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Cosmetics and the Eye


This is Los Angeles. We have to look good! But did you know that many skincare products can actually have a negative impact on our eyes? Any product, including make-up, facial cleansers, anti-aging products, and sunscreen, that you use on your face and around the eyes has the potential to cause problems. Here is what you need to know when shopping for your skincare products.  


Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics

  • The following cosmetic ingredients have been proven to cause eye irritation, inflammation of the eyelids, and moderate to severe dry eyes. Be sure to avoid:

    • Alcohol

    • Argireline (acetyl hexapeptinde-3, Lipotec)

    • Benzalkonium Chloride (BAK)

    • Butylene Glycol

    • Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)

    • Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde donors

    • Isopropryl Closprostenate

    • Parabens

    • Prime Yellow Carnauba Wax

    • Phenoxyethanol

    • Retinol, retinoic acid, retinyl acetate, and retinyl palmitate

    • Any ingredient that you know you are allergic to!


Make-up Product Tips

  • Make-up should be thoroughly removed every night.  

  • Replace makeup 3 months after opening due decrease a buildup of bacteria.

  • Wash and sanitize your brushes every week.

  • Do not use heavy make-up around the eyes. When applying mascara, make sure to not apply too much to the base of the lash. 

  • Do not apply eyeliner directly to the “water line” of the eyelid on a regular basis.

  • Do not use waterproof eye make-up.

  • Do not use makeup around the eyes that is “metallic, glittery, or has sparkles.”

  • Do not share makeup with others, including family and close friends.

  • If you have an eye infection, discard the makeup immediately, and do not use again until the infection has cleared. 

  • Avoid putting on makeup from store samples. These can be contaminated with bacteria.

  • Do not apply your make-up while driving your car.

  • Do not use pins or needles to separate lashes.

  • Be aware. Those products labelled as “hypoallergenic, organic, natural, and even ophthalmologist tested” offer no assurance that these chemicals are not present.

  • Do not use products not specified for use on or around the eyes, such as lip liners or Sharpie markers. 

  • Do not alter products with heat, and be careful where cosmetics are stored. Many are no tsupposed to reach temperatures over 80 degrees F. 

  • Do not moisten eye makeup with saliva, a bodily fluid with myriad bacterial contaminants with potential ocular surface pathogenicity. 

  • Do not use over-the-counter redness relieving drops without consulting your optometrist. Visine and Cleareyes can be damaging to your eyes if used on a regular basis!

  • Do not opt for permanent makeup with eyeliner tatooing. This can be associated with meibomian gland disease. 

  • It is best to not use Botox for crow's feet. This application weakens the orbicularis muscle, leading to incompete blinks and dry eyes. 

  • For eye surgery, do not go to any surgeon! Make sure they are a facial plastic surgeon or oculoplastic ophthalmologist. You will get the best results!

  • And last but not least, beware of the latest trends on social media! Some of these are fabricated by individuals that are unaware of the damage that they could be doing to their eyes.

  • Use your optometrist as a resource if you have any questions!


Contact Lenses and Make-Up

  • Always put on your contact lenses before you apply your make-up. Also, remove the contact lenses before you take off your make-up.

  • Make-up removers and mascaras can actually alter the contact lens curvature, size, and even power. Daily contact lenses that are thrown away every day work best for those that wear make-up.


Maintain Lid Hygiene

  • Coconut oil or Vaseline are safe make-up removers when placed on a cotton swab or pad. Avoid getting them in the eyes, and wash it off thoroughly after use.

  • After make-up removal, wash your eyes with a lid cleaner, such as Ocusoft lid scrubs and a 0.01% hypochlorous acid, such as the Ocusoft Hypochlor.

  • Be careful with using scrubs that have exfoliating beads. These can get into the eye, causing abrasions.


Recommended Mascara, Eyeliner, and Serum Brands

  • Eyes Are the Story

  • We Love Eyes

  • Blinc mascara

  • Zoria

  • Ocusoft

Eyelash Trends

There are four types of eyelash trends: Extensions, False Lashes, Lifts and Tints, and Growth Serums. Each category of enhancements comes with possible ocular side effects.


Eyelash Extensions

  • Common ocular surface complications generally occur when the procedure is performed or afterwards if the extensions and eyelids are not cleaned properly. These include

    • Conjunctivitis (“Pink Eye”);

    • Blepharitis (“Inflammation of the Eyelids”);

    • Demodex (“Eyelid Mite infestation”);

    • Dry eye symptoms, which can be severe;

    • Madarosis (loss of lashes); and

    • Hordeola (“styes”)

  • Patient Tips

    • Only go to a licensed and experienced cosmetologist or esthetician. Make sure they are working in a clean and sterile environment.

    • Do not undergo lash extension if you suffer from a condition called trichotillomania, a disorder characterized by the urge to pull out eyelashes and other hair.

    • Use natural lash lengths.

    • Do not use glue that contains formaldehyde. Use oil-based removers.

    • Do not get the lashes wet for 48 hours after application. This includes avoiding workouts, steam rooms, or hot yoga. The adhesives may reactivate and cause the lashes to stick together.

    • Patients need to practice lid hygiene daily. Remove all make-up. Use hypochlorous acid solutions, such as Hypochlor by OcuSoft to clean the lash base thoroughly to prevent inflammation and bacteria accumulation.

    • Take breaks between fills to prevent traction alopecia.

    • Resist the urge to pull at the lashes. Pulling, picking, or touching the lashes could damage your natural lashes and spread bacteria to your eyes.

    • See your optometrist immediately should any complications arise.


False Eyelashes

  • Common ocular surface complications are similar to extensions. There can also be

    • Corneal abrasions (“scratches”) from application and removal;

    • Contact dermatitis;

    • Conjunctivitis (“Pink Eye”);

    • Keratitis (“Chemical burn on the cornea) from chemical contact; and

    • Poor blinking from the weight of the lashes.

  • Patient Tips

    • Use a glue without formaldehyde.

    • Place a small amount of glue or metallic eyeliner on the inside of the wrist to perform a “patch test,” alerting to potential allergies before occurring on the eyelid.

    • Choose lashes of a natural length (1/3 the eye width).

    • Use partial strips to avoid using more material than necessary.

    • Take breaks from wearing the lashes or reserve them for special occasions only.

    • Mascara is often used in conjunction with false eyelashes to help “blend” them with the real ones. The addition of cosmetics further increases the risk of irritation, allergic reaction, and infection.


Lifts and Tints

  • Lifts

    • Common Ocular Complications

      • Toxic keratoconjunctivitis (“Pink Eye”) can occur from environments that are not sterile and from chemicals that can get in the eyes.

      • Allergic reactions to the perming solutions and adhesives.

    • Patient Tips

      • Only go to a licensed and experienced esthetician. Make sure they are working in a sterile environment.

      • See your optometrist immediately should any complications arise.

  • Tints

    • Common Ocular Complications

      • The main risk is allergic reaction.

        • Allergens will persist for the natural lifecycle of the eyelash, 4-11 months.

        • Toxic and allergenic ingredients commonly found in lash tinting products include hydrogen peroxide, dyes, and fragrances.

      • Stripping the dye out comes with the risk of permanent damage to the follicle. 

  • Patient Tips

    • Only go to a licensed and experienced esthetician. Make sure they are working in a sterile environment.

    • See your optometrist immediately should any complications arise.

  • These procedures are generally combined, meaning the risks are twofold and extra caution should be taken.


Growth Serums

  • Rx: (Latisse)

    • Common Ocular Complications

      • Conjunctival/ eyelid hyperemia (“Redness of the eyelid and white of the eye”)

      • Burning and irritation

      • Loss of periorbital fat

      • Eye colors can darken

      • Prolonged use can lead to dry eyes.

    • Patient Tips

      • Patients with chronic ocular inflammatory conditions, including dry eye disease, should avoid prostaglandin lash serums.

      • See your optometrist immediately should any complications arise.

  • OTC Lash Enhancers (Non-Rx)

    • Common Ocular Complications

      • These have many of the same side effects as Latisse.

    • Patient Tips

      • Look for ingredients that contain “prost,” like isopropyl cloprostenate. 

      • Unlike pharma companies, cosmetic companies are not required to list potential side effects in their packaging, but they are there!

  • Boost Lash Intensifying Serums

    • Patient Tips

      • Our optometrists recommend Zoria by OcuSoft. It can be ordered directly from Visualeyes.

      • These are generally safer than the previous two categories, but they do not necessarily come without risk and may contain other irritating ingredients, so read the ingredient lists.

      • Most growth serums work within a few weeks.

      • They need to be continued everyday or else the effects will not last. Once the product is not used, it stops working.

Anti-Aging Recommendations

  • Wear sunscreen daily! We recommend products with zinc oxide, 3% avobenzone, or mexoryl SX. Avoid vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, or oxybenzone. Wear a hat as well. 

  • Wear sunglasses whenever outside. 

  • Consider injection of dermal fillers in the midface and tear tough. Clinicaly, we have seen improvements in dry eye symptoms after this treatment, likely due to improvements in lid position, blink mechanics, and downward face vectors. 

  • Consider intense pulse light therapy to the face and periocular structures to even out skin tone, photocoagulate Demodex, lightly stimulate collagen remodeling, and control the inflammatory load. 

  • Consider radiofrequency rejuvenation procedures to lift and rejuvenate the tissues in a drug-free and cosmetics-free manner. 

  • Consider CO2 laser surfacing as a superior method of addressing skin elasticity and fine wrinkles. 

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