The products you use around your eyes play an important part in your eye health. Similar to brushing your teeth daily, eye hygiene and removal of make-up is essential. We all react to products on our skin differently and for those of us who are more sensitive, hypo-allergenic products are preferable. For those with dry eyes or contact lens wearers, it is particularly important to develop healthy habits with eye hygiene. Eye make-up products - whether they are applied to our eyelashes or around our eyes, affect different anatomical parts of the eye. Below are some tips for different eye make-up application.
-Eyeliner. When using eyeliner, be mindful that application on the waterline (inner eyelid) can block the meibomian glands (see image 1) and contaminate the eye 1. A study done in the Faculty of Science at Waterloo found that within 5 minutes, 15-30% more make-up particles were found in the tear film when eyeliner was applied to the waterline, compared to application outside of this 1. Our meibomian glands secrete the lipid layer of our tears which stop our tears from evaporating and thus it is important that these glands are open and functioning. Shortly after application of eyeliner, there are demonstrated changes to the tear film and its stability 2.
Eyeliner application if used, should avoid the waterline to reduce its effect on our tears.
-Eyeshadow. This is applied further from the glands and inner structures of the eyes, however certain types of eye shadows that smear easily, may also end up in your tear film. Studies show that this product in addition to mascara, can cause the greatest discomfort amongst many cosmetic products 3. Contact lens wearers should also be mindful that eyeshadow may deposit on their contact lenses and this should be avoided 3.
-Mascara. This is a common make-up item that needs to be changed regularly. Our skin has normal bacteria such as Staphylococcus Aureus and some people may have a build-up of bacteria on their eyelashes termed ‘anterior blepharitis’. A maximum of 3-month use of a mascara wand before replacement is important to reduce harbouring bacteria 4. When your optometrist performs a slit lamp microscopy exam, they look at your lashes for signs of blepharitis. If this is present, you may need an additional eyelid cleaner such as an antibacterial foam, which is used to scrub your lids and lashes at least once per day. Research has demonstrated that mascara can also cause pigmentation inside the eye at the lacrimal sac (part of the duct to the lacrimal system which contains anatomical structures used for tear production and drainage) 5.
-Anti-ageing eye creams. These creams are often applied around the eyes. Research shows that the retinoids present in these eye creams can negatively affect meibomian gland function (the glands which secrete the oil in our tears), and potentially contribute to dry eye disease 2. Studies investigating the effect of systemic isotretinoin on animal models demonstrated signs of blepharitis and meibomian gland ductal epithelium thickening, as well as decreased mature gland acini, which contribute to the lipid (oily) layer of our tears 2. There was also reduction in the number and size of meibomian gland acini (see image 2) 2. Human studies of those taking systemic isotretinoin for acne also demonstrated dry eye symptoms, blepharitis and Meibomian gland dysfunction. The lacrimal gland, which secretes the aqueous tears, also releases isotretinoin. “The potential impact of the usage of anti-aging facial and eye creams and gels on developing meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye syndrome is great” 2.
Image 2. A single meibomian gland has clustered acini that secrete meibum. (Knop et al, 2011.)
Removal of make-up before going to sleep is essential. Water alone cannot effectively remove cosmetic products, whereas surfactants in cosmetic removal products dissolve and alter the solubility of oils and waxes found in make-up 2. Note that water-proof mascara is removed best by oils, so investing in an oil-based make-up remover is beneficial 2. Oil-free make-up removal products have different surfactant concentrations which are good at removing cosmetics, however may solubilize the sebum in the eyelids and irritate the skin around your eyes 2. Your optometrist has eye-lid wipes and antibacterial foams that may also be used for make-up removal, particularly for those with dry/sensitive eyes.
The Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society Dry Eye Workshop (DEWS 2) latest report notes that exposure to cosmetic products, many of which contain toxic products, can elicit dry eye symptoms 7. For those with very sensitive eyes and/ or moderate to severe dry eyes, your optometrist may recommend avoiding eye make-up.
**Take home messages **
• The best way to ensure no additional irritation of the eyes, dry eyes and deposits on your contact lenses is to avoid eye make-up.
• When make-up is applied, avoid the inner part of the eye, particularly the waterline, as this can affect your tears and cause irritation.
• Retinoids present in anti-ageing creams and gels can contribute to dry eye and meibomian gland dysfunction.
• Ensure you have a good make-up remover that you use before going to sleep.
• Ensure all make-up products are changed regularly and that make-up brushes are washed regularly too.
• Your optometrist examines the health of your eye with a slit lamp microscope and can detect signs of cosmetic products depositing on the eye, tear film and/or your contact lenses.
- Alison Ng, Katharine Evans, Rachel V. North, Christine Purslow. Migration of Cosmetic Products into the Tear Film. Eye & Contact Lens: Science & Clinical Practice, 2015.
- Alison Ng, Katharine Evans, Rachel V. North, Christine Purslow. Impact of Eye Cosmetics on the Eye, Adnexa, and Ocular Surface. Eye & Contact Lens: Science & Clinical Practice, 2016. 42(4): 211-220. DOI: 10.1097/ICL.0000000000000181
- Gao Y & Kanengiser BE. Categorical evaluation of the ocular irritancy of cosmetic and consumer products by human ocular instillation procedures. J Cosmet Sci 2004; 55: 317– 325.
- Pack LD et al. (2008). Microbial contamination associated with mascara use. Optometry. Oct;79(10):587-93. doi: 10.1016/j.optm.2008.02.011.
- 5.Clifford, Luke & Jeffrey, M & Maclean, H. (2011). Lacrimal sac pigmentation due to mascara. Eye (London, England). 25. 397-8. 10.1038/eye.2010.209.
- 6.Ciolino, Joseph & M Mills, David & R Meyer, Dale. (2009). Ocular Manifestations of Long-Term Mascara Use. Ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery. 25. 339-41. 10.1097/IOP.0b013e3181ab443e.
- 7.Gomes, J et al. (2017_. TFOS DEWS II iatrogenic report. Ocul Surf. Jul;15(3):511-538. doi: 10.1016/j.jtos.2017.05.004.
Natalie Buckman is a clinical optometrist, educator, professional leader and ophthalmic medicines prescriber, who enjoys exploring the world and hitting the dance floor in her spare time.