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22nd Sep 2023

Six beauty habits that actually harm your eyes – and we’re all guilty of one or two

Sophie Collins

Eye health

An optician has warned against six beauty habits that could be causing you more harm than good.

Whether you wear makeup everyday or only on special occasions, we’re all guilty of some of these habits.

Knowing how to check the use-by date on a product, and knowing their shelf life once opened are two key things you need to know to avoid eye irritation or an infection.

According to Nimmi Mistry, an optician at Vision Direct, there are six common things people are doing that could be damaging their eyes.

Sharing makeup

Your eyes are the most sensitive part of your face which contains a lot of personalised bacteria so by sharing makeup you’re essentially trading germs.

Cross-contamination occurs when you use the same brushes, mascara, eye-shadow and eyeliner with someone else.

According to a 2020 study, makeup brushes were found to have staphylococcus aureus present.

This is a major pathogen of the eye able to infect the tear duct, eyelid, conjunctiva, cornea, anterior and posterior chambers, and the vitreous chamber. One infection this could lead to is bacterial conjunctivitis.

Not removing makeup before bed

We’ve all had times where you arrive in from a night out or just a long day at the office, and could not be bothered doing a skincare routine.

But as tired as you may feel it’s incredibly important that you remove your makeup before you go to bed.

Trapped makeup particles can irritate the surface of the eye and cause a ‘foreign body’ sensation – the feeling like you’ve got something in your eye.

Before you remove your makeup be sure to wash your hands as they carry a lot of bacteria.

Be sure to use a gentle cleanser for eye makeup to ensure you don’t irritate the delicate skin around your eyes.

Using expired products

In the same way that dirty makeup brushes can have bacteria build up on them, so can the makeup products themselves.

Even though makeup contains preservatives that help prevent bacteria from living in the products, they can still be contaminated with regular use.

Take mascara for example, the spool touches the eyelashes and then is placed back inside the product.

This happens repeatedly, often without the spool being cleaned, leading to the spread of bacteria to the eyes.

Here are some general replacement guidelines for eye makeup products:

  • Mascara and liquid eyeliner typically are considered safe to use for three months, six months maximum. Liquid products used near the eye have an increased risk of spreading bacteria
  • Pencil-style eyeliners and gel eyeliners can be used for up to a year
  • Powder products, such as eye shadows, if stored properly, free from moisture and used with clean brushes/applicators, are good for up to two years
  • Ensure that you check the dates on cosmetics and check the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging so you know how long products should be kept for safe use

Applying harsh chemicals

Avoid applying products that contain harsh chemicals around your eyes – they can irritate the skin and, if yours is particularly sensitive, it could also cause an allergic reaction.

If in doubt, check the ingredients and pay close attention to the packaging, but bear in mind some packaging will not explicitly state if the product is suitable for use around the eyes.

When trying a new skincare product, do a patch test. Trying a small amount applied to a small area daily for three to five days and monitoring for any unwanted reactions.

Not wearing sunglasses

Protecting your eyes from the sun is a must. Prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun modifies lens proteins of the eyes, this can lead to cataract formation and worsening eyesight.

Over time, cataracts can make vision blurry, hazy, or less colourful. There is also the added risk of increased chances of developing cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both of which are linked to UV exposure.

To protect your eyes consider wearing sunglasses with UV protection, and don’t be fooled by overcast days.

Following dangerous TikTok “hacks” and trends

There are thousands of new beauty trends emerging with some going viral, but this does not mean you should jump on the bandwagon and be quick to try them all. Sometimes there is no scientific evidence or expert opinion backing these quick fixes, and while some may be considered harmless, there are often one or two that are potentially dangerous.

For example, heating up eyelash curlers with a lighter for an extra long-lasting lift is extremely dangerous and can lead to burns, cause your lashes to fall out, and cause potential injury.

Another example of this is the bleached brows trend. To cut down on costs many opt to bleach eyebrows at home, but you need to be careful. Bleaching involves using a milder formulation of hydrogen peroxide.

Even in its lowest formulation, it has the potential to cause injury to the eye, and blindness in extreme cases.


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