are much safer.

Aside from the risk of bacterial contamination, another potential hazard is scratching. A jab in the eye from a mascara wand or eyeliner pencil can scratch the cornea, and any dry, flaky, and powdery makeup that gets in the eye can cause redness, irritation, and swelling.

Protect Your Eyes While Looking Your Best

We aren’t suggesting that you should swear off all eye makeup. We’re simply asking for a reasonable level of caution, because our eyes are very vulnerable. Follow these tips to minimize any safety concerns with your eye makeup:

  • Pay attention to makeup expiration dates, especially with eye liner and mascara. Old makeup is much more likely to cause irritation and infection.
  • Always use clean brushes when applying your makeup.
  • Steer clear of the waterline. No matter how amazing it looks or how good you are at not poking yourself in the eye when applying it, it’s a bad idea to put that much foreign material right next to the tear film.
  • Never share your makeup applicators. We know how important it is to be supportive of friends, but sharing a mascara wand is a great way to spread germs!
  • Be careful who you buy color contacts from. Even if you don’t need corrective lenses, color contact lenses still need to fit the unique size and shape of your eyes, so only buy from vendors who require a prescription!

Still Have Questions About Eye Makeup?

If you have any concerns about the makeup products you’re using around your eyes, just bring them with you to your next eye exam so that we can take a look at them. If you’ve been experiencing any irritation, swelling, redness, or other problems with your eyes, don’t wait for your next regular appointment to stop by!

Written by Lynn Matsuda

Dr. Matsuda received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, followed by her matriculation at the Southern California College of Optometry, where she graduated with distinction in 1990.
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