For some, makeup is just a tool for hiding blemishes. For others, it is a hobby and a passion. Whether your morning makeup routine is three minutes or 30 minutes, applying it in a way that keeps your eyes safe and healthy is important.

If you are living with keratoconus or wear specialty contact lenses to help correct your vision, it is important not only to follow general best-practices, but also to keep some additional considerations in mind. Having said that, protecting your eyes doesn’t mean you have to stop wearing your favorite products. Here are some tips for keeping your eyes healthy, while still embracing fun and trendy looks.

Best Makeup Practices for Healthy 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. Consider these general precautions when choosing your next beauty purchase or getting ready in the morning:

  • Keep it clean: Practicing good hygiene is critical to keeping your eyes healthy. This means do not share makeup, even with close family or friends, and never use samples at stores. Throw away all eye makeup after three months, as bacteria can easily grow in any creamy or liquid formulas and cause serious infection in the eye. Never add anything to your makeup, whether it is water, oil, or other solutions, in an attempt to thin it out or make it last longer. It is always better to just buy a new product rather than risk potentially dangerous contamination.
  • Read labels: 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. 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.
  • Resist the crazier trends: While things like glitter and specialty contacts may seem fun for a night out or a Halloween costume, try to avoid them all together as they can cause potential damage to your eyes.

Makeup and Keratoconus

For those who are living with keratoconus and wear contacts, whether they are soft, scleral, rigid gas permeable (RGP), or hybrid lenses, buying the right products alone is not enough to keep your eyes protected. It is also important how you use them. Changing your morning routine may be hard, but incorporating small changes can be important to your long-term eye health.

  • Order matters: According to the American Optometric Association, it is best to put soft contact lenses in your eyes before applying makeup. However, for those who wear RGP or scleral lenses, it is recommended that the lenses be inserted after applying makeup, so as not to get anything on them during application or cause them to shift.
  • Break bad habits: Although for some it may be a difficult habit to break, avoid putting eyeliner on your lash line. According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, keeping the space between your lashes and eye clean is important because the small glands help lubricate the eye and keep it comfortable and healthy. For those who wear specialty contacts, applying dark eyeshadow with an angled brush under your lower lashes, rather than using a pencil eyeliner, can help eliminate the need to touch your lids and cause contact shifting. It is also best to avoid waterproof mascara when possible, as it may stick to or stain contact lenses and can be more difficult to remove.
  • Remove contacts before makeup remover: At the end of the day, be sure to remove your contact lenses before taking off your makeup so that you don’t rub any oily makeup remover or potential dirt from the day inside of them. Afterwards, dabbing your eyes with a cotton ball of remover can help soften the makeup, making it easier to rinse off, rather than having to rub.
  • Allow your eyes to fully heal: Finally, do not wear makeup if you’ve recently had eye surgery, including FDA approved cross-linking. It is important to wait until your doctor tells you that it is safe to do so, and when you do, purchase fresh makeup to avoid infections. If you experience any discomfort, do not rub your eyes. Eye rubbing can lead to more serious issues, including damage to your cornea and infection.

Again, protecting your eye health doesn’t mean that you have to stop wearing makeup altogether. Simply taking an extra moment when choosing and applying your makeup can make a big difference.

If you have any questions about your makeup and routine, or experience pain, sensitivity, redness, swelling, or persistent eye rubbing, speak with your doctor.