I’m one of those people who weep a lot. Not just because I have a lot of emotions about movies like The Land Before Time no matter how many times I’ve watched it — I also have incredibly sensitive eyes. Eye sensitivity can happen for a lot of different reasons. Mine, for example, is linked to the fact that I am asthmatic. My asthma may be well-controlled, and I’ve learned to manage my eczema — something asthmatics also often suffer with — but eye sensitivity sometimes caused by asthma medications never quite goes away.
Over the years, I’ve had to remove eyelash extensions just a day after I got them because my eyes couldn’t take the glue. I’ve had many, many heavy eye makeup jobs mussed up because of my uncontrollable tears. I’ve been stared at by curious strangers wondering why my eyes are bloodshot in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.
While I don't wear a lot of eye makeup, I would consider it a cardinal sin for me to leave home without mascara. The problem is, no matter how long and lush your lashes are, and no matter how perfectly Instagrammable your eye makeup is, it won't look good with teary blood shot eyes. Here are some tricks, tips and insider experts on managing your eye sensitivity.
1. Take an antihistamine, or get some awesome eye drops.
Canadian makeup artist Andrea Claire, who also suffers from eye sensitivity, tells me she will "take an antihistamine if I plan to have heavy eye makeup on. The antihistamine actually helps so your eyes won't go red or teary."
"Of course, not everybody wants to pop a pill before they pile on eyeshadow," she continues. "To avoid looking like Watership Down evil bunny, get some good eyedrops." Andrea recommends Naphcon-A Allergy Relief Eyedrops; they makes the whites of your eyes really white and are super soothing.
2. Use a primer before your eye makeup.
While it may not be enough protection for everybody, an eye cream, or primer can work as a barrier between your skin surface, and the products. Andrea loves Too Faced Shadow Insurance primer.
Annet King, Director of Global Education at Dermalogica, tells me, "If we are talking a lot of eye makeup, liquid eyeliner, eye lash glue, etc on dry & sensitive eyes or skin, then having a soothing or nourishing eye product beneath the makeup might help create a buffer."
King adds that it's best to choose cream over powder formulas if possible, since the powders really dry out your skin.
3. Look out for carmine in the ingredients.
Liz Yu, Founder of Yaby Cosmetics says that you should check the ingredient list of any product with a pink, purple, or red hue for the presence of carmine. Be sure to also look out for its many alternate forms of naming, including red #4, carminic acid, C.I. 75470 or E120, in the ingredient lists.
According to Yu, most cosmetics containing the color red in various degrees are still using carmine, a scale insect, as the main source for their red. While carminic acid actually goes through a chemical process to reach various stages and levels of red, it doesn't lose the ability to agitate the immune system.
Yu continues, "When used in food or cosmetics, some people find it causes a slight irritation or hives, some can react with a full-blown rash throughout the body, and for some it causes immediate anaphylactic shock." If you have a carmine allergy, you'll see a reaction right away, but if your sensitivity is less intense, you might not notice anything until you've been using the red makeup for a few weeks.
4. Consider your hormones.
Yu drops more knowledge, "Our immune system is tied closely with our hormones. Hormones alter and regulate the sensitivity of our immune system, and as our hormone levels fluctuate, so does the sensitivity of our immune system." That means going on or off birth control could make your eyes even more sensitive, as could having your period.
In addition, immune system has a memory and have specific cells that stores a history of "battles," so your reaction tends to get worse every time you use an irritative product. it tends to get worse over time with repeated usage.
5. When you apply mascara, don't start at the root
This is something I do all the time, and you can get away with it easier if you have darker lashes. If you're blessed with darker lashes and unfortunately, have sensitive eyes, don't apply mascara at the root. Leave a little bit of space so the mascara will not actually touch your skin — that way your eyes are less likely to start itching. Of course, the mascara may actually travel down the hair shaft and get in contact with your skin eventually, but it's worth trying!
Granted, the idea of using natural products for sensitive skin is a primitive one. You can be allergic to natural products as much as you are allergic to the man-made stuff, but there's a smaller chance of irritation. I love 100% Pure's products. I've even accidentally jabbed my eyeball with their Black Tea Long Last Liquid Eyeliner and I actually didn't end of up with bloodshot eyes! I also love their Black Tea Pigmented Mascara. Their eyeshadows are pigmented with fruit coloring instead of synthetic dyes that can mess with your skin.
Images: Faz Abdul Gaffa-Marsh; Dermalogica; Getty Images; Giphy