The Best Hypoallergenic Mascaras For Sensitive Eyes

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Choosing nonirritating eye makeup, like mascara, for sensitive or allergy-prone eyes means avoiding certain ingredients, board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Laura M. Periman explains to Bustle. When shopping for the best hypoallergenic mascaras for sensitive eyes, try to avoid products with formaldehyde-donating preservatives (those are ones that release formaldehyde — an excellent antimicrobial that also tends to be quite irritating, Dr. Periman says) like hydroxymethylglycinate, DMDM hydantoin, and quaternium-15. Parabens at very low levels are fine, but if you prefer to avoid them, Dr. Periman says milder alternatives are ethylhexylglycerin and phenoxyethanol. The expert says that mascara with nylon fibers, which can lodge in your eyes, and waterproof mascaras, which are more difficult to remove, should be avoided if you have sensitive eyes.

Board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Donna Esposito tells Bustle that she likes tubing mascaras for patients with sensitive eyes, because they form tiny tubes around eyelashes rather than coating them, and they can be easily washed off. (And like Dr. Esposito, Dr. Periman is also a fan of tubing mascaras.)

Unfortunately, both experts say that the term “hypoallergenic” is not useful, because it’s not regulated. Neither is “ophthalmologist-tested,” Dr. Periman adds. However, if a brand reports the results of the EpiOcular Eye Irritation Test, a toxicity test created as an alternative to lab rabbit eye testing, Dr. Periman says that is a good sign, but cosmetic companies don’t have to run this test, nor do they need to report their findings if they do. Dr. Periman is working on her own mascara for all users, including contact lens wearers and people with dry and/or sensitive eyes, so keep an eye out (pun intended) for that.

Below, you’ll find the best mascaras for sensitive eyes, including two picks from the experts.


Doctor’s Pick: Best Tubing Mascara

blinc Amplified Tubing Mascara, which is available in black and dark brown, is a recommendation from Dr. Esposito, who finds that tubing mascaras are generally better tolerated by her patients with sensitive eyes. Tubing mascaras are also popular with people who find that most traditional mascaras smudge or smear, because the tubes stay on all day, or if you get teary or caught in the rain. That also makes tubing mascaras great for people with oily lids or allergy-prone eyes — though that’s also why splashing water on your face alone won’t remove the tubes from your lashes. Instead, removal requires gentle pressure with a cotton round or your fingers (and yes, some water, too).


Doctor’s Pick: Best Tubing Mascara Under $10

Another wallet-friendly tubing mascara suggested by Dr. Esposito, L'Oreal’ Double Extend Beauty Tubes Lengthening 2 Step Mascara is both a primer and mascara in one — a combo that gives you both added length and volume. The primer/base coat nourishes lashes with ingredients like ceramides and panthenol, while the mascara itself adds color, definition, and impact. Choose from two black shades.


Writer’s Pick

I find most mascaras irritating. Within a few hours, my eyes are itchy, and by mid-day, my color starts running, no matter what mascara I use. But jane iredale’s Beyond Lash Volumizing Mascara works well for me. It gives my lashes a nice boost of color but doesn’t feel at all sticky or clumpy. The formula contains all sorts of super-nourishing oils (including avocado, jojoba, sunflower, coconut, and olive), as well as bamboo stem powder, basil root extract, and rice bran wax to add volume without any heaviness. It also has an easy-to-wield, hourglass-shaped wand that curls and amplifies my lashes, while giving me a nice boost of natural-looking color and definition.


A Gentle Mascara From A Doctor-Recommended Brand

Dr. Periman says she’s found that Canadian brand ILIA Beauty makes makeup that’s well-tolerated by people with sensitive eyes (but adds that formulations can change, so always read the label even when buying a product you’ve used before). ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara is made with a gentle blend of organic bee and carnauba waxes, shea butter, and keratin, while its classic black color comes from charcoal. The mascara has a dual-sided brush; the shorter side is to curl and create volume, and the longer side lifts and separates.

Though no company is looking to make a product that irritates, and it’s always in their best interest to create nonirritating formulas, Dr. Periman says that Canadian beauty brands are her preferred place to shop if you are prone to eye sensitivities, because Canadian cosmetics regulations are stricter than those in the United States.


One Last Mascara (& Lash Primer) To Consider

Honest Beauty’s best-selling Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer is a dual-sided mascara/primer hybrid hat’s popular with users with sensitive eyes (and just about everyone else, as evidenced by its 8,000+ five-star Amazon reviews and multiple beauty awards it’s won). Both the mascara and primer are made with jojoba esters to condition lashes, and are free of parabens and silicones (as well as the main offenders on Dr. Periman’s list).


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When it comes to ocular health, Dr. Periman stresses that removing eye makeup is a must every night and as important as the mascara you choose. Otherwise you increase your chances of dry and sensitive eyes. That’s also a key reason why the doctor says to avoid waterproof mascara, because they can be so hard to remove fully.

If you’re using a tubing mascara, water and gentle pressure is enough, but if you prefer traditional formulations over tubing mascaras, cult beauty favorite, no-rinse, French pharmacy Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water is an excellent way to remove makeup without causing irritation to your eyes or skin.


Dr. Laura M. Periman M.D., Board-Certified Ophthalmologist

Dr. Donna Esposito, M.D., Board-Certified Ophthalmologist