The Magic of Eye Makeup
In recognition of Women’s Eye Health Safety during the month of April I wrote the following article that was published on visionaware.org.
Oh, the wonders of makeup. It’s one of those things that from the time we are young girls we cannot wait to get glammed up with cosmetics. The use of lipstick, blush, mascara, and eye shadow is not only transformative; it’s almost magical. But did you know there are dangers lurking in your cosmetics arsenal, especially when it comes to your eyes?
The Past and Present of Eye Makeup
“Eyes are captivatingly beautiful. Not because of the color but because of the words they hold within them.” This quote from an unknown author speaks to the powerful mystique of the eyes. From as far back as ancient Egypt women and men enhanced their eyes with makeup for cosmetic, medicinal and religious purposes.
Today, we’ve come a long way from just using colors and liners to beautify our eyes. We have choices like mascara, eyeliners, false eyelashes and eyelash extensions. We also use eyelash enhancer serums, eyelash dye, permanent eye makeup and colored contacts. All of these intensifying enhancements of our eyes can have a dramatic effect on our overall appearance.
Cosmetic Secrets You Need to Know
Damaging our eyes through the use of cosmetics is not something we typically associate with makeup but harmful bacteria, ill-advised application techniques, some types of cosmetics, and certain procedures can have harmful and lasting effects on our vision. Below we’ll look at four cosmetics/procedures, associated risks, and what can be done to remain safe.
1. Eyelash extensions are individually glued to each natural eyelash to increase volume and length to lashes.
- Formaldehyde is one of the ingredients used in many of the glues for false eyelashes and extensions. Allergic reactions, swelling, inflammation, infections and even the loss of natural lashes are some of the issues that can arise from the use of extensions and false eyelashes.
- Careful consideration and research should be done prior to using false eyelashes or eyelash extensions. Reviewing the list of ingredients in the adhesive for potential red flags could help avoid eye injury. Going to a reputable establishment is highly recommended.
2. Eyelash enhancer serums help promote natural lashes to become longer and lusher.
- The side effects to some of these serums are itching, redness of the eye and darkening of the eyelids and iris.
- Consultation with your doctor prior to using any eyelash enhancer serum is recommended, especially if you are currently on a treatment plan for glaucoma or any other eye condition.
3. Permanent eyeliner is a tattoo application that replaces the need for liquid, pencil or gel eyeliner. It can be done on the upper/lower or both lids.
- Irritation or infection can result from the use of pigment applied to the delicate skin around the eye.
- This procedure is relatively safe if done by a reputable salon. I checked with my ophthalmologist who said that there is no danger of sight loss from the use of permanent eyeliner. However if you are considering this for yourself I recommend following up with your doctor.
4. Colored contacts for cosmetic use are packaged under different names (decorative, Halloween, doll-eyed, theatrical, etc.) but they all change the appearance of the iris. To learn more about colored contacts read Maureen Duffy’s post titled “Halloween,Lady Gaga, and Cosmetic Contact Lenses.”
- In the U.S., all contacts (corrective or non-corrective) are considered medical devices and require a prescription. The risks on the use of these contacts are the same as with prescription contact lenses. Some of these risks include: corneal scratches, conjunctivitis, infection, decreased vision and blindness.
- Always get a prescription for cosmetic contacts. Wash your hands before handling lenses, never share contacts with another person, only use contact lens solution for cleaning and storing lenses, follow the doctor’s instructions.
Cosmetic Eye Safety Tips
In addition to all of the above, being aware of harmful ingredients in cosmetics is a key step in preventing allergic reactions or infections in the eyes. Dangerous ingredients such as parabens, petrolatum, formaldehyde, fragrance, phthalates and many others can be found in mascaras, eyeliners, and glues. I have heard it said that if you can’t pronounce the name of the ingredient it probably isn’t safe for use in or on the body. In addition, contrary to what many believe, the FDA does not approve any tints or dyes for eyelashes and eyebrows. Though the FDA takes a strong stance on the use of color additives, they do not regulate the ingredients in cosmetics. In view of this the burden is on us, the consumer, to become personal product safety advocates. We have to do the necessary legwork to ensure that the cosmetics we are using, especially those that we use on our eyes, are safe. So, I have listed some resources from the FDA below for further information.
Follow Good Eye Safety Tips
Even though you’ve done your homework, and learned how to properly apply makeup as a visually impaired person choose eye makeup deemed safe, avoid specialized procedures like eyelash extensions or permanent liner. Unfortunately, These steps still don’t make you immune to allergies or infections, so follow these steps to minimize these situations:
- Always wash your hands before applying your eye makeup
- When applying eyeliner do so at the lash line and not inside the eye
- Throw away mascara at 3 months (perfect breeding ground for bacteria is the dark, moist container)
- Throw away dried out mascara do not add liquid to it to extend its life
- Throw away liquid eyeliner at 3 months
- Throw away eyeliner pencils at 2 years and frequently sharpen them
- Do not store makeup in the bathroom (heat and humidity contribute to the growth of bacteria)
- If you notice eye irritation from the use of any eye makeup throw it away
- If your eyes are irritated or you have an eye infection do not put on eye makeup until it clears
- Never share or borrow makeup
- Always remove makeup before going to bed
Educate Yourself and Be Safe
Undoubtedly a person’s eyes are the focal point and as history has shown us women have and will continue to use products to enhance their eyes. Even so just ask anyone who has lost their vision to inappropriate use of cosmetics or through a cosmetic procedure gone awry and they will tell you that no amount of beautification is worth the loss of eyesight. The final message is to educate yourself on the products you are using, ensure that you are using the correct tools and techniques in makeup application and protect the health of your eyes by following safe practices in storing and discarding cosmetics.