THE DARKER SIDE
A study on eyeliner directed by Dr. Alison Ng and her colleagues has recently exploded across internet news, including coverage from Reuters. The commonly used cosmetic is not necessarily ‘damaging’ the way some have interpreted the study, but it can carry some risks of vision problems and could potentially affect eye health depending on your eyeliner style.
The study looked at the application of eyeliner on the inner and outer sides of the lash line, monitoring the ‘migration’ of eyeliner particles into the eye. Application of eyeliner on the interior side/inner lid is a popular style for ‘smokey’ and ‘big eyes’ looks, however, this style could put your eyes at greater risk of infection and blurred vision. The study observed how the eyeliner particles of both application styles migrated into the tear film (thin coating protecting the eye). Inside the lash line, the eyeliner migrated quicker and there were more (15-30%) particles moving into the tear film than when applied to outside the lash line.
So, why is this important? Many people have worn eyeliner on the inner side of the lash and never had any eye problems. Yes, this is true because after time the amount of make-up moving into the tear film decreases and after a couple of hours, they found there was a negligible amount left- our natural defenses (i.e. tearing) are pretty good at washing away unwanted particles. However, Dr. Ng also highlighted that the eyeliner can alter the tear film, which can add to discomfort, especially for those with dry or sensitive eyes.
Furthermore, wearers contact lenses may be at a greater risk of retaining unwanted particles as eyeliner often contains waxes and oils that can adhere to the lens (usually designed to adhere to the skin), which can build up and cause redness and irritation. It may also allow for introduction of harmful bacteria from the eyeliner, which can cause eye infections or blurred vision as the lens becomes cloudier.
The study was small, and is not able to provide a definitive conclusion that eyeliner on the interior side of the lash line is definitely harmful, or shed light on the long-term effects. However, it does highlight the possible risks that can be associated, especially for contact lens wearers, with applying eyeliner on the inside of the lash line and it may be advisable to re-think the ‘big eyes’ look, and opt for application outside the lashes.
As a general rule, you don’t want to have any foreign visitors in your tear film, and regardless of where you apply your eyeliner, maintaining healthy vision is important. Cosmetic hygiene and ‘application don’ts’ can help reduce your risk of eye infections, scratches, and suffering with discomfort or blurred vision. See below for cosmetic care tips.
Cosmetic Care Tips:
- Keep your eye cosmetics clean! - Make sure applicators, eyelash curlers, brushes, etc. are clean (you can use soap, detergent, or a mild shampoo) before each use, as harmful bacteria can grow in them, which can cause an eye infection.
- Do not share or swap eye cosmetics (even with very close friends and family) - Others may have germs or bacteria that may be harmful to you. You are also at greater risk of contamination using testers in stores where multiple people use the same product – avoid testing eye products if you can!
- Do not apply eye make-up on the tube, train, bus, car, or anything else that is moving - One bump, jolt, emergency stop could cause you to injure your eye, such as scratching the cornea. Even small scratches can lead to a serious eye infection.
- If your eye make-up is causing you irritation, stop using it and remove it immediately, if it persists see a doctor.
- Wash your hands! - Our hands carry bacteria that can transfer to your eye, which can then cause an eye infection – err on the side of caution and apply your eye make-up (especially eyeliner) with clean hands.
- Keep cosmetic containers clean and don’t use old containers - Mascara manufacturers usually recommend discarding after two – four months after purchase.
- Don’t add water to products (i.e. dried up mascara) - Adding water can introduce bacteria, and it can dilute the preservative that is meant to protect against microbial growth.
- Take extra care to not scratch the eye when both applying and removing eye make-up - This can lead to an eye infection.
- Don’t use make-up on your eyes that is not intended for the area as it may contain ingredients that are not approved for the eye.
- Try to avoid storing your cosmetics in direct sunlight or next to heat sources. A cool, dry place is best.
- Sharpen your eyeliner pencil to remove any residual ‘stuff’ and cut off a bit of the end with twist-up eyeliner to start with a fresh tip.
- Always remove make-up before bed.