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Is Eyeliner Toxic

Eyeliner is a staple in many beauty routines that can be used for everyday wear or as a simple way to enhance your eyes and facial features. But, few people think about the harmful effects makeup products like eyeliner can have.

You might wonder if eyeliner is toxic and whether it’s a safe makeup product. Oftentimes, poor makeup hygiene and habits can lead to issues with red, itchy, and irritated skin. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about is eyeliner toxic, including toxic ingredients in eyeliner. 

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Be Mindful of Harmful Ingredients

When stored, applied, and cared for properly, eyeliner is relatively safe. Although eyeliner is safe to use, it’s important to be mindful of the harmful ingredients to avoid. A few key ingredients in some eyeliners should be avoided when on the hunt for your next eyeliner. These are the ingredients to keep an eye out for:

1. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative in eyeliner. Although the health effects of formaldehyde in cosmetics are still being tested, it’s been banned in the use of cosmetics in both Europe and California. It can cause redness, itching, irritation, allergic reactions, and in some cases — cancer making it a harmful ingredient that should be avoided.

2. Parabens

A paraben is a preservative used in cosmetics to extend a product’s shelf life while preventing mold and bacteria growth. Parabens are easily absorbed through the skin and transmitted into the bloodstream. Parabens are possible endocrine disruptors, which means they impact your body’s hormones and are also linked to reproductive toxicity, early puberty, and breast cancer. Parabens have also been found to prohibit the oil glands that line the eyelid from secreting enough oil, which leads to dry eyes.

3. BAK (Benzalkonium Chloride)

Benzalkonium Chloride is a preservative found in mascara and eyeliner that prevents the growth of bacteria and mold. It has been found to act as a strong skin allergen and can lead to allergic reactions and red, irritated, and itchy skin. It has also been found to be toxic to the epithelial cells of the eyes.

These cells keep water, dust, and bacteria out of the eye and create a smooth surface on the cornea to absorb and distribute oxygen and cell nutrients from tears to the rest of the cornea. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, it’s best to avoid this ingredient.

4. Prime Yellow Carnauba Wax

Prime yellow carnauba wax is used in mascara and eyeliners to stiffen the product and make it waterproof. It has been found to clog the oil glands in the eye and can lead to dry eye disease. For this reason, using products that contain wax should be avoided.

5. Ethanolamine Compounds

Ethanolamines can be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals known as nitrosamines. To avoid this ingredient in your eyeliner, look out for ingredients that contain the letters DEA, TEA, and MEA.


6. Heavy Metals

Heavy metals such as nickel and chrome can be found in many types of makeup, especially in green or metallic products. Heavy metals are neurotoxins and have been linked to brain damage.

Nickel has been linked with lung cancer and respiratory concerns. It is also a metal many commonly are allergic to, which can cause dry and itchy eyelids, skin rashes, and watery blisters. Heavy metals may not always be listed on makeup labels as they can contaminate other products. However, it’s still important to remember them when reading through your eyeliner’s ingredient list to make sure you’re not using a hazardous eyeliner.

7. Retinyl Acetate/Retinyl Palmitate

These two forms of vitamin A have been linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity. They can be found in some eyeliners, eye makeup, anti-aging face creams, and eye creams. These two ingredients can kill the oil glands in your eyes which can’t be rebuilt once gone.

8. Aluminum Powder

Aluminum powder is used to give eye makeup its hue. However, it is a neurotoxin linked to organ system toxicity, making it an ingredient that’s best to avoid. When looking for aluminum powder in the ingredients list, check for Aluminum, LB Pigment 5, or Pigment Metal.

You should avoid other ingredients: talc, BHA, urea, sulfates, and phthalates. These ingredients can irritate the skin and are associated with cancer risk in larger amounts. Another factor affecting how safe eyeliner is to use is its shelf life.

Throw Away Eye Makeup After 3 Months

Often, makeup products don’t have a clear expiry date to remind you when it’s time to replace them. Cosmetics have a shelf life, and it’s important to know exactly how long is too long when using them. It’s recommended not to keep eyeliner pencils or liquid eyeliner for about three months.

Keeping your eyeliner for longer can increase the chances of bacteria or fungus contaminating it. Once in your eye, you could get a serious eye infection. After three months, switch your eyeliner for a new one to ensure you stay on top of your eye makeup hygiene.

Say No To Water Lining

is eyeliner toxic
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Water lining – also known as applying eyeliner along the inside of your eyelids on your lash line, can cause more harm than good. When you apply eyeliner directly on the inside of the lash line, you can block the oil glands in the eyelid, which can affect the tear film that lubricates your eyes. This could cause dry eye, block oils that protect your cornea, introduce bacteria directly into your eye and cause an infection.

A recent study found that eyeliner particles in the eye would appear at a far greater frequency after being applied to the eye’s waterline. The study concluded that 15-30% more eyeliner particles would enter the eye when applied to the waterline compared to other application methods. Just say no to water lining to avoid these potentially harmful effects!

Avoid Eyeliner With Glitter

Glitter can completely elevate your makeup look and add a beautiful sparkle to your eyes, but it can also flake off your eyes and cause redness and irritation. Avoid glittery eyeliner as it can exacerbate chronically dry eyes, cause irritation, and can even lead to infection.

Waterproof is Not Always Better

When you think of waterproof eyeliner, you may think it’s the perfect solution for runny eye makeup. Although waterproof eyeliner sounds good in theory, it can lead to dry eye disease. Since waterproof eyeliner can cause the tear film to become unstable (eyeliner can clog the eye’s meibomian glands), it’s best to swap your waterproof eyeliner for a regular eyeliner free of toxic ingredients.

Try Hypoallergenic Eyeliner

If you have allergies or sensitive eyes, hypoallergenic eyeliner could be the perfect solution you’ve been looking for. Eyeliner designed for sensitive eyes will be less likely to cause irritation, itchy skin, and redness.

When it comes to clean hypoallergenic beauty products, it can be difficult to find products that perform as well as conventional ones. Still, thankfully, there are many hypoallergenic eyeliners on the market. Check out a few of them here!

Remove Your Eyeliner Every Night

After a long day, sometimes the absolute last thing you want to do is remove your eyeliner before bed. It’s much easier to forget about your makeup and worry about it in the morning. It’s essential to take off your makeup– including your eyeliner- before the day’s end. Leaving eyeliner on through the night can cause your eyes to become red and irritated and increase the chances of infection.

Be Careful With Contact Lenses

If you wear contact lenses, ensure you’re on top of your eye makeup hygiene and wash your eyeliner off each night before bed. Wearing contact lenses can increase the chances of infection and irritation with poor contact lens hygiene. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to implement diligent makeup hygiene to help lower the risks and safely use both contact lenses and eyeliner.

Final Thoughts

Eyeliner is a popular makeup staple many people love and use in their daily beauty routine. Certain ingredients in eyeliner can be harmful, but if avoided, eyeliner is relatively safe to use when applied and removed properly. If you can avoid applying eyeliner to your eye’s waterline, keep up with your eye makeup hygiene routine and steer clear of toxic ingredients, you should be able to wear eyeliner with little to no problem. 

Check out the rest of the blog to learn more makeup tips and tricks, discover the best black eyeliners, and more! 

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