En español | Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) and dry eye syndrome can make eye makeup lovers miserable. I know because beauty editor me has been plagued by these conditions for months following a stye. Finding alternatives to my usual smoky eye and black kohl pencil-enhanced peepers was a real trial by fire. Along the way I met plenty of other women 50-plus in the same boat. I asked Nashville, Tennessee, ophthalmologist and aesthetic eye surgeon Melissa Toyos for some medical advice. Here's what to do and not do:
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PHOTO BY: Getty Images (3): Karwai Tang/WireImage; Tara Ziemba/FilmMagic; Mike Marsland/WireImage
1. Find something else to decorate your peepers.
Let's answer this first, since it's the most pressing concern: Yes, you really do have to put a halt to all eye makeup when your eyes are red, infected, inflamed, itchy, tearing or in recovery. Tough it out! Let your favorite eyeglasses, readers and faux eyeglasses (no Rx, just clear lenses) step in and do the eye-framing magic that makeup used to do. Add some earrings or a scarf you love for extra sparkle or color. Step up your lipstick. Clear red is great, so is a vibrant pink, but even a rosier, pinker version of nude powers up your face and restores the glam feeling. You can do brow makeup, but stick to pencil for shaping and fill-ins.
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2. Toss your eye makeup stash.
It's really difficult to tell which item, technique or ingredient is causing or exacerbating your problem(s). An overzealous application of liners, mascara and shadows including tight lining (right between the lashes) and inner rim lining (yes, it does look sultry but just say no) may have contributed. Your makeup may have drifted beyond its expiration date, or you simply may have developed a sensitivity to an ingredient. Even ones you've worn before with no problem can suddenly cause a reaction — especially if you now have dry eye syndrome, wear contacts or work at a computer all day long. And then there are medical-based causes to complicate things. Do not be tempted to give away your fabulous multi-shade shadow palette or luxury-brand liners. Share makeup and you might be sharing unfriendly bacteria along with it.
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3. See a doctor and follow instructions ... seriously.
Dry eye, blepharitis and styes are annoying to deal with but more common than you think. “Blepharitis is associated with hormonal changes in women 50-plus since tear production slows with age, but it's more common in every age group now thanks to looking at screens all day long,” Toyos says. “We blink three times less than normal when using devices, allowing our eyes to dry out. Contact lens wear, use of medicated eye drops for glaucoma (especially those with preservatives) and eye surgeries like cataract, LASIK and blepharoplasty can lead to temporary or ongoing eye dryness."
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PHOTO BY: Getty Images (3): ANTHONY HARVEY/AFP; Jacopo Raule/GC Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage
4. Buy the sexiest sunglasses you can find.
Full disclosure: My own new daily ritual of warm compresses, eye scrubs and lubricating drops was soothed only by springing for a pair of sexy sunglasses. I highly recommend the latter to get your mojo back. Put aviators, big cat-eyes, bold black Audrey Hepburn frames — whatever makes you feel like a superstar — on your shopping list ASAP. And don't share bed pillows, washcloths or towels with others, either. Hygiene reigns here.
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PHOTO BY: Martin Holste / EyeEm/Getty Images
5. Say no to eyelash growth serums, yes to fish oil.
"If you develop a stye, that is a sign that oil glands in the eye are sluggish and need medical attention,” says Toyos, adding that the eyes can't protect tears from evaporating too quickly and the resulting dry eye produces more watery tear fluid. “Diets that are heavy in omega-6 can lead to sticky oil glands in the eye. I suggest women take omega-3 fish oil oral supplements, which can improve this condition after six to eight weeks of use.” In addition, skip eyelash growth products. “They are pro-inflammatory and can lead to blepharitis and dry eye in susceptible individuals,” she says.
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PHOTO BY: Alain SHRODER/Getty Images
6. Start makeup again … carefully.
"Makeup alone doesn't cause blepharitis, but certain products can further irritate an already inflamed eye. Some blepharitis and dry eye can be cured, while others need to be managed long term but with the right anti-inflammatory,” Toyos says. “Hypoallergenic eye makeup seems to be the least irritating, but avoid lining the upper inner rim or lower waterline. Skip mascara that flakes or those that have fibers that might fall into the eye, and cream eye shadow is better than powder for the same reason.” I'll add: Don't use eyelash curlers, eye makeup removers with oil or parabens or eye makeup with glitter, and be sure to thoroughly wash all makeup applicators (including the foam tip kind) and brushes between uses.
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PHOTO BY: target, almay, BareMinerals, Maybelline, Nudestix, target
7. Brighten and define your eyes with a minimalist touch.
The combo of stress, insomnia, eye issues and eye strain (thank you, laptop and iPhone) make us all look like time travelers. “I suggest Lumify Redness Reliever Eye Drops, which don't wear off quickly or leave eyes more inflamed — they act on the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, which does not affect the flow of blood and oxygen to surrounding tissue,” Toyos says. Feel as empowered as Cleopatra with some new makeup BFFs. Splurge on neutral cream shadows like Nudestix Magnetic Matte Eye Color ($26, ulta.com), Almay Velvet Foil Cream Shadow ($8, cvs.com), Maybelline Color Tattoo Longwear Cream Eyeshadow ($8, cvs.com) and BareMinerals Gen Nude Eyeshadow + Primer ($20, ulta.com), as well as ophthalmologist-approved mascara like Rimmel ScandalEyes Volume Flash Waterproof Mascara ($4, target.com) or Physicians Formula Organic Wear Fake Out Mascara ($13, target.com).
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your Look at Any Age by Lois Joy Johnson and Sandy Linter.
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