Everyone has a desert island beauty product. One with transformative superpowers that can pull your whole look together in seconds. For many of us, it’s mascara. A quick coat can make you look bright eyed and awake, even when you’re not feeling it. But if you have sensitive eyes, mascara can be a can't-live-with-it-can't-live-without-it daily struggle. After all, bloodshot eyes, swollen lids, stinging, itching and burning (or all of the above), isn’t exactly the wide-eyed look you’re going for.
"There are many conditions that can make someone's eyes more sensitive than others," says Catherine Orentreich, M.D., a New York City-based board certified dermatologist and guiding dermatologist for Clinique. From skin conditions like eczema, rosacea and seborrhea to seasonal or topical allergies, eyes are exceptionally susceptible to irritation. "Eyelid skin is extremely thin and has fewer oil glands than other areas of the skin," says Dr. Orentreich. This causes a two-fold problem: Thin skin is more easily damaged, while less oil means drier skin, which is more easily irritated.
So can mascara even be in the beauty arsenal of someone who has sensitive eyes? Short answer: Yes. Here are seven mascara secrets to make daily wear a breeze, even if you're prone to full-blown mascara meltdowns.
1. Better safe than sorry.
Many things can cause sensitivity to mascara. To play it safe, look for one that's allergy and ophthalmologist tested, and fragrance free. Hint: All Clinique mascaras pass the test, which is why they are among the most recommended mascaras by dermatologists and ophthalmologists. Every single formula goes through 7,200 tests, and if there's even one reaction, it's reformulated. But just because they're safe for sensitive eyes doesn't mean you have to sacrifice wow-factor. Have it all with Lash Power Long-Wearing Mascara, a high-tech gel formula that lengthens lashes, doesn't flake or smudge, is tear-resistant and waterproof in cold water, yet wipes away easily with just warm water.
2. Patch test it.
Just as dermatologists recommend to test a new hair dye on a small area of skin to see if you develop a reaction before using, do the same with your mascara. Swipe just a little on your outer lashes and wait a few hours. Feel good? Then finish up a full application.
3. Don't get too close.
When applying mascara, avoid getting too close to your sensitive lashline. Instead, wiggle your brush into the very middle of your lashes, then gently sweep out to the tips. Think you can't wear mascara on your bottom lashes? Think again. Bottom Lash Mascara has a tiny, micro-precision brush that's perfect for detailing at a distance, and the Advanced Thermal Technology formula defines lashes without smudging, flaking or seeping into your eyes.
4. Skip nail polish.
Your manicure might be the last thing you'd suspect to be an eye irritant, but it's completely possible. Formaldehyde, often found in nail polish, gives off fumes that trigger sensitivity in eyes. Try going polish-free for a while to see if wearing mascara becomes less irritating.
5. Stick to fragrance-free creams.
According to Dr. Orentreich, fragrance is one of the biggest eye irritants, so take care to also avoid scented eye, face and hand creams.
6. Remove with care.
Whatever you do, avoid rubbing your eyes while wearing mascara throughout the day. Likewise, when it comes to removing your eye makeup (which you always do before bed, right?), Dr. Orentreich says the less rubbing, the better. "Remove mascara and eye makeup in separate steps to minimise the tugging," she suggests. First, saturate a cotton ball with a dual-phase, emulsifier-free makeup remover like Take The Day Off Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips, and gently press over your lashes for 10 seconds. This way, the remover has time to break down the mascara, which means fewer sweeps to get the job done. Once all of your mascara is off, remove the rest of your makeup.
7. Live by the 6-month rule.
Don't forget that mascara has an expiration date. Toss it after six months, no matter what, and crack open a fresh tube.
Photo: Yasu + Junko | Words: Kristen Bateman