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Are my cosmetics making my Dry Eye worse?


Are my cosmetics making my Dry Eye worse?

Dry Eye Disease affects over 5 million people in the US with 3.3 million being woman and most of those being 50 or over. As people live longer Dry Eye will continue to be a growing problem into the future.

Although our treatment options for dry eyes have improved recently one of the most effective treatments is avoidance of Dry Eye triggers. For some that might mean protecting your eyes from environmental triggers like using a humidifier in your home especially if you have forced hot air heat, wearing sunglasses when outside to help protect your eyes from the sun and wind that may make your tears evaporate faster, or being sure to direct any fans from blowing directly on your face like the air vents in your car. For others, it may mean avoiding medications which can cause dry eye.  For more on that, read our blog are my medications causing my dry eye?

There is one other trigger that may need to be avoided that doesn’t get as much notice and that trigger is the potentially harmful ingredients in cosmetics. Cosmetics do not need to prove that they “safe and effective” like drugs do.  The FDA states that cosmetics are supposed to be tested for safety but there is no requirement that companies share their safety data with the FDA. There are also no specific definition requirements for labeling cosmetics as “hypoallergenic”, “dermatologist tested”, “ophthalmologist tested”, “sensitive formula” or the like, making most of those labels more marketing than science.

Things to watch out for in your cosmetics if you have dry eye:


Preservatives are important to prevent the cosmetics from becoming contaminated but many are known to exacerbate dry eye.  Common preservatives in cosmetics that could be adding to your dry eye problems are; BAK (Benzalkonium chloride), Formaldehyde (yes Formaldehyde!) donating preservatives (often listed as DMDM-hydantoin, quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea and 2-bromo-2-nitrpropane-1,3-diol), parabens, and Phenoxyethanol (Periman and O’Dell, Ophthalmology Management August 2016).   All of these preservatives in sufficient quantities can cause ocular irritation or inhibit the function of the Meibomian Glands that produce mucous that coats your tear film and keeps it from evaporating too quickly.


Alcohol is used in cosmetics mostly to speed the drying time but the alcohol can also dry the surface of the eye.


Waxes can block the opening of the Meibomian Glands along the eyelid margin.  If these glands are blocked they will not be able to supple the mucous and lipids necessary to the tear film to prevent it from drying too quickly.  Watch the video below to see how Meibomian Gland Dysfunction can lead to worsening dry eye.  If you have trouble with dry eye it would be advisable not to apply eye liner behind the eyelashes along the lid edge where the Meibomian gland openings are.
View Video
Anti-aging Products

While these may be safe and effective for the skin of the face they should not be used around the eyes.  Most of these products contain some form of Retin A.  These products have been shown to be toxic to the Meibomian glands and could be contributing to your dry eyes.

These components of cosmetics do not adversely affect everyone.  However, if you suffer from Dry Eye and are not effectively able to keep your eye comfortable and your vision clear, you should investigate your cosmetics as a potential contributor to your problem.

More on Dry Eye:

Risk Factors for Dry Eye

Heated Eye Pad for Dry Eye

My Eyes are tearing how could it be Dry Eye?

Why do I need an injection in my eye?
Drug Allergy or Side Effect, Knowing the Differenc...

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Sunday, 17 October 2021

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