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If you wear contact lenses, it probably feels like second-nature to you now—rinse, place, pluck them out, repeat—day after day. It's basically like breathing, and because I personally became so used to this daily habit, it makes sense I never even considered this process as part of my skincare equation. This was now proving to be a problem, and it made sense: I was tugging on my skin a lot. Plus, I wasn't even considering how the ingredients in my formula could be affecting my eyes and lenses. "The repetitive motion of placing and removing contact lens causes the collagen and elastin fibers to breakdown," says Diane Madfes, MD FAAD, and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. If you're a soft lens wearer though, you're in luck, as Madfes says these can cause less damage. But it's not just your collagen that this motion ruins, the constant pulling can irritate your eye, too.
"The periorbital skin or the skin surrounding your eyes is very thin and can be easily irritated, says Dr. Camille F. Cohen, optometrist at Pearle Vision. "Gentle cleansers, such as Cetaphil are ideal. Using harsh, perfumes creams, gels, or makeup could cause contact dermatitis. If certain irritants make contact with your eyes, you may be susceptible to a corneal burn or abrasion." I learned this the hard way. One particular eye cream I was using was leaving me with red patches in the morning and a painful lens wearing experience (beauty is pain...right? Wrong—really wrong). But choice overload is real, and being equipped with nothing other than knowing I needed lens-safe products felt a bit overwhelming. Luckily, Madfes, Cohen, and a few other professionals provided some seriously helpful insight.
Eye Health Maintenance Is As Important as Your Skincare
Before you start sleuthing around for a new product, knowing your basic eye care needs is essential. Cohen says that an annual eye exam is just as important for wrinkles as skincare. "This ensures that you are wearing an up to date correction, which will prevent constant squinting. When you squint, you are over using your corrugator muscles, causing deep, furrowed wrinkles between your brows," she says. And as much as we all hate those dilated eye exams, Cohen explains they're essential since they "check for ocular and systemic diseases, such as diabetes and glaucoma, which can cause permanent blindness. A healthy diet and exercise are the ultimate beauty tricks for eyes, hair, and skin."
Below, find the rules for healthy periorbital skin and youthful eyes:
- Wear contact lenses no more than 8-10 hours per day. They need adequate oxygen and only wearing glasses periodically provides that.
- Wear UV protection (sunglasses) whenever you’re outside. This prevents wrinkling of the skin and eye conditions such as cataracts or macular degeneration.
- Do not share cosmetics or use old/unclean makeup brushes. This introduces blinding bacteria, fungi, and parasites to the eyes.
- Use hypoallergenic cleaners and creams, once contact lenses have been removed from the eyes.
- Never sleep in your lenses.
Nationally-renowned optometrist and LensDirect medical advisor Jonah Berman also echoes this sentiment. "With regard to preventing signs of aging around the eyes, especially with contact lens wearers, make sure you are getting adequate sleep, drinking enough water throughout the day, wear sunglasses outside for UV protection, avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, discontinue smoking if a smoker, and eat a proper, well balanced diet."
Products to Avoid With Contact Lenses
When you're actually picking out products, there are a few things worth keeping in mind. Berman explains that "any oil, cream or lotion which is applied around the eyes is likely to travel into the eyes and onto the lens itself." This he says makes using daily disposable contacts an optimal choice if you're a product lover. He also says that anything you may be allergic to is an absolute no-no.
"Try to use products which are easily absorbed into the skin around the eyes and are not oily, creamy or strongly fragranced," Berman says. "If these ingredients should attach themselves to the contact lens, they will cause discomfort and blurry vision."
Madfes says that because eyelid skin is the thinnest skin on reactions are more likely. In terms of specific ingredients to stay away from, she suggests, "People who have allergies, sensitive eyes, rosacea, or dry eye should try to avoid preservatives such as thimeriosal and benzalkonium chloride."
Products to Search for With Contact Lenses
You know what to avoid now, but are there specific things you should be looking for? Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, a Miami-based board certified dermatologist with over 40 years experience and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare has some recommendations. "Look for hydrating and soothing ingredients including marine extracts, hydrating peptides, jojoba and shea, all of which are nourishing and hydrating to delicate eye skin," she says.
A few things comes to mind for Madfes, too. "To combat the wrinkling, I recommend using an eye cream with retinol, peptides, and antioxidants to stimulate collagen production," she says. "Look for products that have been tested around the eyes. Sunblock during the day is a must and sunglasses when outside!"
Other Things Contact Lens Wearers Should Keep in Mind
Class isn't over quite yet. Contact lens care goes beyond how you put them in and what you're putting around your eye. Not every person will have the same reaction to different ingredients, so even if something like retinol or AHA is in an eye cream, if you're finding it's causing irritation, put a stop to it ASAP.
"It's also very important to know that your hand products, including body/hand cleansers and lotions, can affect our eye skin," says Ciraldo. "I've seen many patients in my 40 years of dermatology practice where we traced the dryness, redness, or rash around their eyes to the new product they were using on their hands." She credits this to the fact that the thicker skin on our hands can handle more potential irritants than the thin skin around our eyes can, so be sure to watch what you're using before you touch your eyes—and always wash your hands.
Now that you've mastered lens wearing, ahead are a handful of products that will treat your skin like a dream without wreaking havoc on your eyes.
In my humble opinion, you can never go wrong with Biossance—whether it's its moisturizer, oil, or this luxe eye cream. This formula's marine algae and squalane not only help boost your glow and support sagginess or drooping, but it's super nourishing too. This is a must for preventing dry skin around your eyes.
Ah, vitamin C, the queen of glow, the master of protection, and the hero for many. You may already have it in a serum or two, but this eye protector will bring the benefits to the space around your eyes. Its formulas calms, hydrates, boosts radiance, and fights fine lines. You can rest easy, too, knowing that it's both dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-approved.
Multipurpose products are often a no-go for contact lens wearers because they're either too thick, oily, or ingredient-heavy. Luckily, this potion from Glossier is a match made in heaven as its hyaluronic acid, squalane, and avocado oil can hydrate and smooth your under-eyes as well as it can your lips, and it has been ophthalmologist-tested.
Super short ingredient lists can be ideal for contact lens wearers, especially when everything is recognizable. This mix of olive butter, rosehip, licorice root, and green tea is gentle enough to use around your eyes but powerful enough to combat under eye discoloration, puffy bags, dryness, and wrinkles.