Making Makeup Work With Contact Lenses

Updated 03/27/19
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Contact lenses are an advancement everyone can get behind—not everyone wants to wear glasses day-to-day, but not everyone wants to get an expensive eye surgery, either. However, they do present some problems for people who want to wear loads of makeup, which has a funny habit of getting in your eyes sometimes. Luckily, advancements in contact lens technology have made it a lot easier for makeup wearers to use lenses safely. If you have allergies or wear eye makeup, you can avoid infections through one-time use, disposable contact lenses. They minimize your risk of infection or product buildup. Still, eye makeup can present problems if the makeup gets on, around, or (the worst) under the lens. However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent these problems.

The first, and seemingly most obvious, tip is to wash your hands thoroughly before putting your contacts in. Avoid using products that are oily, contain fragrance, dyes, hand lotions or anything that will adhere to lenses prior to putting them in. Some people suggest putting contacts in after applying makeup to avoid damaging or scratching the lenses, but there's more of a chance of getting makeup onto your fingers and on the contacts, which could cause discomfort and possible infection. Opt instead to put them in before.

You should also look for makeup products that are hypoallergenic, ophthalmologist-tested for contact lenses, or are safe for contact lens wearers and sensitive eyes. Sometimes, you can't find that information readily available, and in that case, looking up ingredients is always key. Also, beware of eyeliner. "Contact lens wearers should avoid applying liner to the inside of the lash line (the flat part of the lid),” says New York optometrist Dr. Susan Resnick of Farkas, Kassalow, Resnick & Associates P.C. “This blocks and can cause infection of the important oil producing tear glands, which can lead to dry eyes, filmy lenses and even styes.” So when you're applying eyeliner and eyeshadow, be careful that you don’t jostle the lenses. Similarly, Resnick has a no-go stance on oil. “It's best to avoid oil-based products around the eyes and to use mascara that is easily removed with non-oily makeup removers,” she advises.

Though both types of eyeshadow can get into the eyes when being applied, it is easier to control the dust from cream shadows. Particularly wonderful low-fallout cream-type shadows are Bodyography's Glitter Pigments, ($23,) which are gorgeous even just worn one at a time. Also, you should never go without an eyeshadow primer, as it will always help the shadow adhere to the lids.

Mascara is particularly tricky, so instead of applying mascara from the base of the lashes, which can move the mascara and mascara wand too close to the eyes, start from the middle of the lashes and sweep through to the tips. Avoid mascaras that contain fibers that will flake into the eyes (like lash-building ones). “Mascara with fibers is best avoided to prevent particles from becoming trapped under the lenses and causing discomfort,” says Dr. Resnick, who also recommends “water resistant (smudge-proof) rather than waterproof mascara.” You want to use products that are long wear and won’t get into the eyes, particularly if you have eyes that tend to water due to allergies. And never, never wear false eyelashes when you're wearing contacts—you don't want to get glue on them.

But your makeup from outside the eye area can sometimes get into your eyes too, which is something you don't want. Cream makeup can be irritating if it gets into the eyes, so instead use a water-based, hypoallergenic liquid foundation. Similarly, use pressed powder instead of loose powder, and avoid the eye area. When you're using powders, just try to keep your eyes closed during application. Avoid using cheap makeup brushes, because they're less well put together. Bristles might get into the eyes, or cause the powder to get into the eyes.

Even if you use a gentle eye makeup remover and gently wipe off makeup from the lids, there is a chance of contaminating the lenses or damaging them, so take your contacts out before you take your makeup off. Importantly, follow what Dr. Resnick calls healthy contact lens habits. “Healthy contact lens habits should include washing hands prior to handling lenses, following the proper lens care instructions including cleaning and replacing the contact lens case on a regular basis, and replacing the contact lenses according to the manufacturers' recommended schedule,” she says. Use healthy makeup habits too—make sure that you keep eye makeup containers tightly closed when not in use to avoid bacteria from growing, and toss old makeup, because nobody wants eye infections. Naturally, don’t wear eye makeup or put in lenses at all when your eyes are swollen, red or infected.

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