Eye irritation from makeup

edited January 2014 in Ask the Beauty Brains
I don't know why, some kinds of eye shadow and mascara sting my eyes. But they don't sting immediately after application but some hours after that when I'm outside and my eyes just start getting tears and until tears wash my makeup completely, it just doesn't stop. I get teary eyes in cold weather sometimes even without wearing makeup but it is short and doesn't sting. I'm sure one kind of eye shadow always irritates my eyes so I don't use it anymore but recently I bought a new mascara and it seems like it is responsible for my teary eyes.
My question is - is this irritation due to some ingredients in eye makeup? Or can it be because the application brush is contaminated with something? Are there any other possible explanations? And which ingredients are usually irritating? Here in Korea they don't always write the ingredients of colour cosmetics, how can I know?


  • It's tough to say because the eye is so sensitive that MANY things can irritate it. If you can send us the ingredient lists of new mascara that's bothering you so much (and the old one that didn't bother you) we can try to identify the problem. 

    If companies don't list all in the ingredients of color cosmetics you could try writing to them for a full ingredient list. I don't know the labeling laws in Korea but here in the US they HAVE to disclose all the ingredients.  
  • edited January 2014
    I have this problem, too.  For me, it's glittery eye shadows and any mascara EXCEPT tube forming mascara.  Google tube forming mascara to find brands.  Clinique, MAC, and Blinc* are a few that I know of, but lots of brands (including drugstore brands) have a tube forming mascara.  Also, I use spf around my eyes, and some eye makeup seems to pull my spf closer to my lash line, causing irritation.  I find if I only apply the tube forming mascara to the tips of my lashes and not to the base of the lashes I'm better off.
    *Note: this is not to say that ALL mascaras Clinique and MAC carry are tube forming--you need to ask which of their mascaras are.  I think MAC's is called extended play lash or something like that...
  • The tube forming mascaras use an acrylic polymer technology similar to hairsprays. They should have less flaking so it's not surprising you'd experience less irritation from "stuff" in your eyes. Blinc is sort of an ironic name then, isn't it? 
  • Yes, the name is ironic. So are the tubes not lipid soluble? And if so, would irritating chemicals in the mascara be less prone to being dissolved by oils secreted by the eyelid/base of the eyelash than traditional mascaras?
  • Because I don't think I experience flaking with traditional mascaras so much as what feels like a chemical sting right about the time my lids are getting oily.
  • The acrylic polymers they use are not very oil soluble. But then again, I don't know the major route of mascara ingredients entering the eye: It could be flaking, where particulates break off and fall into the eye or it could be leaching where oil soluble ingredients are solubilized by hair/skin lipids. 

    Either way, I'd hypothesize that a tube forming mascara would give less irritation, IMHO. 
  • I work for Sephora and one of the safest reccomendations we make for people with irritation is tube mascaras. Some of them still flake here and there (the Too Faced one had this issue) yet people still very rarely return it based on irritation. Randy, your theory about oil-soluble ingredients seems like a very sensible way to explain this. It's also supported by the fact that I've encountered lot's of people who have constant issues with their mascara smudging (those with oily lids in particular) tend to be the ones that have frequent irritation problems too. Many who switch to tube mascara (and eyeshadow primer) find their issues are almost non-existent after. This would be very interesting to study...
  • I take partial credit for the oily lid theory:)
  • I believe that the "Oily Lid Theory" was a progressive rock band back in the '70s. But I'm not sure. 
  • Oh, and I forgot to mention--for the OP.  I cannot use eyeliner on my lower lash line, or I get irritation within a few hours of the time that I apply.  I'm not even talking about my waterline.  I just discovered I have to do top lid only with eyeliner--waterproof or not, doesn't make a difference.
  • Thank you. Here in Korea obviously there is no such law. No colour cosmetics has the ingredients written. So I'm only left with international brands here. What do you think of Maybelinne? I don't want to spend too much money. And what if the mascara is water proof? Will that make a difference?
    I rarely use eyeliner and I haven't had any problems with it yet. Only eye shadow and mascara seem to create problems for me.
    Do you think eye shadow primer will help? And will it help preserve the colour? Can it be cheap and still good?
  • edited January 2014
    I would check which of maybelline products is tube forming.  I would bet they have one but I'm not sure which of their formulations is.  I think you would like tube forming mascaras.
  • edited January 2014
    Try this one if you can find it.  http://www.target.com/p/maybelline-volum-express-the-colossal-washable-mascara/-/A-15088173

    Here's another maybelline tube forming mascara (or is it the same one?  not sure).  http://www.maybelline.com/Products/Eye-Makeup/Mascara/volum-express-the-falsies-washable-mascara.aspx

    Note that they both have the word "washable" in them.
  • Affordable can still be good. Expensive and drugstore brands are usually owned by the same company like Loreal owning Lancome too.
  • Thanks for the links on the Maybelline tube forming mascaras Sarah. I may give those a try!
  • edited January 2014
    Yeah, the only issue with tubing mascaras is you do need to use warm water to remove; in other words, oil or remover alone won't take them off.
  • I haven't worn mascara for three days, however I wear eye shadow but my eyes are still irritated. They were irritated even when I wasn't using anything. Could it be the weather (but it wasn't like that 3 weeks ago)? Could it be lasting irritation from the mascara? Could it be the tea tree oil I put in my avocado oil I use to clean my makeup? Could it be that I use vinegar to clean and it stings my eyes even after I've gone out of the room? Looks like for no reason my eyes start tearing while I'm outside. At least without mascara it doesn't feel that bad.
  • Any of the things you mentioned could irritate your eyes. You said something about wearing eye shadow as well. Could that be the cause of the irritation? Try going with out that for a few days. 
  • I tried one day and the same thing happened but I didn't have a problem with this particular eye shadow before.
  • Try checking with a dermatologist or ophthalmologist. I wonder if you could have dry eye or (although rare) ocular rosacea, or something else that is making your eyes more sensitive.
  • Also be extra careful about getting product near the corners of your eyes where it can get into your eye.
  • Maybe I will try Maybelinne, now I got back to my old mascara, Nature republic (Korean brand), and it's OK so far. 
  • You use vinegar to clean around your home? I hope I'm understanding that correctly. With any household cleaning products (natural or otherwise) make sure you've thoroughly washed your hands. The residuals could bother you if you accidentally touch your eyes. Additionally I would definitely worry about your tea tree oil avocado oil brush cleaning mixture. Tea tree oil is an irritant and if you're not rinsing the oil mixture off the avocado oil might be making it stick to your brush hairs rather than evaporating. Correct me if I'm wrong Brains, but all fragrant/aromatic/volatile oils such as tea tree oils eventually evaporate whereas fatty oils such as avocado help prevent evaporation of more volatile chemical compounds such as water and fragrance.

    I do know that mixing my fragrance with oil makes it last all the day long :)
  • I only use vinegar to clean mold, it smells bad but not as bad as bleach. I use tea tree oil because it helps with acne but maybe I shouldn't use this mixture around my eyes. But I use it in the evening and apply makeup in the morning so I'm not sure. My eyes are too sensitive :( However, this irritating mascara is not to be used or purchased again. :D I will try Maybelinne.
  • I would definitely avoid using the mixture around your eyes. It's most likely not contributing to your next day irritation but it can't be good either.

    As for the vinegar, use it if that works, but it is quite a potent chemical and could irritate your eyes if you accidentally touch them.
  • Nor ACV if you have a pimple around there, no matter how often the acne forums contributors tell you to!
  • Oh, no, I used vinegar on my face only once and it didn't help so I stopped using it. I used it on my hair for much longer than I would like to admit and at some point it became impossible to comb my hair. But vinegar is great to use in a spray bottle to remove mold - it kills it pretty well and it is easy and lazy to use. Just the whole house smells like vinegar later and it irritates my eyes. However, bleach irritates my everything so I prefer using vinegar, if you know of something else to remove mold (baking soda helps too) I will be happy to use it.
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