It seems more and more of my clients and friends are developing sensitivities to eye color cosmetics, usually mascara and/or eyeliner. Have I found a mascara that is safe for all to use? No. Mascara has several problematic ingredients: shellac (maybe listed as polymer on label) in one study on contact dermatitis was found to be the key sensitizing ingredient. Another probable correlation exists with nickel allergy and mascara (and curlers). Nickel won't show up on the ingredient list because it results as an impurity in a raw material used to produce another ingredient. We know the thinner skin on our eyelids allows chemicals to go into the skin at a faster rate making contact dermatitis common around the eyes. This same article states that sweat allows chemicals to penetrate even easier. All mascaras have some kind of pigment, even the "natural" ones. That is how they darken your lashes so if you are sensitive to those you'll have a harder time. Then there is the possibility of reacting to the preservatives. Preservatives are crucial in a formulation like mascara, and even with them you need to pitch them every three months.
1.) The more you use a product the higher the chance you will develop a sensitivity to it. This makes sense because you don't hear this as much with younger people. Do you really need to wear mascara every day? Definitely don't exercise/steam or sauna with it. Be sure to remove all of it every night. Don't be stubborn and rely on the old "I've always used this and it's always worked for me." Things change and YOU change.
2.) You won't find a mascara to move to just by shopping cleaner brands or reading labels. You'll have an easier time if you are a cosmetic chemist but most of us it will be trial and error--or trial and learn as my Dad says. Especially considering raw materials (the ingredients in the ingredients) can be big unknowns. I have an earlier post about the FDA's role in cosmetics. Use your best sleuthing skills. If you also react to your eyeliner or other product, see if you can find a common ingredient. Some brands have started carrying sample or travel sizes, so take advantage.
3.) Keep me posted on your trials. We can learn from each other and maybe (just maybe because we are all different) shortcut someone's tedious process. Meanwhile, if you can't go natural, curl those lashes to open up your eyes. If you have no nickel allergy use a metal crimper or try one of the heated models, like this one from blinc.
Amy Linville is an artist and esthetician that believes simple, sustainable and non-rushed daily skincare and beauty rituals are the foundation for finding comfort in your skin and looks, no matter your age.