By Erin Coley

Have you heard the rumours? Mascara, bad for your eyes? Blasphemy! Just three weeks ago, I began experiencing a sharp needle-like pain, primarily in my left eye. The sensation typically didn’t last for more than a second, but it continued to happen once or twice each day. After a week of symptoms, I began to panic, worst-case scenarios swirling in my head. Brain tumour? Blindness? What was happening to me?

When I calmed down enough to think logically, I began to deliberate over the changes I had made in my routine around the time the pain first started. I soon realised that I had recently purchased a new brand of mascara the week before, and wondered if my mascara could be the culprit. I stopped using my mascara, and within a few days, my eye pain had disappeared.

My recent experience made me curious about the effects mascara can have on your eyes. I know mascara may be every girl’s makeup bag staple, but should it be? Perhaps you’ve had a similar negative experience with mascara or heard tidbits of information about the safety of the daily use mascara?  This raises the question; is mascara bad for your eyes?

The Negative Effects Of Mascara

Bad habits, expired eye makeup, and adverse reactions to ingredients in your mascara can cause discomfort to the skin around the eyes. If you have sensitive skin, you may be more prone to experience allergic reactions, itchiness, inflammation, and eczema.

But don’t fret! There are steps you can take to reduce your chances of experiencing these symptoms and keep your eyes and lashes healthy, which we’ll get to in a minute.

It’s All In The Formulation

So what ingredients found in mascara trigger these harmful effects around your eye? Retinyl acetate, parabens, sulphates, phthalate, and coal tar are just a few of the additives found in some mascaras.

Not only can these ingredients cause symptoms such as itchiness, redness, and inflammation in and around the eyes, but they can also be linked to many other health risks. Asthma, headaches, nausea, gene mutation, breast cancer, and potential damage to the liver, lungs, kidneys, and reproductive systems are all potential risks of using products with these ingredients.

Risks Of Damage To Your Eyes

Have you ever been running late to work and thought it was a good idea to put on your mascara in the car? If so, stop! Don’t risk it! A corneal abrasion, also known as a scratched cornea, is extremely painful, and many women have fallen victim to the accidental mascara wand stab to the eye. A corneal abrasion is also a risk if any foreign object, like mascara flakes, scratches your cornea. That risk increases if you’re wearing contact lenses.

The CDC reported that in the United States alone, there are 45 million people who wear contact lenses, and two-thirds of them are women–potentially wearing mascara. If you are one of the millions of contact lens wearers worldwide, you’ll want to be even more diligent about your overall eye health.

Ophthalmologist Dr Mona Adeli from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, noted, “Wearing contact lenses can increase the risk of eye problems such as irritation and infection, particularly with poor contact lens hygiene. If your makeup hygiene is subpar, these risks are even higher. However, with the appropriate contact lens hygiene and makeup hygiene, most people can safely incorporate both contact lenses and makeup into their daily routines.”

What You Should Look For In A Mascara

Choose a mascara without retinyl acetate, parabens, sulphates, phthalate, coal tar, and other harmful ingredients. Avoid waterproof mascara if at all possible. Waterproof mascara damages the eyelashes and area around the eyes because it’s more difficult to remove.

Instead, consider using a tubing mascara. Tubing mascaras wrap polymers around your lashes, preventing smudging and flaking around the eyes, yet aren’t as hard to remove as waterproof mascara.

Here’s How You Can Cut Down On The Negative Effects Of Using Mascara

Eye Makeup Removal

Part of your evening ritual should always include removing all of your makeup, especially your mascara. Be picky about what products you use around your eyes by choosing a gentle cleanser or hydrating eye makeup remover. Steer clear of eye makeup removers that include artificial dyes or fragrances and avoid alcohol-based formulas, as they dry out the skin around your eyes. Instead, take your time and remove your eye makeup with care, opting for a hydrating oil-based cleanser. 

Dr Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, warns, “Aggressively rubbing your eyes can cause irritation, which is often associated with the onset of wrinkles and premature ageing. You take time to put on your makeup, so you should take as much time and care to remove it.” 

Throw Out Old Mascara

You’ll also want to make sure that you are replacing your mascara every three-months. Stacey Menzer, a professional cosmetic artist with over 20 years of experience, discussed the importance of throwing out old mascara in an interview with Women’s Health Magazine. “The product that goes bad in the shortest amount of time is mascara since bacteria breeds quickly and each use pumps drying air into the tube. Toss after two to three months—or even sooner if you notice it’s getting clumpy or smells weird,” noted Menzer.

Brush Those Lashes

Stimulate eyelash growth by brushing your lashes out each day using an eyelash comb. This action promotes healthy lashes by distributing the natural oils along the entire length of your eyelashes.

Condition Your Lashes

If you’re not careful, mascara can dry out your lashes, causing them to break more easily. Eyelash brushing is helpful but take your eyelash care a step further with extra conditioning. Try coating your lashes with lemon-infused olive oil or Vitamin E before bedtime to help protect, lengthen, and condition your eyelashes.

So, is mascara bad for your eyes? No, not inherently. There’s no reason why you can’t wear mascara and have healthy lashes. Just make sure you choose a product with safe ingredients and implement healthy routines when it comes to caring for your eyes and don’t forget that once opened, your mascara’s life span is three-months, so once it reaches the end of its lifespan, toss it.