Maintaining good eye health is vital to preserving your vision, but many of us are not as careful with our eyes as we should be. Rubbing, scratching, dehydration, and even careless cosmetic use all put our eyes at risk.

Improper makeup application practices can lead to eye infections or injuries. Sometimes these consequences are severe enough to permanently compromise vision. Fortunately, following several basic safety and hygiene tips will save you from suffering any trauma.

Be wary of expiration dates

Like food, cosmetics have a “best by” date. You probably won’t find a specific expiration date on any makeup, but the recommendation is to toss anything that’s been open for more than a few months. This is because the makeup becomes contaminated via the air, your hands, or the applicator. In their Cosmetics Safety Q&A, the FDA recommends discarding mascara and other eye cosmetics after three months.

Don’t ignore this advice in an effort to save money, because it’s not worth it. If you want to save money on your eyes, there are other ways that won’t compromise your health. Shopping online for glasses and contact lenses, for example, can save you hundreds. has all the same, high-quality lenses you get from the eye doctor, but with more selection and better prices. Cheap online glasses are a safe option for saving some cash, using expired makeup is not.

Only buy FDA-approved cosmetics

The FDA does not have the same authority over cosmetics that it does over food and medicine. Cosmetics companies are not required to provide the FDA with safety information or perform tests of their products like pharmaceutical companies are. However, companies are required to use approved chemicals in their products. Companies found to have violated this policy can face consequences.

Most big name cosmetic companies are probably a safe bet, but if you purchase your makeup from non-traditional retailers, you may want to check the ingredients to make sure everything is above board. For example, some knock-off cosmetics use real kohl or non-cosmetic grade glitter, both of which can be dangerous.

Use caution

We’ve all known someone who tried to put their makeup on while driving to work. Usually the result is just poorly applied eyeliner that looks funny for the rest of the day, but all it takes is one bump in the road to damage your eye. Even if you’re not driving, the unsteady ride can easily result in makeup getting into the eyes or an applicator scratching your cornea. Some of the harsher makeup applicators, like those used for mascara, can damage your cornea to the point of permanently harming your vision.

Use makeup only as directed

Makeup will say whether or not it is intended for use around the eyes. Cosmetics like blush, which are intended for use elsewhere on the face, should not be placed near the eyes as they may pose a greater risk of irritation. The skin around your eyes is sensitive because it is so thin. It is important that only makeup intended for that area finds its way there. 

Stay clean

It’s not always the makeup that causes eye problems, but rather the germs that get into your eyes via the makeup. It’s important that your hands, skin and makeup applicators all remain clean. Wash your hands before applying makeup so you don’t transfer bacteria. Your hands touch a lot of surfaces during the day, picking up countless germs and contaminants.

Makeup applicators should also be cleaned, if possible, and replaced every few months. If a makeup applicator falls onto the floor or another dirty area, don’t risk it, just buy a new one.

Avoid sharing cosmetics of any kind, especially eye cosmetics. Sharing makeup is a quick way to spread eye infections and other bacteria.

Be cautious with adhesives or allergens

Some cosmetics require adhesives to be applied properly. These include products like false eyelashes, which are attached semi-permanently to the eyelids. The skin of your eyelids is particularly sensitive, so exercise caution with these products and cease use if any adverse reactions occur.

Also be aware of allergies. If you have a history of skin allergies, check makeup carefully before applying. An allergic reaction in or around the eyes can be especially brutal. If you are uncertain how you will react to a particular cosmetic, apply a small test amount on the skin of your arm and wait to make sure no irritation occurs before putting it near your eyes.

Show off your glasses

You don’t have to switch to contact lenses to wear eye makeup. In fact, coordinating your makeup with your eyeglass frames can lead to some really stunning looks. If you’re wondering how to ensure your makeup compliments your prescription eyeglasses, check out our article on how to coordinate glasses and makeup.