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Does wearing eye makeup cause styes?

Beth inquires: I know this isn’t a question related to a specific product, but I just have to ask. I keep getting a stye in the same spot on my eyelid, and I am scared to go to the doctor because I don’t want them to tell me to stop wearing makeup! I know, that is terrible. But I wash my makeup brushes regularly, I change my mascara every 3 months, I don’t do the same for my eyeshadows or eyeliners, however. I always get all of my makeup off before I go to bed. I am just wondering if there is any evidence of makeup causing styes? It seems strange that it would always be in the same spot if it were something in my makeup, wouldn’t it get on the other eye as well? Thanks for any guidance you can provide, I really love your blog and respect your science.

The Right Brain responds:

When Beth first posed this question, we urged her to overcome her fear and check with her doctor. That’s because we are cosmetic scientists, NOT medical professionals and we would never want anyone to seek our advice in place of seeking help from their physician.

Thankfully Beth took our advice and asked a dermatologist. Even better, she was kind enough to write back and tell us what advice the doctor gave her. So, we thought we’d share her email with the rest of Beauty Brains community in case you ever have similar problems. Here’s what she said:

Hi Beauty Brains, I just thought you might like to know, that I did check with my dermatologist. She said some people are just prone to styes, and that it has absolutely nothing to do with makeup or products or anything. It’s just a “shell” that keeps filling and draining. If you really get them a lot, sometimes an ophthalmologist can remove the shell through surgery, but it can cause scarring. Just a hot compress is all you should use. Anyway, thanks for your reply, thought this might help if you get this question again!

Thank YOU Beth, for taking your time to share your learnings with the rest of the Beauty Brains community. It’s people like you that make doing this blog worth while. And we’re relieved to hear that you don’t have to worry about giving up your favorite eyeshadow! If you want to learn more, here’s a good article from Medline on the causes of styes.

Have you ever had a stye on your eye? Have you ever felt like you’re living in a pig sty? No? Well, um, have you ever watched a Julia Stiles movie? Close enough!

Be like Beth and leave a comment for the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Mandy February 13, 2014, 8:58 pm

    For what it’s worth, there seems to be more than one opinion on this subject. I noticed I was getting styes all the time. So I went to my doctor and he confirmed that some people are just more prone to them. But he also said that wearing eye make up can exacerbate the problem. He suggested I stop wearing eye makeup for a while and see if it made a difference. I took his advice and my styes virtually vanished. I get one only about two or three times a year now. So I would say there can be a definite correlation. (Btw, I was using high quality eye makeup when I was getting the styes, so that doesn’t necessarily matter.) Anyway, hope this is helpful.

  • Kaley March 12, 2015, 3:28 pm

    Makeup does cause styes. I am 24 and I just started to wear eyeliner for the first time and the very day after I got my first stye. Makeup isn’t healthy for your body and it blocks your pores. It might make you look better but it can also make skin problems way worse. By the way, the eyeliner I used was brand new hypoallergenic physicians associates.

  • Angela May 3, 2016, 1:24 am

    I was plagued with styes for years. After I got older, I stopped wearing eye makeup. My styes stopped, but I did not attribute it to not wearing the makeup. Last week, I put on eye makeup for the first time in several years to attend an event. That night I got the worst stye I have ever had deep in my inner eyelid. My eye is completely swollen shut and is incredi bly painful. All the makeup was brand new, btw.

    Do what you wish, but I will never wear eye makeup again.

  • Monica July 26, 2016, 11:36 pm

    I have tried everything. I literally can go to the store buy brand-new eye makeup within hours I can feel the pain as a precursor then another few hours it’s there. Mind you the first time I had ever had a stye I was 30(i wasn’t into wearing makeup because I could apply it like the pros) anyway I looked like freaking Quasimodo. I went to the Dr. To find that I had two styes one on the outer and one on the inside of my eyelid. It was excruciating and nasty my Dr. Prescribed drops and recommended warm compresses. I think since then the floodgates were opened and I feel that now I’m in my 40’s, environmental stuff and/or makeup exacerbate them. I’ve tried hypoallergenic eyeliner, mascara, shadows anything. I even cleaned the tools with Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo… Nothing has helped aside from keeping teabags on hand and staying hidden in the house… It sucks!!!

  • Candy June 13, 2017, 12:40 pm

    Do not use waterproof eye products! It does not wash off as well and will cause your eyelid pores to clog that caused styes! Hypoallergenic – good brand dark eye shadow should be used instead of eyeliner. This will come off better when cleaning your eyes every night before bed using baby shampoo and very warm water. Experienced woman with styes showing up after using these products that never had a stye in my life. First one in my 50s. They did not go away and had to have them surgically removed… NOT FUN! I will never use a waterproof eyeliner again!

  • Cindy March 15, 2018, 12:05 pm

    I have been wearing eye makeup for years & about a year ago, starting getting styes – on & off, switching right-to-left. My optometrist is not worried but it’s happened again & I’m annoyed. I am using Bobbi Brown & have decided to throw all their colors away & try something different. Anyone?

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