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Cosmetics and the Eye

Cosmetics can do wonders for the appearance of your eyes. Most cosmetics are perfectly safe when used properly, but some can cause permanent eye damage or blindness. Even safe cosmetics cause dangerous allergic reactions in some people, or infections such as conjunctivitis when used improperly.

Avoid Eye Infections

Cleanliness is essential with anything that gets near your eyes. There are several measures you can take to prevent infections caused by cosmetics.

  1. Never Use Old Makeup
    Once a product has been opened it becomes contaminated by airborne bacteria. When we apply makeup we further contaminate the product with the applicator, touching it to our eyes and putting it back in the product. Cosmetics and their containers can be ripe breeding grounds for these bacteria to grow. You should keep eye makeup only for three months before throwing it out and replacing it.

  2. Clean Applicators
    If you use your own brushes and applicators to apply makeup, be sure to wash and sterilize them at least once a month, and whenever you buy new makeup. These applicators may contaminate cosmetics with bacteria from your eyes, and may also cross contaminate from one product to the next.

  3. Never Share Eye Makeup
    No matter how close you are to your friends and no matter how clean they are, never, ever share eye makeup. If you absolutely must let someone use your eye makeup to prevent an embarrassing situation, discard the shared product as soon as possible. Some women even keep cheap, sealed spares just in case the situation comes up. Then you can offer to let your friend keep it so she has it handy for the rest of the day or evening out.

  4. Stay Away From Testers
    Testers in stores and at cosmetics counters are cesspools for eye disease. Do not use them. Some stores will offer to let you try eye makeup with a disposable applicator. This may be safe in some cases, but it is still a risk. Only accept such an offer in a store where you regularly shop, from a salesperson you know and trust, and do not hesitate to ask how long the product has been open. Ocular herpes could be contracted from a publicly used tester.

Avoiding Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to eye makeup can cause minor problems such as temporary discomfort and redness. They can also cause serious eye damage or disrupt the natural balance of your eyes, leaving them prone to infection. Allergies can be hard to predict, but some common sense practices can help you avoid unexpected results.

  • If you normally do not wear eye makeup, use hypo-allergenic products just to be sure. Some women who are not accustomed to wearing makeup and choose to wear some for a special occasion find the event ruined by a painful allergic reaction.
  • Avoid eye makeup that is scented. Eyes are very sensitive to perfumes.
  • If you have a history of allergic reactions to other products, expect to be even more sensitive to eye makeup, and use only hypo-allergenic products.
  • Stick with all-natural products, such as mineral-based eye shadow.

Safe Ingredients

In the United States it is a legal requirement that all cosmetics clearly list their ingredients. If the eye makeup you are considering does not list the ingredients on the package or on a sheet available near the product, consider it a strong warning sign that the product may contain dangerous ingredients.

Some cosmetics contain chemicals that can cause immediate eye damage or heavy metals that can cause long term health problems, such as lead poisoning. If you find a product that you like and plan to stick with, research all of the ingredients for short and long-term dangers.

If you have questions about cosmetics, which products are safe, or how to use them safely, talk to an eye surgeon in your area. If you are in Austin, Texas, Dr. Ernest Howerton of the Howerton Eye Center will surely be of great help.

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