Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself…

by Contributor, Maria Pribis, OD

The illustrious Coco Chanel famously said: “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” Easier said than done. In fact, many often struggle with the notion of being comfortable in their own skin, myself included. While it seems likely that a more confident person can implement Ms. Chanel’s advice more readily, as for myself, I’m better at acting naturally behind a good amount of makeup.

The right amount of makeup can work wonders for our self esteem, especially in this hyper-connected era of social media. Nobody wants to get caught in a bad photo, or even worse, a bad selfie! However, looking good for your close-up can also come at the expense of healthy eyes. If we’re not careful, cosmetics laden with chemicals can cause several eye problems ranging from allergic reactions and conjunctivitis, to infections and dry eye. Furthermore, when the delicate skin around our eyes becomes irritated, more makeup is typically used to cover up blemishes and this can be the start of a cycle that becomes hard to stop.

The general use of makeup and other cosmetics can lead to unwanted eye problems, including:

  • Dry eye
  • Allergic reactions
  • Conjunctivitis (or red, infected eyes)
  • Eyelid infections
  • Contact lens complications

To expand on these problems, dry eye is usually the most common complication from makeup use because cosmetics tend to migrate to the oil glands on the eyelids. This ultimately causes tears to evaporate too quickly, which is one of the main signs of dry eye disease.

If you’re experiencing allergic reactions from makeup use, it’s probably because of a certain chemical component. This complication most often leads to allergic dermatitis, which typically occurs after the second or third application because of a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. In this case, it’s best to stop using the product that’s causing adverse effects. In fact, you’ll probably need to take a break from makeup for at least a week or two. To avoid allergic reactions altogether, consider using hypoallergenic products with the least amount of chemicals.

“Pink eye” (or conjunctivitis) and other eyelid infections usually result from applying contaminated makeup. Contamination can occur from sharing makeup, exposing makeup to sunlight and/or air, or storing makeup in too warm or too cold of a place (among other things). Since all makeup has a shelf-life, it’s best to use new cosmetics within a three-month time frame. It’s also a good idea to clean all applicators once a week and to disinfect the edges of makeup containers.

Another complication to consider is contact lens intolerance, which is a result of makeup accumulating on contact lenses throughout the day. This typically leads to discomfort and/or blurry vision. When this happens, discontinue contact lens use for a few days and revert to your eye glasses. It’s probably a good idea to switch makeup brands if the problem persists.

The following is a list of things you SHOULD DO when it comes to handling your makeup:

  • Makes sure your hands, face, eyelids, and applicators are clean
  • Avoid cosmetic contact with your inner eyelid(s) (the waterline)
  • Choose paraben-free cosmetics
  • Store makeup at a cool temperature

Obviously, everything that comes into contact with cosmetics should be as clean as possible. This includes your hands, face, and eyelid(s), along with any applicators and brushes. When applying eyeliner around the eyelid(s), try to avoid it along the “water line,” which is the part of the eyelid(s) where lashes grow out of. This sensitive area is filled with important oil glands that can become clogged by makeup and if those oil glands get clogged, infections and dry eye can occur.

To avoid further complications, cosmetics should also be stored at cool temperatures. This is because the typical makeup kit invaders (bacteria, mold, fungi, etc.) thrive in warm and/or humid conditions. The ideal temperature setting for storing cosmetics is between 46 – 54 degrees Fahrenheit (8 – 12 degrees Celsius). Furthermore, cosmetic containers should be completely sealed to prevent the flow of air and kept away from sunlight. 

The following is a list of things you SHOULD NOT DO:

  • Use old or dried out cosmetics
  • Share cosmetics with other people (keep your own products to yourself)
  • Use waterproof makeup
  • Forget to remove cosmetics before bedtime

The use of old or dried out cosmetics isn’t a good idea because it also increases the risk of contamination and/or infections. If that’s not enough, using old makeup won’t boost your confidence as much because newer makeup tends to give off the fresh feeling associated with new beginnings. Sharing cosmetics isn’t a good idea as well because contamination can spread easily from user to user. As much as you don’t want to pass along bacteria (and such) to your friends and family members, you definitely don’t want it passed back to you.

Furthermore, it makes sense to avoid waterproof makeup as much as possible, which isn’t always convenient because special occasions (such as weddings) usually require it’s use. The main reason to avoid waterproof makeup (on a day to day basis) is because it’s difficult to remove. Products that are difficult to remove can subtly pile up on your eyes, which can lead to an unwanted amount of chemical absorption. It can also lead to rashes and irritation.

Last but not least, always remember to remove all makeup before bedtime. This basic act of hygienics is definitely one of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy relationship with cosmetics (if not the most important). If not done regularly, your facial skin will absorb a high chemical load over time. This can obviously lead to a whole host of problems, including a good amount of smeared makeup on your pillow.

Make sure to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to discuss the best makeup tips for healthy eyes and beyond.