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Makeup artist applying eyeliner to woman

Is eyeliner bad for my eyes?

Photo by Matthew Henry on Brust

For many, eyeliner is a beauty staple. Used to add definition to the contours of the eyes, eyeliner comes in various forms, from powders and liquids to gels and waxes. But is it bad for your eyes?

Generally, using eyeliner on the outer part of your eye is fine, as it shouldn’t directly interfere with your eyes. But many people wear eyeliner on the ‘waterline’ or inner part of the eyeline.

Is it safe to wear eyeliner on the waterline?
Eye with makeup close up

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A common eyeliner technique is to apply it directly to the eye’s waterlines. This is the area found above the lashes on the lower eyelid and below the lashes on the upper eyelid. This method can result in the eye appearing more boldly defined than with other techniques. However, applying eyeliner to the waterline can pose a risk to your eyes.

“People who wear contact lenses are most likely to notice some problems”

Dr Alison Ng, of the Centre for Contact Lens Research at the University of Waterloo in Canada, conducted a study recording the number of eyeliner particles that enter the eye’s tear film after various application techniques. 

Dr Ng found that eyeliner particles in the eye were appearing at a far greater frequency after application to the waterline. “We noticed that the makeup migration happened quicker and was greater when eyeliner was put on the inner lid margin,” claims Dr Ng.

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The study concluded that 15 to 30% more eyeliner particles enter the eye when applied to the waterline. It also occurs at an accelerated rate compared to other methods.

Woman with make up on closing eyes

Photo by Mihai Stefan on Unsplash

Contact lens users are particularly at risk when applying eyeliner to the waterline, as Dr Ng explains: “People who wear contact lenses are most likely to notice some problems. If they have eyeliner stuck to their lenses, increasing deposits might cause vision disruption as the lens becomes cloudier.” Other researchers had similar findings when studying the side effects of eyeliner application on the waterline.

There is also the risk of the eyeliner pencil damaging the surface of the eye during application. If this is a regular occurrence, it can lead to irritation, swellings, or even an infection.

In short – eyeliner can be damaging to your eyes, so be careful when applying your makeup. If you can resist the temptation to add eyeliner to your eye’s waterline, it’s probably best to do so.

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