7 Genius Eyeliner Tips For Sensitive Eyes, Straight From Pros

Never worry about irritation again.

Here are eyeliner and mascara tips for sensitive eyes, straight from experts.
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When you have sensitive eyes, makeup — especially eyeliner — can be a bit tricky. It’s hard to commit to a cool graphic liner look if you’re constantly tearing up or dealing with itchy eyes.

Eye sensitivity can happen to everyone and there are a lot of reasons why irritation can occur. According to board-certified ophthalmologist and founder of twenty/twenty beauty Diane Hilal-Campo, MD, there are a few common culprits. “Eye irritation from makeup can come from either the ingredients in the makeup, the way the makeup is applied, or the way the makeup is designed,” says Hilal-Campo. “They can be allergens, or can exacerbate or cause dry eye, or can even be toxic to the ocular surface. Additionally, the way makeup is applied can also be irritating to the eyes.”

“Eyes can be sensitive to makeup that either doesn’t stay out or gets into the eye,” adds celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman. “Contact lens wearers may find that some long-wear eyeliners are irritating and might smear on their contact lenses.”

But you can totally rock the most bold eyeliner looks while also keeping your eyes safe. Dorman and Hilal-Campo’s best eyeliner tips for sensitive eyes are below.

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Use A Soft Makeup Brush

If you have sensitive eyes, you’ll want to make sure every eye product is gentle on the skin — including the tools you use. “Make sure to use soft brushes when applying your makeup,” says Dorman. She explains the best kind will be shaped rather than cut for the softest touch and recommends something like the Rephr Brush 02 or 16.


Wash Your Makeup Brushes Regularly

You should be washing your brushes regularly regardless if you have sensitive eyes or not. Hilal-Campo recommends washing them every day as the eyes are highly susceptible to bacteria and infection.

She recommends mixing a small amount of baby shampoo with lukewarm water and swirling the brushes in the mixture until they’re clean. Next, lay them flat on a clean washcloth to dry. You can also spray brushes with an anti-bacterial spray like twenty/twenty beauty’s Daily Hygiene Spray; it is made with hypochlorous acid and eliminates 99.9 percent of bacteria.


Consider Disposable Tools

If you want to be extra cautious, you can invest in disposable tools such as single-use spoolie brushes for mascara and disposable sponge applicators for those cream liners. “Disposable tools will allow you to avoid cross-contamination for cleaner and safer application,” says Hilal-Campo.

Alternatively, you can try an eco-friendly option like LastSwab that can be easily washed after each use.


Apply A Primer

Makeup primers are great for locking pigment into place. Dorman recommends using an eye primer, especially for sensitive eyes so that your eyeliner (or eyeshadow if you’re using it as liner) doesn’t accidentally fall into the eye. She likes the classic Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, which goes on clear and helps makeup last for up to 24 hours.


Avoid Putting Eyeliner On Your Waterline

Both Hilal-Campo and Dorman say you should avoid putting any makeup on the waterline, especially if you have sensitive eyes. “The waterline isn't the same type of skin tissue as you'd find on your eyelids. It's mucosal tissue — like what you'd find on the inside of your mouth — and is not meant to have makeup applied to it,” says Hilal-Campo. She explains that the waterline contains tiny organs called meibomian glands that are responsible for producing the oil that keeps our eyes hydrated. When makeup is put on the waterline, it congests those glands and they will inevitably stop working. This then leads to dryness, itchiness, and sometimes eye infections.

Dorman recommends using a liner that dries down, like the Westmore Wing Effects Liquid Eyeliner on the top lash line. Then, she says you can smudge eyeshadow (she likes the Kari Gran Natural Eyeshadow or Rituel de Fille Celestial Sphere Gelee Eye Gloss) right under the lower lash line to create a liner effect.


Opt For A Long-Lasting Eyeliner

If you’re eyeliner tends to run, consider going the waterproof route. “Waterproof mascara and liners that stay on the skin will not run into the eye and cause irritation,” says Dorman. She likes the Estée Lauder Double Wear Infinite Waterproof Eyeliner.


Pay Attention To The Ingredients List


Dr. Hilal-Campo recommends formulas that contain castor oil. “It's been used for years by ophthalmologists as an ingredient to help treat patients with severe dry eye symptoms to help restore moisture,” she says. “It also helps support healthy lash growth.”

She lists benzalkonium chloride, which is used as a preservative in liquid liners and is harsh on the ocular surface, and beeswax, which can be highly allergenic, as some of the ingredients to nix if you have sensitive eyes. She also recommends avoiding Carbon black, which is a potential carcinogen.