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Love makeup, love your eyes too

Most women love makeup for its magical, feature-enhancing capabilities, and of all the features to be amplified, the eyes are top of the agenda. Decked with mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow, eyes sparkle with beautiful boldness. But they can also get irritated, red and infected through poor makeup hygiene and bad habits. Eye issues that can occur from using makeup can include allergic reactions, conjunctivitis and scratched corneas.

According to Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision, scratched corneas are the most troublesome problems associated with makeup use.

“Accidentally sticking an eyeliner pencil or mascara brush into your eye can cause an abrasion on the cornea. These can be very painful and cause redness and tearing, as well as lead to a bacterial infection of the cornea. Always apply makeup carefully in front of a mirror.”

woman applying make up under her eye

He also explains that there are oil glands at the edges of the eyelids which create the oily component of tears which lubricate the eyes. Makeup can block these glands, causing an inflammatory condition called posterior meibomitis – another reason to be careful when applying mascara and eyeliner. Make-up should not be applied on the waterline, which is the flat inner rim of the eye inside the lash line.

Allergic reactions to ingredients or chemicals in makeup products are not uncommon. Naude advises women to first test eye makeup products on their inner forearms before applying to their eyes. A patch test can be done by applying the product to the forearm and then covering it with a plaster for the day to see if there is a reaction. Those who are prone to allergic reactions should choose formulas that are hypoallergenic and ophthalmologist-tested.

Conjunctivitis (pinkeye) can arise from using makeup products that are past their expiry dates or haven’t been properly sealed. Bacteria can form in the product, causing infection.

Naude advocates the less-is-more approach to eye makeup.

“Thick, cakey layers of eye shadow and mascara have more chance of flaking and falling into your eyes. Makeup residue can block oil glands as well as cause irritation to the cornea. You can get away with wearing a little bit of makeup and allowing your beautiful eyewear frames to do the fashion work for you. Importantly, always wash off your eye makeup before you go to bed to give your eyes a breather,” he says. 

Dynamic Vision Optometrists offers these tips for avoiding makeup related eye issues:

  • Use a gentle eye makeup remover to remove your makeup before going to bed.
  • Throw away mascara and liquid eyeliners if they appear cakey or have a weird odour. Typically, these products have a three to six-month lifespan.
  • Do not use makeup products when you have an eye infection. Discard of any products that you have used during an infection.
  • Never share eye makeup products with other people as this promotes the transfer of bacteria that can cause infection
  • Do not apply eye makeup while in a moving vehicle. One bump in the road could lead to an accidental stab of an eyeliner pencil into your eye.
  • If you are prone to skin allergies, use hypoallergenic products and always do a patch test before applying to your eyelids or lashes.
  • Avoid applying eyeliner on the inside of your lash line. Instead, apply eyeliner just above your lashes.
  • If you wear contact lenses, insert them before applying makeup.
  • Avoid applying heavy makeup close to your eyes to reduce the chance of it flaking into them.
  • Discontinue using any product that you suspect could be irritating your eyes. Red eyes, pain, itchiness and vision changes are signs that your eyes could be unhappy.
  • See your eye care provider if you experience any unwanted or uncomfortable symptoms.


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