11 Ways To Protect Your Eyes When Applying Makeup, Because Mascara Can Be Pretty Dangerous

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 16: A model preparing before walking down the catwalk during the L'Oreal Paris Runway 4 of the L'Oreal Fashion Festival at Federation Square, March 16, 2005 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)
Source: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Sometimes, a news story comes along that just freaks you out, even if it will likely never, ever happen to you. Most recently for me, it was a piece reported by ABC News about how Olivia Eafano suddenly went blind when she was watching TV at five years old. Even though Eafano’s blindness was caused by a combination of two genetic diseases — uveitis and glaucoma — it still had me frantically looking up ways to protect my eyes

I’m already eating my carrots and would never sleep with my contacts, but I knew there was more I could do. I stumbled upon Dr. Mirwat Sami, Board Certified Oculoplastic Surgeon in Houston, Texas, who sent out a press release reporting that eye makeup can be harmful to the eyes if applied carelessly. Uh, yikes? Most serious eye injuries caused by makeup application can damage to the cornea, which is the eye's surface. And, yes, I am now checking my eyeball because I poked it with my mascara wand this morning — hard. If you, too, have not desire to suddenly wake up blind one day (sorry, I sweat I’m not trying to freak you out), check out some of these tips from Dr. Sami for making your beauty routine a whole lot safer.

1. Keep Eyeliner Pencils Sharpened

If you're using an actual pencil, the rough wood surrounding the pencil could scratch your eye or eyelid. The older the pencil gets, the more pressure you have to apply to put it on. That extra pressure paired with sharp edges mean more chances you have to literally scratch your eyeball. It's safer to just replace your pencil when the color starts to fade.

2. Don't Mix And Match Cosmetics

What's meant to line your eyes is meant to line your eyes. Likewise, what's meant to line your lips is meant to line your lips. Mixing the two is not only disgusting and weird, but can allow bacteria to transfer.

3. Abide By The Three Month Rule

Different types of beauty products have varying shelf lives, but eye makeup should generally be tossed after about three months. Understandably, you have many products in your makeup bag, so how are you expected to keep track? I actually started drawing the product in my calendar on the first day of application. Not only did it help sort out when to throw my makeup away, but I am basically a pro at drawing a mascara wand now. Dr. Sami emphasizes that infection-causing bacteria grows even more easily in creamy or liquid eye makeup. 

4. Throw Away After Infection

If you get sick or develop an eye infection, throw away your makeup and start new. Sure this can be expensive and exhausting if you're especially prone to the flu, but the bacteria will stay on that eyeshadow brush for months. An even better idea? If you get sick or develop an eye infection, just go barefaced. Piling on makeup will only make the bacteria stay longer. Same rule after eye surgery — don't use makeup until your doctor gives you the go ahead. 

5. Sharing Is Not Caring

Never share eye makeup. Trust me, living with five girls, I know how difficult it is to resist trying a new eyeshadow or gold eyeliner for a night out without having to pay for it. Doing this, however, not only puts yourself at risk for getting some of your friend's bacteria, but also puts your pal as risk for getting yours. And that's just not how to be a good friend.

6. One New Product At A Time 

If your eyes tend to be sensitive or have had allergic reactions in the past, Dr. Sami suggests only introducing one new product to your eyes at a time, and give it a week to establish its new residency. If there is no reaction, add another new product, and so on. If you do have an allergic reaction, find out the ingredients in that particular product and let your doctor know. He or she may be able to save you from further reactions from different products. 

7. Wash Your Hands And Face

Before applying your makeup, be sure your hands and face are squeaky clean — even if you don't necessarily use your hands to apply makeup. Bacteria from your hands can transfer to your eyes, and vice-versa. Furthermore, be sure to take off all makeup before bed. Dr. Sami suggests using a clean cotton swab along the eyelids to remove all makeup remnants. If you use a makeup remover, avoid getting it in your eyes, because ouch.

8. Don't Block

Dr. Sami urges us to always apply eye makeup outside of the lash line. Blocking the oil glands on the upper and lower eyelid would mean blocking the secrete oil that protects the cornea. Additionally, be especially careful of this as you're applying eye liner and mascara (I'm talking to myself here) and avoid applying in a moving car. Not only because it's hazardous to your driving, but also puts you at risk for blocking those glands. 

9. Glitter Isn't Always Fab

If you have dry eyes, Dr. Sami recommends that you avoid glitter or metallic eye shadow or face powder. Those flakes can get into the tear glands and increase eye irritation. Dr. Sami says glitter eye makeup is a common cause of corneal irritation or infection, especially to those of us who use contact lenses. 

10. Safe Samples

If you find yourself trying products in the lines of Sephora, be sure sure the demonstrator uses fresh applicators. If you have the choice, pick a completely unused sample, even if you have a fresh application tool. 

11. Practice Safe Curling

Always use an eyelash curler BEFORE applying mascara. Also, be sure the rubber on your curler is soft and not black, stiff, or crackling. Also, if you're allergic to nickel, you may have to spend a little more to get a pure gold or silver curler.

Images: Getty; Giphy(11)

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