How Cosmetics and Makeup Can Affect Your Eyes

Author: Premier Eye Associates

Make-up and other cosmetics are a fun way to express yourself and change your look easily. However, make-up is made from ingredients that are not natural to the eyes and can have serious consequences if not used and removed properly.

This article lists some of the more common complications associated with cosmetics so you can be aware of warning signs and symptoms of a problem.


Lip Fillers and Injections

Talc powder is a substance commonly used in lip fillers that can have potentially devastating results in the eye.

Talc powder can enter the blood stream and make its way to the eye’s vasculature system.

The eye has to maintain translucency to allow for proper transmission of light from the front of the eye to the retina—the back most structure of the eye responsible for detecting light and transmitting it to the brain for image processing.

The retina is very fragile. It has unique blood vessels that are sparsely placed to allow for appropriate blood supply and nutrition, but not too many so that they take up space and encroach on clear, translucent vision.

When talc powder enters the retinal vasculature, it can clog it up. This can cause death of the retina as its’ blood supply is essentially blocked off.

When part of the retina dies, it releases a signal called VEGF, promoting the growth of new vessels in a process called neovascularization.

These vessels are not made of the same caliber as original retinal vessels. These vessels are leaky and weak.

These weak leaky vessels can grow into the jelly-like substance of the eye called the vitreous humor.

The vitreous moves around with eye movements and can therefore tug and pull on the new leaky vessels. The vessels can either break and bleed (obstructing vision) or hold on for dear life and rip part of the retina off (retinal detachment). Either of which result is not good.

What’s more alarming is that talc retinopathy often is asymptomatic until serious damage has occurred as it is a painless, progressive form of vision loss.

This is not to say that talc retinopathy occurs with all lip injections—it’s actually a more rare finding. However, it does occur.

If you have had a lip filler or injection with talc powder, it is important to inform your eye doctor so they can monitor your retinal health and intervene if a problem does arise.

If you ever have an increase in flashes, floaters, or a “veil” or “curtain” over your vision, call your eye doctor immediately as these can be signs of a serious retinal problem.


Eye Makeup - Eyelash Extensions and False Eyelash Wear

Eyelash extensions are becoming increasingly popular in today’s fashion trends. However they also can cause several different eye problems if they are not maintained properly.

Eyelashes are a major part of your eyes’ natural protection system. They prevent debris and bacteria from reaching your actual eyeball, preventing harm and infection.

The more lashes you have, the thicker your lashes are, and the longer your lashes are, all contribute to increased collection of debris.

This can be both a good and bad thing. If you do not clean your lashes regularly, the debris and bacteria can build up and enter the eye resulting in an infection called blepharitis.

Blepharitis presents with red, itchy, irritated eyelid margins. This often progresses to a corneal infection called conjunctivitis in which bacteria invade the cornea, causing pain, blurry vision, more redness, and discharge from the eyes.

This leads to where eyelash extensions can cause problems. Eyelash extensions add thickness, length, and number to the lashes—hence increasing the amount debris build up on them.

Eyelash extensions also have different cleaning recommendations than normal lashes. It is not advised to wash lash extensions with water 24-36 hours after application, to use oil-based makeup removers, to use facial cleansing products near the lashes, or physically rub the lash line.

While these methods are good for prolonging the life of your extensions, they are not necessarily the best eye health care routine. It is highly recommended to thoroughly rub and wash around the eyelid margins at least once a day, especially in individuals who wear makeup products, to help prevent infections, inflammation, and prevent dry eye syndrome.

Not only that, but eyelash extensions are individual lashes applied with a higher-grade glue to the base of your natural eyelashes.

While estheticians use medical-grade glue, there is always an increased risk of bacteria conglomerating on the glue as well. Any increase in the number of bacteria at the base of the lashes increases the risk for eye infection.

Glue is also a foreign object to the eyes—allergic reactions can occur to this glue, as well as the material of the lashes themselves. This can occur from eyelash extension application or false eyelash wear.

In the eyes, allergic reactions present as itchy, red, irritated, and moderate-severe swollen lid margins. If you believe you are having an allergic reaction to eyelash glue or the lashes themselves, it is best to remove the lashes, thoroughly rinse off the glue, and apply a cool compress to the eye. Then call your eye doctor to ensure something more serious is not occurring.

The final major complication with false eyelashes that we will discuss here is that false lashes can result in loss of natural eyelashes. Heavy, thick lashes (extensions or falsies) can crush the natural lashes and cause serious structural damage.

Over time, with the accumulation of structural damage, natural lashes can fall out completely and may or may not grow back.

If eyelash extensions are something you would like to wear, we recommend staying away from heavy, extra long, or blinged out lashes as all of these factors apply more weight to the natural lens base and increases risk of natural lash destruction.

If you wear removable false lashes, we recommend only wearing them once (i.e. throw them away after each use) and always removing them prior to going to bed to avoid infection and lash loss.


Eye Makeup Can Cause Atopic Dermatitis

Cosmetics, whether they be made from chemicals or natural substances, can cause allergic reactions around the eyes—called atopic dermatitis.

This can present as swollen or puffy, itchy, scaly or bumpy, red eyelids. The inflammation can spread into the actual eye itself, but most commonly affects solely the eyelids.

Common culprits include nail polish, mascara, eyeliner, facial creams or scrubs, and even facial masks.

If you have swollen eyelids (either upper and/or lower lids) discontinue use of ALL your cosmetic products until the culprit can be narrowed out.

Eye Makeup and Dry Eye Syndrome

The eyelids contain several glands that produce the tear film of the eye. The tear film is responsible for keeping the eye’s surface moist and comfortable, as well as trapping unwanted external debris to later be blinked out.

When the glands of the eyelid become damaged or clogged, the tear film is not produced properly. This leads to an unstable tear film, contributing to a disorder called dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome results in the eyes feeling gritty, dry, and/or irritated, that often water excessively as the brain tries to get the glands working again to create more tears.

Applying eyeliner to the inner eyelids often damages the glands and can cause dry eye down the road. Throughout the day, the eyeliner also rubs against the tear film creating excess debris and irritation.

If you wear eyeliner, it is best to apply it to the outer eyelid only. Do not apply it to the base or inner lid margins to help prevent the risk of damaging the tear film.

Overall, cosmetics are great—we are not saying you should not use them. We do recommend, however, purchasing quality products to avoid irritations. We also recommend proper application of products and removal of products each day.

If you ever experience a problem that you believe is related to cosmetics, be sure to write down the name of the cosmetic and do not use it again.


Dr. Anthony Spina and the staff of Premier Eye Associates specialize in glasses, soft contact lenses, hard contact lenses, and medical eye exams. Call our eye doctor in Auburn, AL today at (334) 539-5391 or schedule an appointment online  if you are having any makeup issue with your eyes.  Our optometrist provides only the highest quality eye care services amongst eye doctors in the Auburn Alabama area.

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