Eye Infections: How to Avoid Irritation Caused By Makeup
Many of us begin each day by applying makeup to make us look pretty. But there is nothing pretty about red, swollen, and puffy eyes. This can be the unintended consequence of using eyeliner and other makeup that is past its expiration date, or has become contaminated. We may feel as though our eyelashes are there simply for us to look pretty, but they actually are intended to function as shields to protect our eyes from airborne particles, allergens, and bacteria. We undermine that function every time we purposefully apply a beauty product to our eyelashes and eyelids.
What can you do to avoid your beauty products causing you to be significantly less beautiful due to an eye infection?
Can Contaminated Cosmetics and Eyeliners cause eye infections?
Makeup is, unfortunately, a perfect medium for bacterial growth. When you apply liquid eyeliner or use a pencil, you are transferring fluids from your eyes, and dead skin cells from your eye area, onto your applicator or pencil and then directly back into the product. A mascara wand brushes along your eyelashes picking up bacteria, eyelash mites, dead skin cells, etc. and then is placed back into a warm, dark, moist container that is an ideal environment for bacterial growth. Over time the bacteria colony living in your mascara container multiplies. Bacteria are fed new materials and oxygen each time your test tube-like mascara container is opened and used.
Most cosmetic products contain ingredients intended to slow the growth of harmful bacteria during the retail process. However, once the container is opened and applicators are used and reused, the antimicrobial ingredient becomes ineffective.
According to the FDA, hundreds of bacterial and fungal infections are reported each year due to contaminated cosmetics. While the FDA does not require expiration dates to be placed on cosmetic product labels, the recommended expiration date of eye products is three months.
Common bacteria found in used cosmetics are those that cause conjunctivitis (pink eye), styes, boils, and even staph infections. Some rare reported cosmetic related staph and other infections have led to temporary and even permanent blindness.
Bacteria aren’t the only microorganisms found in used eye cosmetics. Many can also become contaminated with fungi and viruses.
How to Minimize the Risk of Cosmetic Contamination in eye makeup
If you have a scratch or open sore on your eye or eyelid, stop using all cosmetic products in that area. Having an entryway into your eye is the most likely way that bacteria inside your eye products, which previously caused you no harm, can suddenly become a risk.
Never share any cosmetic products
Though you might be tempted to try your best friend’s new glittery, extra-length mascara in a club restroom, resist the urge! A bacteria in her makeup that hasn’t affected her could cause a problem for you. Conversely, your eyes could be carrying bacteria to which you are resistant, but she is not.
Do not use department store makeup samples!
Despite the best efforts of those who run cosmetic counters, even single-use applicators don’t always guarantee safety. People occasionally double-dip and cause contamination. Makeup at cosmetic counters carries the highest risk of contamination.
Don’t keep using old eye makeup products!
Even though it can be difficult to throw away costly cosmetics before they are completely used, holding on to your favorite mascara for a year, or tossing it into your purse as a spare after buying a new one, can be asking for trouble. Throw away and replace that special midnight blue eyeshadow that you’ve only used for special occasions for the past decade.
Sharpen your eyeliner pencils
Not only will this ensure that you get a perfectly lined cat-eye or winged eyeliner technique, but it also keeps the tip of your liner pencil clean and fresh.
More tips for how to avoid eye infection caused by eye makeup
- Don’t ever add water to cosmetics such as mascara or liquid eyeliner in an attempt to moisten dried-up product. Adding water adds bacteria.
- Store all cosmetics at temperatures below 85 degrees.
- Immediately stop using eye makeup if irritation occurs and throw away and replace all eye cosmetics if you develop an infection.
- Make sure your hands are clean before using any cosmetic products and store them in closed containers. This is especially important if you keep your makeup in the bathroom.
- Never apply eye makeup in a moving vehicle. This can cause accidental injury which would allow bacteria to enter a scratch or nick.
How Contact Wearers Can Avoid Eye Infection from Eyeliner and Other eye makeup
Contact wearers should be especially careful to follow safe practices with their cosmetics, as contact lenses can be vulnerable to fungal infections.
While we all want to be pretty and show our best face to the world, it’s important to keep our cosmetics as safe as possible to avoid ending up looking and feeling much worse than we would have without them.