Sensitive Eyes? Try Out These Hypoallergenic Mascara Options!
Sensitive Eyes? Try Out These Hypoallergenic Mascara Options!

Sensitive Eyes? Try Out These Hypoallergenic Mascara Options!

7 minutes read

Stinging, soreness and uncontrollable itching are just some of the unwanted symptoms of sensitive eyes, and sadly your mascara can play a part in wreaking havoc in this delicate area.  

Of course, many of us will have experienced the watery sensation of sensitivity, and it can be triggered by several factors, including allergens like dust or pollen. Throw in regularly wearing contact lenses and long shifts craning over our laptop screens: then you have a recipe for eye sensitivity that’s potentially exacerbated by the beloved contents of your make-up bag.  

What causes eye sensitivity 

Eye sensitivity can be caused by many things, including pre-existing conditions, allergies, or a reaction to make-up. Many ingredients make up just one make-up product, so it’s important to get to grips with anything that doesn’t play nicely on your skin. Signs of an allergy or irritation include a scaly, flaky rash, and inflammation and redness. When burning or itching of the eyes arises with mascara use, it maybe caused by contact dermatitis, a condition where irritants or allergens come into contact with your skin and aggravate it.  

There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis, where a harsh substance damages your skin’s protective outer layer, and allergic contact dermatitis, where an ingredient triggers your body’s immune system, provoking an allergic reaction. Eye make-up can cause both types of conditions, and these reactions can develop over time, which is why favourite products can sometimes suddenly begin to irritate. 

Other pesky eye conditions that cause sensitivity include dry eye, which strikes when your tear glands aren’t producing enough tears. Blepharitis is another common problem where eyelids are inflamed, resulting in swollen, itchy eyes and flaky skin. Finally, a corneal abrasion is a wince-inducing scratch or cut on the surface of your eye that can be caused by something like dust, sand or make-up fibres. Mascara is not a friend to any of these conditions, as applying make-up can clog the meibomian glands, worsening dry eye and blepharitis. 

It’s essential to seek out medical advice if suffering from an eye condition, as if left untreated, they can develop into something nastier. But in the cases where these conditions can be triggered or exacerbated by make-up — what can we do to help? 

Ingredients found in mascara that can be irritants 

For many, mascara is a highly valued member of our make-up 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: 

Parabens are first up; 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. Mercury has a long list of offensive qualities, including the potential to cause allergic reactions and skin irritation 

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. Like skincare, this can be irritating for some. Look out for fragrance or parfum on the ingredients list. Other offenders include lanolin (a moisturising agent derived from sheep’s wool) and propylene glycol (added to help retain mascara’s liquid formula, and research has shown it can cause dermatological issues). 

Many of us will be surprised to learn that harsh formaldehyde often appears in cosmetics. Not only is it a carcinogen if you are exposed to it in large amounts, but research has shown that it can trigger allergic contact dermatitis. So look out for fragrance and formaldehyde releasing preservatives DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15 and imidazolidinyl on ingredients lists.  

Lastly, be wary of fancy fibre formulations promising a false lash effect. These tiny fibres can flake off and irritate your eyes. Also, while waterproof formulas won’t budge during the day, they will require a little extra elbow grease to remove at night properly, something to be wary of if rubbing your eye area causes you discomfort.  

Ingredients found in mascara for sensitive eyes 

So, what should we be looking for on the ingredients lists of our mascaras? Hypoallergenic is a term that means the product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction, but it’s often used as a buzzword and can be readily thrown around while meaning very little. So, it’s important to check that the mascara in question has the goods to back up its claims. When infused in mascara, nourishing ingredients like Vitamin E will boost lashes and be soothing to surrounding skin. Natural hydration heroes that are kind to the skin like jojoba oil, shea butter, beeswax, avocado and rose oil are also welcome additions for sensitive types. Eschew synthetic dyes and look out for mineral pigments instead and remember to shop for fragrance-free products. Finally, many people with sensitive eyes get on well with tube mascaras that use polymers to form tubes around each lash and therefore cannot flake off and irritate eyes.  

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

Supra Volume Mascara

How You Can Choose a Mascara for Sensitive Eyes 

Clinically tested 

Look out for ophthalmologist-tested labels when shopping for mascara. This means that a doctor who specialises in eye care has given the green light to the product in question.  

DIY patch test 

If you’re sensitive to cosmetics, always carry out a patch test before committing to a 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.  

Avoid the lash line 

Many make-up gurus advise getting mascara 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.  

Irritants on hands 

You may have heard of non-toxic nail polish; a term used to describe formulas free of five substances, one being formaldehyde. Studies have shown that chemicals in nail varnish can be absorbed into the body, so be sure to check your nail varnish’s ingredients or be polish-free when applying your eye make-up.  

Avoid fragranced skincare products 

An eye cream is an important part of your skin-care roster, but much like your mascara, it can irritate and burn sensitive skin. Look out for fragrance and alcohol-free formulas, containing soothing ingredients like aloe and cucumber extract. 

Read next: “Skincare Experts On How To Treat Sensitive Skin”

Do not use out of date mascara 

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 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” 

Wash your face 

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.  

Don’t share 

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, so don’t risk being exposed to bacteria.  

For Those with Allergies… 

It can be challenging to navigate your cosmetic wardrobe if you are a person that suffers from allergies. Try keeping an ingredients list for every mascara that you try, this should help you narrow down problematic ingredients, and you can nix them from future purchases. Sticking to mascaras with shorter ingredients lists will make this an easier task. Also, remember that even hypoallergenic mascaras can become contaminated by bacteria once they reach a certain age. If you develop a reaction and you have suspicions it’s caused by one of your make-up products, stop using it immediately. Wet a flannel with cool water and hold it against the irritated area for 15-30 minutes, repeating as necessary (while avoiding your eyeballs themselves.) Avoid scratching or rubbing your eyes, as this will only irritate them further. And of course, always seek the help of a doctor if you’re concerned about your sensitive eyes; there’s a whole host of comforting treatments they can offer to soothe and refresh your poorly peepers.  

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