Makeup tips for eye safety and care

Wearing makeup can be a fun way to express your creativity and give you a confidence boost. However, did you know that wearing eye makeup can lead to eye problems such as eye infections? By following our easy tips for choosing, applying, and storing eye makeup products safely, you can make the most of your eyes and protect your eye health.

On this page

How to choose, store and keep eye makeup safely

Conjunctivitis is a common eye infection that can result from the unhygienic use of makeup. Our skin and eyelashes naturally carry bacteria, so it's important to follow hygiene tips for storing and using makeup to limit the chance of developing or spreading an eye infection:

  • When choosing new products, try to avoid using in-store samples. Look out for sample sizes you can buy or that is free with other purchases instead.
  • Store makeup in a cool, dark place. Powdered products should be kept somewhere dry, ideally not in the bathroom.
  • As a general rule, replace eye makeup after three months. Mascara and liquid eyeliner generally have a shorter shelf life than other beauty products because of the risk of bacteria growth and eye infection. Write the date you opened a product on the container to remind you when it needs replacing. If you have a visual impairment, you could use a braille labeller to write the date on your beauty product.
  • Don't use eye makeup when you have an eye infection or irritation, and throw away eye makeup after having an eye infection.

How to apply and wear eye makeup safely

There are some simple eye makeup safety tips for applying eye makeup to protect your eye health. Whenever you're applying makeup, the golden rule is to take your time. Don't rush, and there's less chance of accidentally hurting your eye. Plus, you'll end up with a better-looking result!

  • Never apply eye makeup while in a moving vehicle (whether it's the car, bus, train or other modes of transport). Unexpected jolts could make you poke yourself in the eye with the risk of scratching the cornea (corneal abrasion).
  • Always clean your hands and face before getting started to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria from hand to eye.
  • Use a steady hand. If your hands are shaking, give the eyeliner and mascara a miss or ask someone for help.
  • When recovering from eye procedures like laser eye surgery, don't use eye makeup. Wait until your eye doctor gives you the go-ahead.
  • If you're using makeup brushes, sponges or makeup applicators, always wash and dry them straight after use.
  • Don't share your eye makeup with other people. Not all eye infections are obvious, and you could risk cross-contamination without realising it.

How to safely apply mascara

Be careful when you apply mascara to keep a steady hand, and never use a mascara wand while moving (or in a vehicle). Use a mirror to clearly see what you're doing and avoid getting product in your eye. Move the wand up and away from the eye. Don't be tempted to use a sharp object to separate any lashes that clump together.

Your eyelashes play a role in keeping your eyes healthy by stopping dust and particles from getting in your eye. If the hair follicles and oil glands get blocked or inflamed, there is a risk of losing lashes. Keep your mascara hygienic by storing it somewhere cool and dark, replacing it after three months, and never sharing it with someone else.

How to safely apply eyeliner

Always follow general eye makeup safety tips when applying eyeliner, like using a steady hand and never sharing eye makeup with others. You also need to be careful exactly where on the eye you apply eyeliner to avoid problems.

How to safely apply glitter

If you want to use glitter on your eyes, it's essential to use cosmetic glitter, not craft glitter. Different types of glitter are cut differently and coloured with different dyes. Look out for glitter made with mineral rather than synthetic ingredients too. Use a primer before applying glitter eyeshadow to help secure the glitter to the skin. Carefully remove all traces of glitter at the end of the day.

How to remove eye makeup safely

The most important thing about removing eye makeup, and it's easy to let it slide when tired after a long day, is to do it before going to bed. Makeup like mascara can easily get into your eyes if left on overnight, with the potential to clog up tear ducts and irritate the cornea and the risk of eye infection.

Tips for removing eye makeup safely and effectively:

  • Start by washing your hands and removing your contact lenses.
  • Choose a mild cleansing product, preferably free from oil and parabens. Use a product designed for the eyes, or vaseline and baby shampoo are gentle alternatives. Avoid harsh ingredients and exfoliators.
  • Use cotton wool pads or clean reusable makeup removal pads. Wipe your eyes gently, as the skin on your eyes is thinner than the rest of your face. Wipe all along the base of your eyelashes to remove eyeliner fully.
  • Try to avoid getting makeup remover in your eyes, and rinse the product off afterwards.

Frequently asked questions


Eye makeup is safe to use if you follow simple eye care advice about storing, applying and removing it correctly. If you notice signs of allergy or sensitivity to beauty products, stop using them. If you get symptoms of an eye infection such as redness, irritation, soreness, or discharge, get medical advice and don't wear makeup again until your eyes have healed.

Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022

Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.