Makeup Part I: Is it hurting our eyes?

Makeup Part I: Is it hurting our eyes?
Posted on 05/05/2016
Makeup Part I: Is it hurting our eyes?

Our eyes go through a lot of daily abuse whether it’s from the makeup we wear, environmental irritants and toxins, or hours of screen time on the computer.  Though we can’t avoid most environmental eye irritants, we can control the products that we use daily on and around our eyes.

Many popular cosmetics contain known toxins and allergens. The FDA doesn’t actively regulate the safety of ingredients in cosmetics except for a select few compounds that have been banned from use in the United States. Other countries such as Canada and the UK have much more restrictions on cosmetic ingredients. Curious about which harmful ingredients may be part of your daily beauty routine? Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database  breaks down the ingredients of over 60,000 products and gives an overall hazard rating for each product. Products with a score or 1-2 are considered low risk, scores of 3-6 are moderate risk and 7-10 are high risk. Another database, COSDNA, can be used to look up the ingredients of virtually any commercial cosmetic.

Be sure to avoid makeups with any of the following ingredients: arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, carmine, lead, nickel, selenium, thallium, Retinyl Acetate.  If you are prone to allergies avoid all products containing parabens (i.e. Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, and Propylparaben) and propelyne glycol (found in mascara). 

Other harmful habits include the following:

Loose powder/glitter eyeshadow

Loose powders and glitters can clog the oil secreting glands in the eyelids called meibomian glands. This can cause chronic dry eye, eyelid disease, acute styes and eye irritation. Replace loose powders with a cream shadow or apply with a damp brush to minimize migration into the eye. (Tip: over the counter lubricating eye drops are a great way to wet your eye shadow brushes! Never use your own saliva!)

Fiber lash lengthening mascara

Similarly, the fibers in these mascaras can enter the eye and cause mechanical irritation to the eye’s surface and clog glands. Instead opt for a volumizing or conditioning mascara. 

Eyeliner applied to the inner lid margin

Applying liners to the inner lid margin or “water line” exposes the eye directly to whatever chemicals/irritants are in your products. The reason this is called the water line is because that is where your tears sit. With every blink the tears drag eyeliner particles and  disperse them onto the ocular surface. This changes your tear stability causing tears to evaporate more quickly drying out the ocular surface. Imagine driving in the rain with dirty wipers! The inner lid margin is also where the meibomian glands open up to release oil into your tears. You don’t want to be drawing on these or they will get clogged further drying out the eyes and making the glands more prone to infections (i.e. styes) 

Importance of Makeup Removal and Eyelid Hygiene:

I cannot stress enough the importance of proper daily eye makeup removal. Many makeup removers are not specifically formulated for ophthalmic use and may be too harsh for daily use around the eyes. Try to avoid products with mineral oil, sodium lauryl sulfate and diazolidinyl urea. 

The following are some safe alternatives:

  1. Hypoallergenic/Gentle Eye makeup removers  (skin deep score in parenthesis)
    • Almay Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads or Liquid (2)
    • Aveda Pure Comfort Eye Makeup Remover (2)
    • Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Makeup Remover (not graded)
    • Estee Lauder Gentle Eye Makeup Remover (not graded)
    • Loreal Clean Artiste Waterproof and Long Wearing Eye Makeup Remover (2)
    • Lumene Sensitive Touch Gentle Eye Makeup Remover (1)
    • Maybelline Expert Eyes Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover (2)
    • Neutrogena Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover (3)
    • Physicians Formula Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads (2) and Lotion (3)
  2. Johnson & Johnson’s natural Baby Shampoo — Yes, you can shampoo your makeup off.  The natural formula is similar to the classic no tear formula but without any added dyes or parabens. Dilute less than a dime sized dollop of shampoo with some warm water and lather the lids and lashes gently. Then rinse thoroughly (eyes closed). Repeat as needed for full makeup removal. You can also use a cotton tip or cotton round to apply the baby shampoo, just be sure to rinse it completely off the eyes. (Pro Tip: during allergy season clean eyelids daily before you go to sleep to reduce allergen build up on the lids and lashes)
  3. Blink™ eyelid cleansing wipes — These are specially formulated products for eyelid cleaning. The premoistened wipe is usually enough to clean off your eye makeup as well as the rest of your face. Gently wipe eyelids and lashes clean with 1 pad. I like to use the folded edge to clean off my eye makeup first before unfolding the cloth and using it on the rest of my face. No need to rinse off this gentle formula!
  4. Prescription Avenona or Acuicyn ( .1% hypochlorous acid spray solution) — This is a gentle prescription eyelid disinfectant. Not a great makeup remover on its own, but it works synergistically to prevent infection and infestation of the eyes and surrounding lash follicles. Ask your doctor about this product if you have chronic blepharitis or recurring styes or eye infections.

Talia M. Mishkin, O.D.


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