If you love wearing mascara but always seem to end up with black streaks after a few hours of wear—you may need to switch up the product you’re using. The best mascara for sensitive eyes will help prevent your eyes from getting red, puffy, and watery.
“People who are prone to dry, itchy eyes, including contact lens wearers, are more likely to be sensitive to mascara,” says Arian Fartash, O.D., an optometrist in Orange County, California.
The ingredients in your mascara can also be a nuisance. “In order to prevent the growth of microbes, any cosmetic product that contains water—like mascara—needs to contain preservatives. Some people are sensitive to preservatives, which can lead to redness or irritation near the eyes,” says Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin.
Signs that you’re sensitive will show up in and around the skin of eyes. For instance, you have dry, flaky eyelids or eyes that are watery and red, says Dr. Fartash. If that’s you, stop wearing eye makeup (yes, mascara, too) until the symptoms disappear and consider consulting your doctor who can tell you if you have an infection that needs to be treated. Once any existing issues are cleared up, it’s time to search for mascara for your sensitive eyes.
How to choose the best mascara for sensitive eyes
Scan the label: Even though it’s not regulated, look for the word hypoallergenic. The FDA states that hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that manufacturers claim produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products. “It might be your best bet to find a product with the least amount of added allergens,” says Dr. Geddes-Bruce. You may also see label lingo like “natural,” but that term doesn’t mean much, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s suitable for sensitive skin, as it can still contain irritating botanicals, she says. You can also look for ophthalmologist-tested, which means an eye doctor was consulted during the formula’s testing.
Go simple: Fiber mascaras are super popular, as they contain materials that tack on extra length to lashes, giving you that “falsie” look. However, “these fibers can fall into your eye and cause even more irritation” says Dr. Fartash. It is best to avoid these and opt for traditional volumizing or lengthening ones. In the same spirit of going back to the basics, avoid colored mascaras, as well as those that are waterproof.
Replace your tube: Can’t remember the last time you bought mascara? That may be your problem right there, as bacteria builds up in the bottle, which can lead to styes and other eye infections. “Chuck your mascara every three months,” says Dr. Fartash. She writes the date she bought hers on the bottle with black marker. Consider it a healthy excuse to treat yourself to a new one!
Not sure where to start? Check out these top-rated hypoallergenic mascaras if you’re in need of something more gentle.