Recently on a rainy day in London I sought refuge indoors... where else, but Harrods. Turns out the legendary department store has done for beauty what it so brilliantly pioneered for gourmet foods. H Beauty Hall is a sleek immersion shopping experience that literally seduces the senses. Sexy makeup brands strut their stuff as if on a runway. The vibey music and lighting compete for your attention with the interactive displays and chicly-dressed sales consultants.
“What products can you recommend for sensitive eyes?” Call it brand intel research, but I was curious to see her recommendations. Unsurprisingly, her knowledge of safe-eye beauty was limited and dare I say, potentially dangerous. "This eyeliner is great for sensitive eyes," she exclaimed. I don't fault her for not understanding that waterproof eyeliner—so impermeable that it sticks like glue to your meibomian glands—is the worst advice for sensitive (or any) eyes.
Here's why: The waterline is that inside-line of your eyelids where a lot of women like to apply makeup. Tightlining or waterlining is the technique used for drawing eyeliner inside, tight against the lashes of the upper lid or lower eyelid margin, which make the eyelashes look longer. Your waterline is packed with meibomian glands, the delicate glands which line the top and bottom eyelid (sort of like pores in the eyelids). By applying eyeliner or eye makeup along the waterline, these glands are basically suffocated, e.g. the glands cannot do-their-job and release a moisturizing fat & oil mixture onto the eye's surface. Okay, yuck, but, truly, when meibomian glands are compromised, they do not function properly. This is more specifically called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), which is a leading cause of dry eye disease.
So what does this all really mean? Every time you blink these glands are made to express a protective oil layer, meibum (lubricant), to cover the eye’s surface and prevent tear evaporation and dryness. The application of eyeliner to the waterline covers these glands and does not permit them to function properly. When eyeliners are used along the eyelid margin covering the meibomian gland orifices by tightlining, the waxes and pine tar derivatives in eyeliners can physically obstruct the meibomian gland terminal orifices, thereby limiting meibum delivery to the lid margin lipid reservoirs and subsequent delivery onto the tear film. This gland-clogging can increase the inflammation-inducing evaporative load of patients with dry eye disease, aka ocular surface disease (OSD). Over time this can contribute to the gland obstruction, or in simple terms, they don't work. Your risk for getting a “stye” or hordeoulum is greatly increased. Yes, a big ugly inflamed-red bump on your lid is not a good addition to anyone’s beauty routine. Combine the waterline application technique with the plethora of chemicals found in eyeliners today and you've got a fantastic cocktail for eye irritation.
BOTTOM LINE: AVOID THE WATERLINE
As I described to the shell-shocked sales gal at Harrods, her super-duper waterproof eyeliner has chemicals that allow it to adhere better to the eyelid and also make it a challenge to thoroughly remove at the end of the day. The trendy eye-enhancing techniques used today are akin to torturing the meibomian glands and can turn a beauty hazard into an eye health hazard.
Eye Proof Liquid Liner