makeup 6

Eye Safety Alert: Toxic Makeup Ingredients to Watch Out For


In today’s beauty and personal care market, the allure of vibrant, long-lasting eye makeup often overshadows the potential risks of toxic makeup ingredients. These ingredients can cause immediate discomfort, such as inflammation and dry eye, and may lead to long-term health issues. The use of products containing harmful substances like parabens and heavy metals is alarmingly common, yet the awareness of their impact on our health remains limited. Understanding the composition of our products near our sensitive eye area is essential to protect ourselves from potential harm.  21

This article aims to illuminate the identification of harmful ingredients in eye makeup, highlighting the top ingredients to avoid and their adverse effects. Furthermore, we will explore safe alternatives for eye-friendly makeup and offer practical tips for transitioning to safer eye makeup options. By informing yourself about the implications of toxic makeup ingredients, you can make more informed choices, ensuring the safety and health of your eyes.

Identifying Harmful Ingredients in Eye Makeup

Understanding Labels

When examining eye makeup, starting with the ingredient list is crucial. In the U.S., ingredients must be listed, with those over 1% appearing in order of concentration. However, the order can vary for those below 1%, often placing preservatives and dyes towards the end 4. Recognizing INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients.) names, which are used globally for labeling, helps ensure you’re informed about the contents of your cosmetics 5. Constantly scrutinize labels, even for harmless ingredients like ‘fragrance,’ which can mask numerous harmful chemicals 1.

20Chemical Names vs. Common Names

The naming of cosmetic ingredients can be confusing. While INCI names are standardized, familiar names like Glycerin or Mint are often used instead of their more scientific counterparts. This discrepancy can make it difficult to understand exactly what you’re applying to your skin 4. Learn key terms, such as ‘Polyethylene Glycol’ or ‘Dimethicone,’ to navigate the ingredients in your products better.

Regulatory Gaps in the Cosmetic Industry

Despite the critical role of ingredient safety, the regulatory oversight of cosmetics has historically been minimal. The FDA needs more resources to monitor the vast array of products, leading to gaps in safety checks 14  9. This lack of stringent regulation can result in the presence of harmful chemicals in cosmetics, disproportionately affecting women, especially those from socioeconomically disadvantaged groups 9. Understanding these gaps can help you make more informed choices and advocate for stricter safety standards in the industry 9.

Here is a chart detailing common harmful ingredients found in makeup and their effects:


Found in Makeup Types

Potential Effects


Mascara, Eyeliner

Hormonal disruptions 2


Eyeshadow, Mascara

Skin irritation, cancer 2


Lipstick, Eyeliner

Neurotoxicity 2


Nail Polish, Perfume

Reproductive issues 2

Top Ingredients to Avoid and Their Effects

Benzalkonium Chloride (BAK)

Benzalkonium chloride, commonly used in eye drops, can cause “dry eye” . It inhibits mitochondria in human corneal epithelial cells, suggesting a mechanism for ocular toxicity 10. Caution is advised when prescribing BAK-containing eye drops to patients with mitochondrial deficiencies such as LHON or primary open-angle glaucoma, as it may trigger or enhance disease progression 10.

Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Releasers

Formaldehyde is a well-documented contact allergen with a significant risk of causing allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). Despite its reduced use, formaldehyde releasers are still prevalent in cosmetics, potentially releasing harmful levels of formaldehyde that can provoke ACD in sensitive individuals 13.


Parabens, used as preservatives in cosmetics, can disrupt hormones and harm fertility and reproductive organs. They mimic estrogen, potentially increasing the risk of breast cancer and causing skin irritation. Due to their endocrine-disrupting capabilities and documented health risks, their use in personal care products is highly discouraged 16.


Phenoxyethanol, found in various cosmetic products, acts as a preservative but can be harmful. It has been linked to life-threatening reactions and should be used cautiously, especially around infants and individuals with eczema or allergies 21.

Retinol and Derivatives

Retinol and its derivatives, such as tretinoin and isotretinoin, are effective in anti-aging treatments but can cause skin irritation and increase sensitivity to sunlight. They should be used carefully, particularly around the delicate eye area, to prevent potential irritation and damage 22 24.

Safe Alternatives for Eye-Friendly Makeup

When considering safer alternatives for eye-friendly makeup, focusing on products prioritizing your ocular health is essential.9 Brands like Èyes Are The Story offers a unique approach by integrating eye wellness into their beauty products, ensuring they are safe for sensitive eyes and those who wear contact lenses 31.

Natural and Organic Options

For those who prefer natural ingredients, options abound. Homemade eyeliners made from cocoa powder, coconut oil, or activated charcoal and shea butter provide a safe and natural alternative to conventional products 25. Brands like Lily Lolo and W3ll People offer a range of natural makeup products, from mineral foundations to organic concealers, ensuring beauty without compromising safety 26.

Certifications to Look For

To ensure your eye makeup’s safety and ethical sourcing, look for certifications like Leaping Bunny, which guarantees no animal testing, or the MADE SAFE certification, ensuring products are free from harmful chemicals 30. Certifications like Ecocert also highlight products with a high percentage of ingredients from natural and organic origins 30.

Brands That Prioritize Eye Safety

It is crucial to select brands that are committed to eye safety. 15 Non-toxic beauty brands like Kjaer Weis and Ilia avoid harmful chemicals and provide products that cater to sensitive eyes, as seen in their eyeliners and mascaras 27. These brands adhere to stricter guidelines than conventional brands, focusing on natural and organic ingredients that are safe and effective 27.

By choosing products from brands that prioritize eye health and are backed by reputable certifications, you can protect your eyes while enjoying the beauty enhancements you desire.

Tips for Transitioning to Safer Eye Makeup

How to Phase Out Unsafe Products

To begin transitioning to safer eye makeup, identify products that may contain harmful ingredients.18 1 Gradually replace these with safer alternatives, focusing on products labeled as hypoallergenic or free from common irritants like parabens and phthalates. It’s crucial to dispose of any makeup that has passed its expiration date to prevent bacterial infections, as expired products can harbor harmful bacteria 3435.

Understanding Your Skin and Eye Sensitivities

Understanding your specific skin and eye sensitivities is vital. To minimize risks, opt for fragrance-free makeup designed for sensitive skin.12 Remember, products labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ do not automatically guarantee safety, so it’s essential to read ingredient lists carefully to avoid known irritants 38.

Importance of Patch Testing

Patch testing is a critical step in identifying safe makeup for your skin. Apply a small amount of product to a discreet skin area and monitor for adverse reactions over 24 hours. This method helps to prevent severe allergic reactions and ensures compatibility with your skin. Always perform a patch test before fully integrating a new product into your routine 4041. 11

By carefully phasing out unsafe products, understanding your sensitivities, and conducting patch tests, you can successfully transition to safer eye makeup options, ensuring both beauty and health.


We’ve uncovered the critical importance of vigilance when selecting eye makeup by exploring the darker side of beauty.3 The potential long-term health ramifications of using products infused with harmful chemicals like parabens, formaldehyde, lead, and phthalates underscore the necessity of informed consumer choices. By highlighting these substances’ adverse effects—not just on our eyes but on our overall well-being—we pave the way for a more conscious approach to cosmetics. Emphasizing the importance of safer alternatives and the role of thorough label examination, this article serves as a cornerstone for those looking to make healthier, safer makeup choices.

The journey towards a safer, more responsible beauty regime begins with knowledge and awareness. The first step is to acknowledge the gaps in regulatory oversight and understand the implications of certain ingredients on our health. From here, we can move forward, embracing brands and products that enhance our beauty and safeguard our health. This shift towards eye-friendly makeup alternatives, underpinned by the imperative to avoid dangerous chemicals, is not just beneficial—it’s essential. By doing so, we protect ourselves and contribute to a demand for cleaner, safer products in the beauty industry, thereby fostering a healthier environment for all.


What Ingredients Should Be Avoided in Eye Drops?

Avoid these harmful ingredients in eye drops: 4

  • Preservatives like Benzalkonium Chloride (BAK) can damage the cornea and conjunctiva, leading to eye irritation, unstable tear film, and dry eye.
  • Steroids such as Dexamethasone, Fluorometholone, and Prednisolone may cause glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Antibiotics include Chloramphenicol, Erythromycin, and Tetracyclines, among others.

Which Chemicals Are Harmful in Makeup?

Be wary of makeup containing toxic chemicals like lead, phthalates, mercury, and formaldehyde. These substances can cause neurological problems, damage the reproductive system, and increase the risk of cancer.  15

How Can You Determine If Makeup Is Safe for the Eyes?

To ensure eye makeup safety, check the product label for color additives. Verify that these additives are on the FDA’s list of color additives approved for cosmetic use, specifically for application around the eyes. 8

How Can You Identify Makeup Containing PFAS?

Makeup with properties like long-lasting or waterproofing likely contains PFAS. For a simple test, apply a swatch of the product, such as lipstick or mascara, to paper, add a drop of water, and check if it remains the next morning. 7

At Boerne Vision Center, we recognize that your makeup choices are an integral part of your daily routine, affecting not just how you look but also how you see. Led by Dr. Susan Johnson, our team is dedicated to ensuring that your beauty regimen aligns perfectly with your eye health needs.


Personalized Eye Health and Makeup Consultations

Dr. Susan Johnson, as a professional who understands the dual importance of aesthetics and health, emphasizes the necessity of selecting eye makeup that complements your eye health. Whether you’re dealing with sensitive eyes, wear contact lenses, or are prone to dry eyes, we provide consultations to help you choose products that enhance your beauty without compromising your vision. Our team can guide you on hypoallergenic products, proper application techniques, and the latest products designed for eye safety. 2

Understanding Your Needs

For professionals like real estate agents and video bloggers, appearance is often part of the job requirement, necessitating daily makeup use. We recognize the unique challenges faced by individuals in these roles and provide tailored advice to maintain optimal eye health amidst frequent makeup usage. 1

Importance of Makeup Removal

One of the most critical aspects of visual hygiene that Dr. Johnson stresses is the thorough removal of makeup at the end of each day. Sleeping with makeup on can lead to blocked meibomian glands, bacterial infections, or exacerbate conditions like blepharitis. Proper removal of eye makeup, especially mascara and eyeliner, is crucial to prevent irritation, infections, and ensure that your eyes remain healthy. 6

Eye Health Tips for Daily Makeup Wearers

  1. Choose Quality Products: Opt for ophthalmologist-tested, non-comedogenic makeup that won’t clog pores or interfere with tear production.
  2. Proper Application: Avoid applying eyeliner on the inner rim of the lids, where makeup particles can easily enter the eye, causing irritation or damage.
  3. Regular Cleaning: Clean your makeup applicators regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria that can transfer to your eyes.
  4. Thorough Removal: Use a gentle, effective makeup remover designed for the eyes. Ensure all traces of makeup are removed before going to bed to allow your skin and eyes to breathe and recover overnight.

At Boerne Vision Center, your vision and eye health are our top priorities. Schedule a consultation with us to discuss how you can safely incorporate your makeup routine into your lifestyle while keeping your eyes healthy and vibrant. Dr. Susan Johnson and our team are here to support you in looking and seeing your best.


[1] –
[2] –
[3] –
[4] –
[5] –,_How_to_Get_One_for_Cosmetic_Ingredient_and_How_to_Search.html
[6] –
[7] –
[8] –
[9] –
[10] –
[11] –
[12] –
[13] –
[14] –
[15] –
[16] –
[17] –
[18] –
[19] –
[20] –
[21] –
[22] –
[23] –
[24] –
[25] –
[26] –
[27] –
[28] –
[29] –
[30] –
[31] –
[32] –
[34] –
[35] –
[36] –
[37] –
[38] –
[39] –
[40] –
[41] –
[42] –


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top