Slay the holly jolly social season with stunning makeup that your eyes will love

As we enter the holly jolly season and that time of year where calendars are packed full of social soirees, those of us who enjoy adding some extra festive sparkle to our party look might be tempted to whip out the mascara wands and eyeshadow palettes at a rate that would make Santa’s sleigh spin.

While we don’t want to wreck the halls or dampen your Christmas spirit, we do want to talk about keeping your eyes healthy and happy throughout the most wonderful time of the year; poor quality and incorrectly applied eye cosmetics can cause inflammation, impact the quality of the lipid layer in your eyes and affect how comfortable your eyes feel.

Leading Ophthalmologist and founder of beauty company OKKIYO, Dr Jacqueline Beltz caught up with us to chat about how to go glam this December (and beyond!) without compromising the health of your eyes.

What are your best tips for applying makeup to avoid eye irritation or infections, especially during the festive season?  

1. Choose products that have purposefully been produced to be safe for your eyes 

Even if a product is labelled hypoallergenic, or ophthalmologist tested, it’s important to dive more deeply. Both terms are not regulated within the cosmetics industry, meaning there is no actual testing required to be able to make that claim. It’s crucial to establish what sort of testing has taken place. For people with sensitive eyes, it’s also a good idea to test out anything new at home and not when you’re in a rush or about to go out to that holiday party just in case irritation does occur. 

2. Turn over your products every 3 months and NEVER share your mascara 

It’s vital that eye makeup products, brushes and applicators remain clean. Common mistakes include misusing products, sharing products or storing them incorrectly.  The eye area is the most delicate and sensitive on your body; infections can be blinding and should never be ignored.  Although the shelf life of many cosmetics might be six months after opening, if you have sensitive eyes, I recommend turning over products every three months. This is especially important for mascara. Other products, such as eyeliner can often be sharpened or cleaned with a product such as hypochlorous acid eyelid and lash cleansing spray. Non “cleanable” products such as liquid eyeliner should be replaced at three months if you have sensitive eyes or otherwise before the discard-after-opening date. Along the same lines of cleanliness, never ever share or swap eye makeup products with anybody else. It’s also important to exercise caution with testers or with in store make up applications, although single use applicators are likely to be used in these settings. 

3. Avoid eyeliner on the waterline 

It’s best to keep eye liner away from the water line.  This allows the delicate balance of the ocular surface to be maintained and the oil glands and tear film to remain healthy.   

4. Never, ever sleep in your eye make up 

Every trace of eye makeup should be removed at the end of the day - sleeping in makeup is never a good idea. I recommend taking the time to thoroughly remove eye makeup with a dedicated product that is suitable for sensitive eyes. It’s important to avoid rubbing the eyes when removing eye makeup as the cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye) can be permanently damaged from eye rubbing. Also, it’s bad for the delicate eyelid skin to rub it – rubbing the eyes can cause wrinkles AND loss of vision!

Are there specific ingredients or products that individuals with sensitive skin or eyes should be cautious of when choosing makeup?  

To be sold in Australia, having a full ingredient list available at point of sale (i.e. on the box, tube or package insert) is a regulated requirement, although unfortunately the requirement is not always executed. If you can’t find the ingredients list, consider it a red flag and pick something else. One of the most common ingredients that can cause eye and skin sensitivity is benzalkonium chloride, while products containing too much alcohol can be drying for the eyes. Parabens, shellac and carbon black are also key eye irritants. Avoid products that flake or might drop glitter into the eyes if you have sensitive eyes. Waterproof products can also be problematic due to the extra drying agents and chemicals required to make them waterproof as well as the extra remover and effort required to take off the product at the end of the day.

How important is it to properly cleanse the face before applying makeup, and what steps do you recommend for an effective cleansing routine?  

A light cleanse can be performed morning and night, although some would advocate for just once a day. Washing your face for about 20 seconds with warm water, a gentle cleansing product (like a fragrance-free balm) and a clean cloth should be enough for most people, both before applying makeup in the morning and to remove cosmetics at the end of the day. Be sure not to over-cleanse the skin or the eyelid margins, though. Excess cleansing or cleansing with products that are too harsh can cause a breakdown in the skin barrier and strip it of its natural oils, leaving it dry, flaky, dull or itchy. Over cleansing the skin can also lead to flare ups of conditions such as rosacea, which can also affect the eyes. 

What advice do you have for people wanting to wear glitter or shimmery eyeshadows?  

Glittery eyeshadows are great fun, especially for the holidays, and I certainly don’t subscribe to the “no glitter over 40” rule because you should wear your make up however you want. To apply glitter eyeshadows safely, use an eyelid primer, so that the shadow stays where you put it. If you don’t have a primer, a few dabs of concealer will also help. Second, try applying the glitter shadow with your finger rather than a brush to reduce transference from the eyelid. If you’re just not into applying with your fingers, then try wetting your brush with a setting spray or with hypochlorous acid lid and lash cleansing spray. For people with sensitive eyes, glitter is best avoided; you might like to choose a shimmery crème eyeshadow instead.

Can you tell us about OKKIYO? 

I’ve recently launched OKKIYO - a beauty brand especially for people with sensitive eyes.  I worked for 3 years to get PRIORITEYES mascara just right and it has been rigorously tested in the lab (not on animals!) and then in an independent clinical trial on people with sensitive eye to make sure that it is suitable for sensitive eyes.  I’m so excited to see it out in the world now and getting such great reviews. This mascara is black, smudge-proof and contains 90% natural ingredients such as Manuka honey. Currently I’m working on a cleansing balm to safely remove eye liner and, in breaking news, there’s also eyeliner and eyeshadow in development too!

Lastly, how can one strike a balance between achieving a glamorous festive makeup look and prioritising eye safety and hygiene?  

Carefully choose products and use them ahead of the big day if some of those products haven’t been tested on your skin or eyes before. Apply carefully and not in a rush and remove all make up when you get home so that you give your eyes as good a chance of possible for waking up fresh. Of course, I always remind people to have regular eye exams (Optometry Australia recommends visiting your optometrist every two years) and seek review earlier than that if they are having any new symptoms or problems.

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