Dr. Emma Davies, cornea specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear, offers some tips to keep you from getting an eye infection from your makeup.
For many of us, putting on makeup is a regular part of the morning routine. But did you know that it can pose risks to your eye health? According to Emma Davies, MD, of the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service at Mass. Eye and Ear, the biggest concerns are eye infections, scratches on the cornea and allergic reactions.
To keep your eyes healthy and beautiful, follow these tips:
Test New Makeup Before Applying Near the Eyes
Eye makeup can cause allergic reactions, especially if you have sensitive skin. Before using a new product, apply a small amount on the inside of your elbow and wait 48-72 hours.
“If the area becomes red, itchy, or swollen, you may have an allergy and should stop using the product,” Dr. Davies said.
Preservatives like parabens, phenoxyethanol, quaternium 15 and formaldehyde are common triggers.
Replace Your Makeup Regularly
Makeup doesn’t last forever. “If your mascara or eyeliner is old, there’s a chance it’s been contaminated with bacteria from your skin, and you could end up with a serious eye infection,” Dr. Davies said. She recommends throwing away any eye makeup after three to four months.
Keep it Clean
Wash your hands before you apply eye makeup. This prevents germs from being transferred to your face and eyes.
Makeup brushes are also magnets for dirt and bacteria. Dr. Davies recommends washing them at least once a week with diluted baby shampoo.
Put Your Contact Lenses in First
If you wear contacts, it’s easy for bacteria and debris to get trapped under the lenses, which can irritate the eye and lead to infection. Put your contact lenses in before applying your makeup. And avoid heavy makeup near the eyes.
Don’t Apply Makeup in Moving Vehicles
When you’re pressed for time, it can be tempting to put your mascara on in the car. But if the car stops short or hits a bump, you could accidentally poke your eye with your mascara brush or other makeup tool. This can result in a painful scratched cornea that can get infected.
Apply Eyeliner on the Outside of your Lash Line
“Waterlining, or putting eyeliner on the inside of your eyelid, is not safe,” Dr. Davies said. The delicate surface that lines the lid can get irritated, and debris can build up to dangerous “bumps” that can cause permanent scarring.
The eyeliner can also block the oil glands that help protect your eyes, resulting in painful dry eyes, and it can introduce bacteria into the eye.
Leave False Eyelashes to the Professionals
Many people are allergic to eyelash extensions and the glue used during the process. And if the glue accidentally enters your eye, it can damage the cornea (causing a corneal burn) and potentially lead to infection. It’s best to avoid false eyelashes, but if you want to wear them for a special occasion, go to a certified aesthetician.
Remove Makeup Before Bed
Your eyes are sensitive. Sleeping with your makeup on increases the risk of eye infection, irritation, dryness, and allergic reactions, says Dr. Davies.
Since many people become sensitive to makeup removers over time, she recommends washing your face with a diluted baby shampoo and lukewarm water. “Using a washcloth, gently rub along the eyelid margins, being careful not to pull on the eyelids or eyelashes,” she says.
Give Your Eyes a Break
Wearing cosmetics all the time can lead to dry eyes. Let your eyes rest, and skip the makeup for one to two days per week.
When to See an Eye Doctor
If you think you may have an eye infection, it’s important to see an eye doctor right away. Common signs of infection include:
- Pus-like discharge
- Vision problems (such as blurry vision)
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensation of having something in your eye
About our Expert
Emma Davies, MD, is an ophthalmologist in the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service at Mass. Eye and Ear. She sees patients at the main campus (243 Charles Street, Boston) and Longwood and Waltham locations.