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Too much eye makeup can lead to redness, swelling – find out how to avoid this

The festive season might be the right time to dabble in bold colours and glitter for that party look. But don’t forget to play it safe, too – experts share tips on dodging pink eye and skin rashes.

It’s the year-end party season when the usual office-appropriate eyeliner and nude eye makeup make way for bold, glittery palettes. Even those who normally wear just lipstick may be tempted to dip their toes – or shall we say, brushes – into some festive colours.

But while you’re experimenting with new looks and wearing more eye makeup than at other times of the year, the risk of eye irritation and allergic conjunctivitis are certainly not what you want for Christmas.

Unfortunately, these happen to be the common eye problems caused by eye makeup, said Adjunct Professor Lim Li, senior consultant at the Singapore National Eye Centre.

When you're wearing more eye makeup, the skin around your eyes can also react to it and/or makeup removal products, resulting in allergic or irritant contact dermatitis, added Dr Lucinda Tan, consultant at National Skin Centre. 

When you're wearing more eye make-up, your eyes and the skin around your eyes can react. (Photo: Unsplash/Brandless)

The itchiness, swelling and redness associated with these conditions are typically limited to the areas where the product comes into contact with. But in severe cases of allergic contact dermatitis, “the rashes can spread to involve larger areas of the face or body,” she said.

READ: Those eyelash extensions you love wearing may have bacteria and fungi

So, what can one do to look fabulous and still avoid those pitfalls? Other than not sharing your makeup and cleaning your face properly before bed, eye and skin experts tell CNA Lifestyle what the other dos and don’ts are.


Here’s why: Bits of eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner and other eye makeup products can and do fall into your eyes during application. If you put on your contact lenses after that, the lenses act like a lid to “trap makeup particles holding dirt, dust or infection”, said Dr Tan. And that may increase your risk of eye infections, she said.

Besides, you can line your eyes more precisely and coat your lashes with mascara more accurately when you can see clearer with your contact lenses on. 


Seems like a given, right? You don’t want make-up particles in your eyes, irritating them. But some women do push the envelope, such as lining the waterlines (the thin strip of skin between the base of the lashes and the eyeball) to achieve a more dramatic smokey look or cat eye.

Experts such as Adjunct Prof Lim are saying: Don’t. She has found fine, black or beige particles that suggest the presence of eyeliner, face powder or foundation on the cornea. And these are what result "in eye irritation, conjunctival redness and inflammation”, she said.


You may have read that eye makeup with glitter is bad news as the shiny – and often, bigger – bits may irritate the corneas. Maybe not after all, if the products are meant to be used as eye makeup in the first place.

“When properly used, eye makeup products are perfectly safe and do not affect eye health in any way. This is true whether they are matte, shimmery or in any form,” said Professor Alain Khaiat, president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association of Singapore, and chairman of the ISO Technical Committee on Cosmetics representing Singapore.

But you may want to think twice about trying looks like this:


You may be tempted to try other products not originally meant for the eye area, after watching makeup YouTubers apply lipstick on the eyelids. Or you might think, what’s the harm in using that leftover DIY hair dye on your brows? Waste not, want not, right?

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“Do not use any product to dye the eye lashes or eye brows, the use of hair dyes on lashes or brows can lead to severe damage to the eye should some of the product get into the eye,” said Prof Khaiat. 

It's not a good idea to wear lipstick on your eyelids. (Photo: Unsplash/Ray Chan)

As for multitasking a lipstick when there aren’t such instructions from the manufacturer, it’s an equally bad idea. The pigments used to achieve the lipstick’s colour as well as its higher level of alcohol, waxes, fats, oils, and emollients may irritate the more sensitive skin around the eyes.

Also, “never add water to a product if the product is dry; change it,” said Prof Khaiat.

READ: Make-up and bacteria: Ranking the dirtiest product testers at the cosmetics counter


Those with sensitive skin reach for hypoallergenic products. But what does the term mean? “Hypoallergenic means that the product has been tested on human volunteers to show that when used it will not induce an allergy,” said Prof Khaiat. “This, of course, does not mean that nobody will have an allergy, but that the risk is minimised.”

Your best bet? The time-tested adage: Test the product on your hand. See that there are no skin reactions before using it on your face, said Dr Tan.

Source: CNA/bk