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  • How To Use Cosmetics Safely Around Your Eyes

    Reviewed By Rebecca J Taylor, MD
    Edited By Vered Hazanchuk
    Published Aug. 29, 2022

    Face paint, glittery eyeshadow, long and colorful eyelash extensions. They may seem like a harmless way of enhancing your Halloween costume, but if not done correctly, certain cosmetic products found in your local drugstore could cause damaging eye infections. Remember these tips for safely applying makeup and cosmetics around the eyes.

    Eye Makeup Safety Tips

    Follow these basic steps to protect your eyes while using makeup. If you have questions about your cosmetics routine, or if you have an eye condition that may require special care, ask your doctor.

    Avoid Glitter Eye Makeup

    Be careful with metallic, glitter, sparkle powder, or face paint. Flakes can fall into the eye, get into the tear film and irritate your eyes. Glitter eye makeup is a common cause of corneal irritation or infection, especially for people who wear contact lenses. Larger glitter or inclusions in makeup can scratch the eye, much like getting sand or dirt in your eye. When using face paint, make sure to avoid the lash line. 

    Applying Faux Eyelashes

    Eyelash extensions can be done safely, if applied by a professional. Most eyelash extensions are placed using tweezers and a specially formulated, semi-permanent glue. There are also magnetic eyelashes, which are applied with an eyeliner with tiny magnetic particles in it.

    Both magnetic and glued lashes can irritate the sensitive skin around the eyes or dip into the eye and scratch the cornea if not applied well. To reduce the likelihood of these possible complications, wear false lashes for special occasions only, and make sure to have a professional do it. If you experience any discomfort, see an ophthalmologist right away.

    There's enough to consider with eyelash extensions that we produced a whole article about how to get eyelash extensions safely.

    How to Avoid Eye Infection

    • Only use cosmetics that are designed for use around the eyes. Avoid products that contain untested or harsh chemicals.
    • Throw away eye makeup after three months and get new products. Infection-causing bacteria grow easily in creamy or liquid eye makeup.
    • Before applying makeup, be sure your face and eyelids are very clean.
    • Always apply makeup outside the lash line, away from the eye, to avoid blocking the oil glands of the upper or lower eyelid. These glands secrete oil that protects the eye’s surface.
    • Never share eye makeup, even with family or close friends.
    • When sampling makeup in stores use only fresh applicators and samples that have not been contaminated by multiple users. The safest choice is to avoid store samples altogether.
    • If you develop an eye infection, like pink eye, immediately toss all of your eye makeup and don't use eye makeup until the infection is gone

    How to Avoid Allergic Reactions

    • Introduce only one new eye makeup or care product at a time, especially if you tend to have allergic reactions easily. Don't add another new product until you know you're not reacting to the first one.
    • If you notice an allergic reaction to makeup:
      • Find out what the ingredients are so you can watch out for them in other products.
      • Let your doctor know. Your doctor may know about products that are prone to causing reactions, and about gentler alternatives.

    How to Avoid Eye Injury

    • Never apply makeup while in a moving vehicle.
    • If your lashes are clumped together by mascara or another product, do not use anything sharp to separate the lashes. You can easily poke or scratch your eye this way.
    • If you've recently had eye surgery, do not wear makeup around the eye until your ophthalmologist tells you it is safe to do so.

    What About Heated Eyelash Curlers?

    Heated eyelash curlers can help provide an extra long-lasting lift compared to mechanical ones. However, too much heat around the eye can be dangerous. It can cause lashes to fall out, damage the skin around the eye, or damage the eye itself.

    “Human skin can sustain first-degree burns at 118 degrees Fahrenheit and second-degree burns at 131 degrees. Since the skin of the eyelids is especially thin, it will damage easier and at lower temperatures,” said Natasha Herz, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. These products often range from 100 degrees to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. “Even more concerning is if the hand of the user isn't so steady or accidentally bumps against something, causing the curling iron to touch the conjunctiva or cornea. This would cause a thermal injury that, at best, will take a week to heal. If it causes a burn in the center of the cornea, over the pupil and in the line of sight, it can cause a scar that will cause permanent loss of vision.” 

    If you are using a heated eyelash curler, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

    • Check the exact temperature of each setting and start with the lowest temperature possible
    • Be careful not to pull too hard on the lashes
    • Do not repeatedly go over the same area multiple times; this can cause heat damage
    • Avoid using this product if you have sensitive eyes. If you're unsure if this product is right for you, talk to your ophthalmologist

    What About Latisse?

    Latisse is a prescription eyelash enhancer. It's applied to the lash line to promote the growth of longer, thicker eyelashes. There are some possible side-effects to watch out for, which is why it's only available by prescription.

    You may have seen non-prescription beauty products for eyelash growth being sold in stores, but Latisse is the only lash growth product currently FDA approved. Since these other products have not been FDA tested, both safety and ability to promote eyelash growth has not been officially proven. The best way to ensure safe use of eyelash growth products is to consult with an ophthalmologist before using.

    How to Remove Makeup From Around the Eyes

    Remove all eye makeup at night before sleeping, especially mascara that can stick to the lashes. If not removed properly, eye makeup can cause irritation. In one example, a 50-year-old woman who slept with mascara on for more than 25 years developed uncomfortable black lumps underneath her eyelids, which led to follicular conjunctivitis.

    • Vaseline is a very effective makeup remover. It's lubricating, soothing to skin and helps makeup slide off without unnecessary tugging and pulling.
    • Baby shampoo is an inexpensive and ophthalmologist-recommended product for washing eyelids and the area around the eyes. These 'tear-free' soaps are often recommended to people prone to styes, chalazia and blepharitis for washing their eyes.
    • Whatever eye makeup remover you use, avoid getting it in your eyes.
    • Thoroughly rinse any remover off your eyelids.
    • Brush a clean cotton swab along the base of the eyelashes to remove all makeup remnants.
    • Be especially careful with exfoliating scrubs and don't use them around your eyes. Cleansers with scrubbing beads or gritty additions can scratch and irritate your eyes.
    • Be gentle with your eyelashes and the delicate areas around your eyes. Eyelashes are important for keeping dust and dirt out of your eyes. They also keep your eyes from drying out by blocking air movement over your tear film.