Makeup is not just a product that makes you look beautiful, it may also be a health hazard, and here’s why we ALL no matter our eye health, need to be discerning. However, since I have Keratoconus and many others too, let’s explain what it is first. Keratoconus is an eye disease that many people live with, including myself, which is why we need to discuss it more openly in greater detail.
Whether or not you struggle with Keratoconus (quite a mouthful I know) you should take what makeup products you’re using on your eyes, very seriously. Especially with COVID-19 and all the mask-wearing, there’s no doubt that most ladies are making their eyes a priority in terms of beauty. But, have you considered your eye health and what those toxic chemicals in your products are doing to your overall health? Probably not.
I’ve never been a fan of wearing a lot of makeup on my face, even on big occasions. Admittedly, the makeup trends I see usually look beautiful, but I just couldn’t bear wearing so much product on my face. That and it takes far too much time when I would much rather be moving my body or getting on with the day’s activities.
Having said that, I did study makeup as part of my Fashion qualification at LISOF. I realized that it wasn’t something I’d make a career out of, but I still love being creative sometimes and making my eyes look pretty.
Then, ironically I recently discovered that I have been slowly but surely killing my own Meibomian Glands most likely because of eye makeup. These glands are vital for oil secretion to your tears in your eyelids, which prevents dry or red eye syndrome. Yes, you heard me, eye makeup can be extremely harmful and toxic to your health.
This freaked me out because of course I still want to make myself feel beautiful and I know there are many people out there who see makeup as a hobby, a passion, or even a career. Therefore, whether your morning makeup routine is three minutes or 30 minutes, you’ve got to choose which products you use wisely and apply them in a way that promotes good eye and overall health.
Makeup Is More Than Beauty
What Is Keratoconus? (This Is Good To Know, Even With Normal Eyes)
Okay, first I need to explain what this eye condition is as I was diagnosed with it at the young age of 17. Keratoconus (ker-uh-toe-KOH-nus) occurs when your cornea, the clear, dome-shaped front surface of your eye, thins and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape.
This is problematic because a cone-shaped cornea causes blurry vision and may cause sensitivity to light and glare. Keratoconus usually affects both eyes, though it often affects one eye more than the other. In my case, the right eye is the worst. It generally begins to affect people between the ages of 10 and 25. Unfortunately, if you leave it untreated the condition may progress slowly for 10 years or longer.
In the early stages of keratoconus, you might be able to correct vision problems with glasses or soft contact lenses. However, even when I wore glasses optometrists could only correct my vision to approximately 70% – which is pretty pointless.
This explains a lot as to why I would usually be a clumsy lady, trip, bump, break or spill things. Therefore, you end up having to visit an ophthalmologist who will have to fit you with rigid, gas permeable contact lenses or other types of lenses, such as scleral lenses. I wear scleral lenses, but anybody who wears a lens knows how tricky makeup is especially if it gets onto the lens. The makeup is exceptionally difficult to remove.
Before scleral lenses, I had to go for an operation called crosslinking to stop the degeneration process. Thankfully it was successful. The only downside is that this procedure doesn’t correct your vision and the recovery process is quite painful but it needs to be done if you want to avoid further blindness.
However, if your condition progresses to an advanced stage, you may need a cornea transplant. This is the last resort. If a doctor tells you to go for crosslinking, do it as soon as possible don’t prolong it out of fear to experience the inevitable.
Take my advice about nurturing your eyes, especially in terms of dry eyes or if you’re battling with sore eyes from your lenses. I got a big fright from my ophthalmologist who told me it is my mascara and eyeliner that are the possible culprits for my dead glands. You do not want to experience eye problems guys, because your vision is everything!
Don’t Worry, You Can Still Wear Your Best Makeup Looks
Whatever the current state of your eyes, living with keratoconus or not. You need to take this matter seriously, especially for those who wear specialty contact lenses. It’s important not only to follow general best practices but also to keep in mind some additional considerations when purchasing new makeup products.
Even brands that state they’re 100% natural and safe need to be taken with caution. Now when I choose items, I do my homework and go research the brand online and read reviews, see if it’s one I can trust.
Having said that, protecting your eyes doesn’t mean you have to stop wearing your favorite products. I will share some tips for keeping your eyes healthy, while still embracing fun and trendy looks in a series of new blog posts. So keep your eyes peeled.
CRST Shares Hair-Raising Issues In Eye Cosmetics
Not only is makeup the culprit, but so is mask-wearing which is a common practice in the age of COVID-19. Ever since masks became a thing, dry eye disease (DED) is an increasing patient complaint. Apparently, this increase is possibly due to turbulent air from mask-associated dry eye (MADE), a term coined by Darrell E. White, MD.
Also, increased screen time and the beauty, skincare, makeup, and cosmetics practices of these patients. Your best bet is to probably always choose a breathable, light mask so that you’re not suffocating and trapping your own air.
Let’s explore some of what’s in eye makeup that can contribute to the ill health of your eyes. As one of the most sensitive areas of the body, everyone should be careful about what products they allow near or inside their eyes.
I know right? We all love having those long and beautiful dark lashes. It’s truly difficult to find reputable mascara products that don’t contain harsh chemicals without them smearing, and when you can find them they’re filled with artificial tear and ocular surface-unfriendly ingredients.
Even formulas that rely on alternative preservative systems (different from traditional paraben and formaldehyde-donating preservative systems) are tested only for a short period. This means sterility is not reliable beyond that time. My ophthalmologist told me that many mascara and eyeliner brands contain the same chemical that is used in general toilet cleaners. OH MY GOSH! Just no.
Additionally, CRST says the makeup products are inoculated once and then researchers wait for microbial growth. However, this doesn’t reflect real-world use of daily application and inoculation. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to discontinue the use of products that are long past their suggested replacement dates.
Also, you know the mascara makeup that makes your lashes nice and long? Take caution before proceeding my friend! The only way for brands to improve the lengthening effect of their mascara is to add nylon fiber. But, nylon fiber is an ingredient you should avoid.
Look At The Science
A 2018 case report described a woman in her 40s who presented with eye redness, irritation, and pain. She was using Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes. Reportedly, she had six 1-mm black nylon fibers lodged in the subconjunctival space with adjacent inflammatory reaction and fibrosis. The lady had to have them surgically removed. A $3.3 million class action settlement was brought against the company in 2019 for false claims of using natural lengthening fibers (nylon is man-made). You see, so you really need to be on top of the makeup inspection game. Lookout for additives listed as nylon66.
CRST says that nylon shows up to have sharp edges on scanning electron microscopy. It is stiff and has a spear-like effect at short lengths which explains the case above. Moreover, when it’s combined with other mascara chemicals including propylene glycol and preservatives, the potential for inflammation and fibrosis increases.
Parabens And Phthalates
According to experts, products that contain preservatives or ingredients such as kohl, talc, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), urea, sulfates, and phthalates can irritate your skin or eyes. Therefore, I encourage you to take time to read the labels on any new products you consider trying, or visit a site that provides safety ratings on thousands of cosmetics. If something you use has been causing or contributing to your eye irritation, consider trying a hypoallergenic alternative.
Many allergen-free products are available, even at your local drug store. In my case, I have struggled with allergies my whole life and so I need to be extra careful with both what I put on my skin and what I put into my body. Diet also plays a key role in your eye and overall health, which is why I follow a plant-based diet, you can learn more about what I do here.
What’s The Good News?
We don’t have to sacrifice our love for wearing makeup. This is because new research shows wearing clean eye makeup may be a really important way to reduce the number of harmful chemicals in our bodies.
It turns out that our eye area can absorb what we put on it, including mascara. That’s why wearing traditional eye makeup puts us at a higher risk of having nasty chemicals in our system. These chemicals are linked to health issues like endocrine disruption, cancer, and neurobehavioral problems.
But if we make the switch to clean makeup, levels of certain unhealthy chemicals in our bodies go down significantly in just a few short days!
Ditch The OTC Eyelash Growth Serums
When it comes to makeup, I haven’t tried an eyelash growth serum before but I have used mascaras that are supposed to make your eyelashes grow longer. I suppose that counts too.
Those long, lush eyelashes that are so widely desired likely come at a price. In addition to chemical-laden mascaras, the look of embellished eyelashes can be achieved with the use of prostaglandin analog (PGA). These are basically laced eyelash growth serums or magnetic eyelashes you can buy at any store over the counter (OTC) that compromise your body’s natural defenses. Moreover, eyelash perms or extensions are chemically dangerous and unhygienic.
According to CRST, none of these are safe and is why it’s important for everyday shoppers and ophthalmologists to understand the pitfalls of each of these methods to make healthier choices. Beauty is expensive, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of your health.
Here’s A Bit Of Science
In a survey on OTC eyelash growth serum use, among 154 respondents, 43% said they had stopped using an eyelash growth serum. Then, 67% of these respondents reported that the reason for dropping out was the side effects including; burning, stinging, itching, eyelid pigment change, eyelash loss, and sunken eyes).
Therefore, if you experience any of the telltale side effects of PGA use, it might be because you’re using eyelash growth serum and it’s time for you to stop.
Read The Labels And Avoid The Trends
Honestly, after all the digging I’ve been doing there isn’t any real studies being done to regulate these makeup products we’re wearing. Here’s the thing, prescription medications require transparent, robust, placebo-controlled studies to gain FDA approval. These head-to-head randomized studies in identical cohorts allow us to make claims such as safer or even better than.
Sadly, there is no such data transparency or basis for clinical safety and efficacy claims in makeup cosmetics. On a positive note, this is good because we’re no longer using rabbits and dear animals to test our products on. But, these inhumane tests are now replaced by in vitro EpiOcular MatTek assays designed to test ocular irritancy from industrial and household chemicals, personal care products, and makeup cosmetics.
For makeup and cosmetics studies, a liquid cosmetic is exposed to cultured human keratinocytes for 30 to 254 minutes. It is then assayed for cell death against positive and negative controls which isn’t a typical time frame for human use. Usually, we wear makeup between 8, 16, or 24 hours. If 60% or more of the cells survive that short in vitro, non–real-world exposure, the product is considered non-irritating.
In other words, up to 40% of our cells can die from exposure to makeup cosmetics and the product will still be reported as nonirritating. Therefore, can we trust the makeup we’re applying to our eyes and faces?
Why This Is Concerning For Our Eye Health
This raises significant concerns around makeup safety, especially in those who already have eye diseases, sensitive eyes, or allergies. Also, these studies explain why makeup users in the survey had a higher Standard Patient Evaluation of Eye Dryness (SPEED). This is particularly apparent in users who do not remove their makeup. What’s worse, is that makeup companies are not required to perform EpiOcular testing. When they do, the data results are not made public.
Basically, there is no way to standardize the makeup we’re using, since most products are reviewed by subjective users and not real-world tests. The CRST explains that makeup clinical studies are nonscientific marketing studies that do not guarantee ocular surface safety because they do not even ask questions about ocular safety and side effects.
Even in the European Union, where makeup safety regulations are more up-to-date, cosmetics organizations develop consumer use surveys. These surveys are often misrepresented as clinical trials and instill consumer’s confidence. Subjective performance does not equal consumer safety. Therefore, since we expect the prescription medication we use for treatments to be safe, why don’t we expect the same for eye and facial makeup?
The FDA Doesn’t Regulate Most Cosmetics
Apparently, even cosmetics safety-in-use studies (ophthalmologist-tested) lack scientific rigor, scientific methodology, and transparency. Eye health experts have spent years trying to find industry standards or FDA regulations for making cosmetic label claims like; safe for contact lens wearers, appropriate for dry eye, and suitable for sensitive eyes. These claims are based on nontransparent protocols from ophthalmologist testing companies, one of which has had indictments of data fraud.
This is why, cosmeceutical or makeup brands that claim the space between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals have an even higher burden of safety, transparency, performance, and consumer safety expectations.
Here’s Why According To The Science
The FDA has even been told by researchers that a form of premarket approval should be considered for all cosmetic and makeup products. This was suggested after a 2017 study, but since cosmeceuticals and cosmetics are neither recognized nor defined under FDA law, the legal requirements live in a very blurred zone.
Makeup and cosmetics companies don’t perform studies with pharmaceutical rigor because they don’t have to. It is as simple as that. Yet ocular complications from their products are often seen in many eye clinics.
Also, makeup or cosmetics are not allowed to make treatment claims. Therefore, we must view makeup cosmetics claims such as; suitable for dry eyes with healthy skepticism. Finally, when you see makeup and cosmetics claiming that they’re better than or safer than, ask yourself, “Better and safer than what?”
Optimize Your Eye Health By Following My Eye Series
Find out what makeup products you CAN use on your eyes and where to buy them. I love these products because they’re vegan, natural, hypoallergenic, and free of toxic chemicals.
Another tool you can use to optimize the longevity and health of your eyes is by understanding your gut and getting your microbiome tested with VIOME. I absolutely love knowing what I’m putting into my body and why, because everything makes an impact.