Those baby blues (and browns, grays and greens) have never been so front-and-center as they are in the coronavirus era, with the bottom half of our faces concealed by masks. But choosing the wrong kind of mascara or container of eyeshadow — or not caring for or using it correctly — can lead to some very unattractive and harmful issues.
Those issues include allergic reactions and infection, and the culprits include:
And you thought pollen was a pain. Some ingredients in eye makeup can trigger allergic contact dermatitis, says Susan Nedorost, a dermatologist and director of the Graduate Medical Education Program at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. “An allergic reaction to something, like a preservative in your eye shadow, a component like shellac in your mascara or rubber in the applicator you're using to apply your eye shadow, can cause severe symptoms of redness, swelling and itching that can last several weeks,” Nedorost says.
Symptoms usually appear anywhere from several hours to several days after contact — though it may take repeated exposures over time for your body to rebel. “In fact, you can get a reaction from a product that you've used for years,” says Kara Wada, an allergist and immunologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “At a certain point your body says, ‘I don't like this anymore.’ “
Equally frustrating: Cosmetics companies may change the formulation of a product without alerting customers. That can make it more difficult to figure out what's causing the reaction.
Certain ingredients seem more likely to cause problems. Among them: fragrance; preservatives (for one, quaternium-15, a formaldehyde-releasing agent often found in mascara); pigments and dyes; heavy metals (for example, nickel in eyeliner pencils and eyelash curlers or chromium in eye shadows); and propylene glycol (used to maintain moisture in mascara).
Don't be taken in by reassuring terminology. Just because a label says hypoallergenic doesn't mean a product will be kind. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cosmetics companies can use that term without meeting any federal standards or definitions. And just because something is dubbed natural, botanical or organic doesn't mean it's any better for our skin. “Natural essential oils are complex mixtures of different chemical compounds,” says Cincinnati-based cosmetics chemist Kelly Dobos, “so there may be some components in there that are potentially irritating.”