The use of eye makeup can make your eyes prettier and more noticeable, but it also can be the source of a nasty eye infection. The Food and Drug Administration reports that each year there are women who are either temporarily or permanently blinded as the result of infections caused by eye makeup.
Bacteria, fungi, and viruses can all cause eye infections, the symptoms of which may include redness, swelling, pain, eye discharge, or vision problems. But there are practical and easy steps you can take to prevent eye infections caused by bacteria and other germs in makeup.
Gently, but thoroughly, cleanse your face and eyelids before applying makeup. Wash your hands too. Bacteria on your hands can get into your eyes and cause an infection. If you already have an eye infection or the skin around your eyes is red or irritated, don't use eye makeup until the infection heals.
Apply makeup outside the lash line away from the eye. This helps you avoid blocking the tiny glands surrounding your upper and lower eyelids. These meibomian glands secrete oil that lubricates the surface of the eyes to keep them moist. If these glands become blocked, infection-causing bacteria can grow, causing blurry vision.
Remove eye makeup before you go to bed at night. Because the skin around your eyes is thin, your eyes are particularly susceptible to infection. If you rub your eyes, chemicals in the makeup may cause irritation, which can lead to infection.
Avoid sharing your eye makeup with anyone else. Although it may be tempting, don't sample eye makeup in stores—even if you're offered a fresh applicator. Keep in mind that other people have sampled the makeup, which is loaded with their bacteria. The use of a one-time applicator isn't going to help if you use it to apply contaminated makeup. Even if there are bacteria present that aren't normally harmful, if you have a chronic illness or weakened immune system you are more vulnerable to infection.
Toss out any unused eye makeup after three months. Don't wait for the makeup to dry out. Bacteria that can cause eye infections thrive in liquid or creamy eye makeup. Mascara, in particular, often is the source of an eye infection.
Bacteria, which are normally found on the skin and eyelashes, contaminate the wand or brush you use to apply mascara or eyeliner the first time you use it. Each time you use the brush after that, you put more bacteria into the mascara or eyeliner tube—a place that provides the moist, dark environment where bacteria love to grow. As bacteria build up on the brush and in the tube, you increase your risk of an eye infection each time you apply the mascara.
Avoid the use of powder and metallic or glitter eye makeup products if you have a problem with dry eyes, especially if you wear contact lenses. Flakes from the makeup can get in your eyes and may lead to infection or corneal irritation or abrasion.
If you get an eye infection, immediately throw away all your eye makeup—even if it's fairly new. Make an appointment with an eye care professional such as The Eye Depot if your symptoms fail to improve or you develop problems with your vision.