Eye cosmetics are intended to make eyes more attractive, or in some cases to cleanse the eye area. One thing they shouldn’t do is cause harm. Most are safe when used properly. However, there are some things to be careful of when using these products, such as the risk of infection, the risk of injury from the applicator, and the use of unapproved color additives.
The following information provides an introduction to some safety concerns related to eye cosmetics.
Keep it clean!
Eye cosmetics are usually safe when you buy them, but misusing them can allow dangerous bacteria or fungi to grow in them. Then, when applied to the eye area, a cosmetic can cause an infection. In rare cases, women have been temporarily or permanently blinded by an infection from an eye cosmetic.
Occasionally, contamination can be a problem for some eye cosmetics even when they are new. The FDA has important alerts in effect for cosmetics. To read the alerts or check for makeup recalls, please visit the FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm137241.htm
In addition, use the following information when purchasing and using eye makeup:
- Throw away eye makeup after three months. Infection-causing bacteria grow easily in creamy or liquid eye makeup. If you develop an eye infection, immediately throw away all of your eye makeup.
- Don’t share eye makeup, even with your best friend. Another person’s germs may be hazardous to you. The risk of contamination may be even greater with “testers” at retail stores, where a number of people are using the same sample product. If you feel you must sample cosmetics at a store, make sure they are applied with single-use applicators, such as clean cotton swabs.
- Introduce new eye makeup slowly. If you tend to be allergic, introduce only one new eye makeup or care product at a time. If there is no reaction, add another new product, and so on. If any eye cosmetic causes irritation, stop using it immediately. If irritation persists, see a doctor. If you notice an allergic reaction, find out what the ingredients are and let your doctor know. Avoid products that contain untested or harmful chemicals.
- Start with clean eyes. Before applying makeup, be sure your face and eyelids are very clean. Always apply makeup outside the lash line, away from the eye, to avoid blocking the oil glands of the upper or lower eyelid. These glands secrete oil that protects the eye’s surface. Never apply makeup while in a moving vehicle.
- Apply mascara carefully and do not separate your mascara-clumped lashes with sharp items.
- If you tend to have dry eyes, avoid metallic/glitter, powder or other makeup that flakes. Flakes can get into the tear film and increase your eyes’ irritation. Glitter eye makeup is a common cause of corneal irritation or infection, especially in contact lens users.
- Remove all eye makeup at night before sleeping, especially mascara that can stick to the lashes. Brush a clean cotton swab along the base of the eyelashes to remove all makeup remnants. If you use eye makeup remover, avoid getting it in your eyes and thoroughly rinse remover off your eyelids.
- Don’t store cosmetics at temperatures above 85 degrees F. Cosmetics held for long periods in hot cars, for example, are more susceptible to deterioration of the preservative.
- Discard dried-up mascara. Don’t add saliva or water to moisten it. The bacteria from your mouth may grow in the mascara and cause infection. Adding water may introduce bacteria and will dilute the preservative that is intended to protect against microbial growth.
- If you have eye surgery, do not wear makeup around the eye until your ophthalmologist tells you it is safe to do so, and then use only fresh, new makeup.
- Hold still! It may seem like efficient use of your time to apply makeup in the car or on the bus, but resist that temptation, even if you’re not in the driver’s seat. If you hit a bump, come to a sudden stop, or are hit by another vehicle, you risk injuring your eye (scratching your cornea, for example) with a mascara wand or other applicator. Even a slight scratch can result in a serious infection.
- Wash your hands before applying eye cosmetics. Be aware that there are bacteria on your hands that, if placed in the eye, could cause infections.
- What’s in it? As with any cosmetic product sold on a retail basis to consumers,eye cosmetics are required to have an ingredient declaration on the label, according to regulations implemented under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, or FPLA — an important consumer protection law. If you wish to avoid certain ingredients or compare the ingredients in different brands, you can check the ingredient declaration.If a cosmetic, sold on a retail basis to consumers, does not have an ingredient declaration, it is considered misbranded and is illegal in interstate commerce. Very small packages in tightly compartmentalized display racks may have copies of the ingredient declaration available on tear-off sheets accompanying the display. If neither the package nor the display rack provides the ingredient declaration, you aren’t getting the information you’re entitled to. Don’t hesitate to ask the store manager or the manufacturer why not.
- Be aware of color additives. In the United States, the use of color additives is strictly regulated. A number of color additives approved for cosmetic use in general are not approved for use in the area of the eye. For more information, please refer to the following link: An important alert for cosmetics containing illegal colors Keep away from kohl — and keep kohl away from kids! One color additive of particular concern is kohl. Also known as al-kahl, kajal, or surma, kohl is used in some parts of the world to enhance the appearance of the eyes, but is unapproved for cosmetic use in the United States. Kohl consists of salts of heavy metals, such as antimony and lead. It may be tempting to think that because kohl has been used traditionally as an eye cosmetic in some parts of the world, it must be safe. However, there have been reports linking the use of kohl to lead poisoning in children.Some eye cosmetics may be labeled with the word “kohl” only to indicate the shade, not because they contain true kohl. If the product is properly labeled, you can check to see whether the color additives declared on the label are in FDA’s list of color additives approved for use in cosmetics, then make sure they are listed as approved for use in the area of the eye.
- Dying to dye your eyelashes? Permanent eyelash and eyebrow tints and dyes have been known to cause serious eye injuries, including blindness. There are no color additives approved by FDA for permanent dyeing or tinting of eyelashes and eyebrows. FDA has an Import Alert in effect for eyelash and eyebrow dyes containing coal tar colors.
- Thinking of false eyelashes or extensions? FDA considers false eyelashes, eyelash extensions, and their adhesives to be cosmetic products, and as such they must adhere to the safety and labeling requirements for cosmetics. False eyelashes and eyelash extensions require adhesives to hold them in place. Remember that the eyelids are delicate, and an allergic reaction, irritation, or other injury in the eye area can be particularly troublesome. Check the ingredients before using these adhesives.
- Bad Reaction? If you have a bad reaction to eye cosmetics, first contact your healthcare provider. FDA also encourages consumers to report any adverse reactions to cosmetics.