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Women’s Eye Health Month: An Eye on Cosmetics

Women's eyes are regularly exposed to potential irritants through the use of cosmetics. As eye shadow, mascara and eye liner can breed unseen dirt and bacteria, it is vital to ensure that the products you use to apply and remove your makeup are hygienic to prevent irritation that can cause redness, discomfort and the potential development of an eye infection.

Here are a few tips to help ensure that your beauty routine is safe and hygienic:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you start and make sure that any applicator you use near your eyes is clean.
  • Make sure that the containers housing your products are dirt free and that you don't leave brushes or applicators on a surface where they can pick up germs.
  • Avoid dampening or adding saliva to your makeup as this can introduce bacteria and reduce its shelf life.
  • Discard any product that you know was exposed to germs or dirty surfaces.
  • Steer clear of sharing eye cosmetics, whether it is with family or friends. It is likely to transfer bacteria to your eyes.
  • Stay away from testers in stores unless they use single-use applicators or brushes.
  • If you wear contact lenses, insert the lenses before applying eye makeup to avoid getting makeup underneath the lens.

It's also important to be aware of injuries that can be caused by applying and removing eye makeup.

  • Never apply mascara or eye shadow in a moving vehicle or in a location where a sudden bump will cause the applicator or cosmetic brush to jab your eye and scratch the eye surface. In addition to scratching or injuring your eye, this could allow chemicals to enter the eye and can cause burning and inflammation.
  • Don't use your fingers to put on eye makeup as they might accidentally touch the surface of your eye in the process, leading to irritation.

As many cosmetics contain chemicals, it is likely that they will cause irritation if they come into close contact with your eye. This is especially true if a product you use is not intended for use on your eyes (make sure to use your lip liner on your lips and not on your eyes)!

If you do experience redness, irritation, discharge or itching of your eyes, speak to your eye doctor to find out the best way to get relief from your symptoms. Do not apply makeup if your eyes are infected as this will only make the infection worse. If you were diagnosed with an eye infection, dispose the eye makeup previously used as it is contaminated and the infection could recur.

Lastly, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for discarding products such as mascara (which should be changed every few months) and throw away any dried up products. Even though cosmetics can be expensive, it is not worth risking damage to your eyes.