Waterloo: People who apply eyeliner on the inner eyelid run the risk of contaminating the eye and causing vision trouble, according to research by a scientist at the University of Waterloo. This is the first study to prove that particles from pencil eyeliner move into the eye. Dr. Alison Ng and her colleagues used video recordings to observe and compare the amount of eyeliner particles that migrated into the tear film – the thin coating protecting the eye – after applying makeup in different styles. “We noticed that the makeup migration happened quicker and was greater when eyeliner was put on the inner lid margin,” said Dr. Ng. Each participant wore glitter eyeliner outside the lash line, and then on the inner lid area closer to the eye, or along the waterline.
The vision scientists found that within five minutes, between 15 and
30 per cent more particles moved into the eye’s tear film when subjects
applied eyeliner to the inside of the lash line, compared to outside it.
The makeup also moved more quickly into the eye when eyeliner was
applied inside the lash line.
As time passes, the amount of makeup entering the tear film steadily
drops and by two hours, there was a negligible amount of eyeliner left.
However, Dr. Ng and her colleagues say eyeliner can alter the tear film,
adding to discomfort.
Eyeliner ingredients commonly include waxes, oils, silicones and
natural gums to help eyeliner stick to eyelids and last for prolonged
periods. It has to adhere through blinking, sweating and the secretion
of natural oils.
Makeup that enters the tear film may cause discomfort for those with
sensitive or dry eyes. But the eyeliner waxes and oils can also adhere
to contact lenses and build up if used for more than one day. Resulting
complications include irritation and redness, introduction of harmful
bacteria from the eyeliner, and in some cases, eye infections or blurred
“People who wear contact lenses are most likely to notice some
problems,” said Dr. Ng. “If they have eyeliner stuck to their lenses,
increasing deposits might cause vision disruption as the lens becomes
While this study didn’t examine the bacterial aspect of makeup
contamination to the eye, Dr. Ng notes that previous studies do show
that old eye makeup can harbour bacteria.
“If you thoroughly sharpen your pencil eyeliner before each
application and get rid of the stuff that’s stuck to the end, you’ll
have a fresh tip which can help prevent infection,” said Dr. Ng. “With
twist-up eyeliner, cut some off the end before each use. And always make
sure to fully remove eye makeup before bed.”
Alison Ng writes about cosmetics and eye care on ContactLensUpdate.com,
an online resource for eye-care practitioners, run by the Centre for
Contact Lens Research. She and colleagues at the CCLR also produced handouts for the public to share makeup tips for contact lens wearers.