The Best Make-up For Sensitive Eyes
The Best Make-up For Sensitive Eyes

The Best Make-up For Sensitive Eyes

7 minutes read

Suffering with sensitive eyes every time you apply or remove your make-up? You’re not alone. According to the British Journal of Dermatology, over 11% of women and 3% of men in the UK reported suffering sensitivity and allergic reactions to eye products, with symptoms such as swelling, irritation and inflammation. 

The good news? There’s a treasure trove of fabulous make-up products specially formulated for sensitive eyes. We tell you what make-up for sensitive eyes to use and how to avoid irritations at all costs. 

Eye sensitivities and irritations when wearing make-up

According to ophthalmologist company OCLI, “If the skin around your eyes becomes itchy, red, puffy or scaly after using make-up, you have probably developed an allergy or sensitivity to one of your cosmetics.” The reason? Usually, an ingredient in the product is to blame. The skin on the eyelid has few oil glands, so it tends to be drier and more easily irritated. But there are make-up products that people with sensitive eyes can use. 

Model wearing mascara

Symptoms and causes of eye sensitivity when wearing make-up?

One in four people has a skin reaction to beauty products and fragrances. But while certain make-up products may make your eyes feel irritated and inflamed, it does not necessarily mean you are having an allergic reaction. Eye sensitivity can be caused by a strong ingredient or an overload of too much make-up, where as an allergic reaction is when your eyes completely reject a specific ingredient.

Symptoms of eye sensitivity and irritation

Causes of eye sensitivity and irritation

  • There are a number of skin conditions that can cause eye irritation when wearing make-up, such as allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis.
    • Allergic contact dermatitis is a type of skin inflammation that occurs when your skin comes in contact with an ingredient to which you are allergic. It is a delayed type of reaction that usually occurs between 48 and 72 hours after exposure. Symptoms range from itching, redness and swelling to blistering and scaling in more serious cases.
    • Irritant contact dermatitis is a type of skin inflammation that occurs when your skin comes into contact with an ingredient that it finds irritating. Unlike allergic contact dermatitis, it can be caused by a wider range of irritants such as harsh chemicals, detergents, solvents and soaps.

    However, there are some common ingredients that are found in cosmetics and skincare products, such as parabens, talc, sulphates, preservatives and many more

Ingredients in eye make-up that cause sensitivity and irritation

For many, eye make-up is a highly valued member of our beauty arsenal, so how do we shop sensibly to avoid triggering a reaction? Of course, everyone’s sensitivities will be different, and there is no blanket rule on what ingredients to avoid, but here is a list of our potentially problematic contenders that can cause allergic reactions: 

  • Parabens: these preservatives extend the shelf life of your products by preventing bacteria growth but are controversial man-made chemicals that can irritate skin plus disrupt your hormones.  
  • Thimerosal: is a preservative and antiseptic that contains a type of mercury. It no longer appears in the bulk of cosmetic products but still occasionally pops up in the ingredients lists of eye products.
  • Synthetic dyes: are often used to bolster the deep dark colouring of mascara but can aggravate the skin. And while we don’t often think of mascara as a scented product, fragrance does crop up now and then.

Make-up tips for sensitive eyes

We compiled a list of some measures you can take to avoid and reduce the chance of eye irritation, flare ups and inflammation.

1. Opt for Hypoallergenic make-up

Healthline says that this is “a product containing few allergy-producing substances”. Sadly, this term hasn’t been regulated, which means that you need to check the list of ingredients carefully to make sure that they won’t potentially cause an allergic reaction.

Typically, hypoallergenic make-up is gentler on the skin, can often be fragrance-free, and sometimes derived from minerals.” Minerals are considered ‘inert’, which means they won’t harbour bacteria or quickly expire. Look out for ophthalmologist-tested labels when shopping for eye make-up, as this means that a doctor who specialises in eye care has given the green light to the product in question.   

Avoid using fragranced eye products, too, as they can irritate and burn sensitive skin. Look out for fragrance and alcohol-free formulas, containing soothing ingredients like aloe and cucumber extract.  

2. Carry out a patch test  

If you’re sensitive to cosmetics, always carry out a patch test before committing to a product. This will ensure that your skin doesn’t react to the ingredients within the product. The inner part of your forearm arm is an excellent spot to use as it’s more sensitive than the back of your hand. Cover the test with a plaster and leave it be. Repeat the test over several days and be on the lookout for any redness or irritation.

3. Avoid water and lash lines when applying eye make-up

Many make-up gurus advise getting eye make-up as close to the lash line as possible for a fuller effect. Still, in doing so, you run the risk of getting the product directly into the eye and irritating it, plus it can cause an infection.  

4. Pay attention to expiry dates

Do not use out of date eye make-up products. The FDA advises that mascara tubes need to be tossed after three months. When wands and formulas are exposed to the air, bacteria get in, and you are at risk of infection or irritation over time. Likewise, if your mascara dries out, it’s time to say goodbye. 

Read Next: “How long Does Your Foundation Last? It Might Be Time To Detox Your Make-up Bag”   

5. Never share make-up products

In this instance, sharing is not caring, and never lend or borrow mascara from anyone else. The painful ailment conjunctivitis occurs when the top layer of tissue on your eye becomes infected or inflamed, and this bacteria can be transmitted through sharing eye products, so don’t risk being exposed.

6. Remove make-up thoroughly and cleanse

Probably the most famous piece of skincare advice: don’t sleep in your make-up. Doing so will clog your glands and tear ducts and could trigger eye irritation.   Make sure to remove your eye make-up and follow with a cleanse before you go to sleep to ensure that all grime, dirt and make-up is gone.

Our top picks

Not sure where to start? Luckily, Clarins eye make-up products specifically cater to sensitive eyes. Here are some of the best products:

Eyeshadow for sensitive eyes

Clarins range of cream-based eyeshadows are long-holding with a velvet soft finish, perfect for those who have sensitive eyes but still want to wear eyeshadow. 

A cream-based eyeshadow formula, rather than powder shadows, are less likely to irritate – but Clarins powder shadows are also formulated for all skin types, sensitive skins included.

The best eyeshadow for sensitive eyes

A cream-based eyeshadow rather than powder shadows are less likely to irritate, but Clarins powder shadows are also formulated for all skin types, sensitive skins included. 

Eyeliner for sensitive eyes

Eyeliner is often used in an extremely sensitive area, where the eyelid and eyeball meet. Eyeliner for sensitive eyes should have a creamy pigmented formula that glides on smoothly. Pencil, ink or Khôl, Clarins eyeliner formulas are suited for all skin types, but if you’re looking for one that is waterproof, we suggest you try a waterproof pencil

According to McHale, “it comes in six shades, gives maximum density and is smudge-proof as well as completely waterproof.”  Clarins pencils are equally good for sensitive eyes, but if you’re looking for one that is waterproof, try Clarins Waterproof Eye Pencil, £21. 

Mascara for sensitive eyes

All of the Clarins mascaras are safe to use if you have sensitive eyes. Charlotte McHale, Clarins Training Manager says, “I’m a contact lens wearer and I wear all of the Clarins mascaras easily.”  

Try Supra Volume Mascara, £25, with cassia flower extract which provides extra care. You don’t need to choose between instant volume of your lashes and sensitive eye care — this mascara can give it all.

Clarins Supra Volume Mascara, £25

Clarins Supra Lift & Curl Mascara


Eye make-up remover for sensitive eyes

Let’s not forget the most crucial skincare product of all, a gentle eye make-up remover that works for sensitive eyes. This product not only gently removes make-up it also soothes sensitive eyelids and strengthens the lashes. Its non-irritating formula is ideal for even the most sensitive types – and that includes contact lens wearers. 

 “You can also use the Instant Eye Make-Up Remover, £23, which is oilier,” she says. “Avoid it if you’re particularly sensitive to oil or if you have lenses in. But if not, it’s excellent for removing waterproof make-up.” 

If you think you may have an allergy, help is at hand from The British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology.


Read Next: Skincare Experts On How To Treat Sensitive Skin

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