By: Alan D. Mendelsohn MD
Beware of the Glue: Applied by a professional on an occasional basis is not generally problematic unless you are allergic to the glue used in the application process. However, with the proliferation of new self-application eyelash extensions and the wide range of unlicensed practitioners offering their services, the greater the number of patients being seen in my office with painful, red eyes and sensitivity to light The main problem is the glue and there are varying degrees of toxicity when the glue accidentally gets into the eye. The severity of symptoms depend on the type of glue and whether the glue rubs or becomes embedded on the corneal surface. Involvement of the cornea inevitably results in keratitis, or inflammation of the cornea, which is acutely painful and usually will not resolve on its own. Expedient attention not only offers pain relief but also minimizes the extent of the inflammation, thereby enabling the cornea to heal better and faster.
Use caution when applying mascara with the wand: Sometimes your mascara brush will occasionally go rogue and slip, scraping the cornea and inducing a corneal abrasion. The frequency of cornea related eye injuries from mascara brushes peaks with young teenagers and 80 year old plus seniors. With teens, it is a lack of experience and a tendency to be less careful, often rushing to get out the door. With seniors, there are patients who have worn mascara for decades and due to hand tremors or declining vision, this formerly routine endeavor becomes more of a challenge and even a hazard.
I will never forget a 15-year old patient who came to see me with her mom presenting with excruciating pain in one eye. Mom had recently taught her daughter the correct techniques for applying mascara and its subsequent removal. Her daughter accidentally scraped her eye vigorously with the mascara brush and was too stoic to tell her mother that this accident occurred and she was experiencing pain, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision. She also was afraid her mom would withdraw “mascara privileges” and therefore opted to wait 48 hours to inform mom when pus was noticeably coming out of the afflicted eye. To camouflage her injured eye, she wore dark sunglasses 24/7. It turned out that she had a severe corneal ulcer and could have lost her eye. Fortunately, with extensive antibiotics and a subsequent corneal transplant surgery, we were able to save her eye and excellent vision. The key is to see your eye care specialist immediately to prevent serious consequences since time is of essence.
Remove your eye makeup daily: Removing your eye makeup is like brushing your teeth. Sure you can forget to brush your teeth occasionally but lack of dental hygiene on a long term basis causes cavities and other dental issues. The same premise holds for any eye makeup removal. Skip a day or two without consequences but consistently being remiss in your eye makeup removal can lead to irritation, redness and even infection.
Take the extreme case of a woman from Australia who was patently remiss about removing her mascara for decades. According to a recent report in Fox news, her physician diagnosed her with conjunctival concretions, a condition with dark calcified bumps under her upper eyelids.
Wash up and throw out: When it comes to ocular hygiene, washing your hands before applying your eye makeup is key as well as throwing out your mascara or eyeliner after an infection.
Sharing is not caring: Avoid sharing eye makeup with others, including family members. Eye infections, even microscopic ones, are easily transferable from one person to the next and you could develop pink eye, bacterial conjunctivitis, inflammation of your eyelids and even a corneal infection from sharing. Though eye makeup generally has preservatives to prevent infection, the preservatives do not last more than a few months. That is why eye makeup companies recommend throwing out your mascara after a three month period. It’s not to generate more sales, but to prevent eye infections.
Avoid extended wear contact lenses: I am an ardent believer in daily disposable lenses where one wears them all day and throws them out before going to sleep. Unfortunately, wearing a contact lens for a week or longer duration results in an exponential increase in severe eye infections, including corneal ulcers. Early in my career, a nationally prominent cornea specialist asked this probing question at a conference, “Would you wear your underwear for days without changing it?” The analogy is obvious. In addition, your quality of vision in a daily is superior to your vision after days of wearing the same contact lens which is exposed to all kinds of environmental and personal toxins.
Bottom line, when it comes to your eyes, there is no beauty in pain. Pain will cost you a visit to your ophthalmologist at a minimum, with severe consequences at the max. The stakes are just too high for the price of beauty.