Home SEE WELL Can Mascara Damage Your Eyes? (And More Makeup & Cosmetics Issues)

Can Mascara Damage Your Eyes? (And More Makeup & Cosmetics Issues)

by Louise Wood
mascara eyes

When you put on makeup and apply facial cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreen, have you ever thought about the effects the cosmetics can have on your eyes?

Using cosmetics such as these around your eyes can result in unpleasant consequences including allergy, infection, injury, and vision loss. You need to consider the ingredients in the product and its use-by date. Let’s examine some of the risks and tips for avoiding them.


There is nothing pleasant or attractive about a puffy red eye. However, with some common sense, it’s easy to steer clear of getting an eye infection from your makeup.

  • Bacteria can thrive if your cosmetics have been open and used for longer than the recommended time. Replace expired products.
  • Clean your brushes and sponges regularly.
  • If you develop an eye infection, always discard your eye makeup.

A study published in 2008 found 36.4% of mascara tubes harbored bacteria three months after opening. This highlights the importance of discarding the tube regularly to minimize the risk of infection.

And just to make your skin crawl…

Demodex folliculorum mite is a type of parasite that lives on all of us, in or around hair follicles, including the base of eyelashes. Ocular Demodex mites feed on dead skin cells and love oil-rich environments. They survive quite nicely in oil-based cosmetic products and applicators!

Allergic reactions

Common allergens in cosmetics include nickel, iron oxide, and preservatives. You won’t always know if you are allergic to these components until you have a reaction. It often becomes a stealth mission to determine which ingredient you’ve reacted to.


Take care when applying your eye makeup! There’s nothing more uncomfortable than a mascara wand scraping across your eye. An abrasion on the surface of your eye is akin to a handful of sand in it and can irreversibly affect your sight. Do not apply makeup in a moving vehicle.

Here are more practices you should maintain to keep your eyes safe.

Keep your contact lenses clean

Always ensure you practice good hygiene measures when handling your contact lenses.

  • Wash your hands and insert your contact lenses before you apply makeup.
  • Always take your makeup off at bedtime.
  • Wash your hands and carefully remove your contact lenses first. Then, use gentle cleansers to completely remove all makeup from around your eyes.

Beware of…

  • Mascara
    Irritating substances can flake off causing inflammation, infection or injury. Flakes can also accumulate in the tear film in your eye making it dry and irritated.
  • Eyeliner
    As it is usually applied along the base of your eyelashes it can be difficult to remove. Cadmium is a heavy metal found in some eyeliners that can damage the cells in your eye and cause scarring.
  • Eye shadow
    Powered or glitter eye shadow and face powders can embed themselves in your eye and cause irritation or infection.
  • Lash growth products
    These products are relatively new to the cosmetic world and contain prostaglandins that cause inflammation and contribute to dry eye.
  • Eyelash extensions
    You may be allergic to the glue that is used to fasten the lashes and the glue can affect the closing of your eye resulting in dryness.
  • Eyelash/eyebrow tints
    Chemicals can cause serious injury and affect your vision irreversibly if they end up in your eye.

What about permanent makeup?

Cosmetic tattooing has been popular in some cultures for years. Its convenience is making it more common in the Western world. A local anesthetic is administered , then a vibrating needle deposits pigment under the skin—like a tattoo.

Things can go badly, if the permanent cosmetics is performed by someone with little training or appreciation for the anatomy of the eye. The color of the pigment used can also be dangerous and elicit an allergic reaction in the sensitive skin around your eye. Like all body ink, there is a risk of infection and HIV transmission.

Dangerous chemicals

Some additives in cosmetics are not approved for use in the U.S. One of these is kohl which has been linked to lead poisoning in children. Always understand what is in your makeup before you buy! The FDA has an approved list of additives for cosmetics.

10 take-home tips to maintain your eye health

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Never share cosmetics.
  3. Apply eyeliner on the outside of the lash line to avoid it scratching your eye.  
  4. Toss your eye makeup before it expires.
  5. Discard makeup following an eye or skin infection.
  6. Store cosmetics below 85°F.
  7. Never apply makeup in a moving vehicle.
  8. Thoroughly remove eye makeup at the end of the day.
  9. Introduce one new product at a time to monitor for allergic reactions.
  10. Swerve glitter and metallic makeup and those that contain dangerous chemicals.

Despite all the doom and gloom, it is possible to have fabulous sparkling eyes without causing lasting damage, Exercise simple precautions to maximize your eye health!

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