Do your eyes water at the very thought of a mascara wand? Whether you wear contact lenses, suffer from allergies (hayfever is a friend to no one's peepers, any time of the year) or just have super sensitive eyes - certain mascaras can exacerbate the problem further. It's a sticky situation where you want to wear it, but is it worth it if it means sore, bloodshot eyes? Thankfully, there are plenty of new hypoallergenic formulas on the market that are safe for sensitive eyes, so you can get long, luscious lashes without the irritation.
What causes eyes to become sensitive and watery?
Sensitive, watery eyes are pretty common, and can be caused by allergens like dust, pollen or pets. If you’re a regular contact lens wearer, and spend all day staring at a computer screen (guilty), you’re also more likely to suffer from red, sore eyes – a situation which can in turn be exacerbated by the ingredients in your make-up.
What’s a hypoallergenic mascara?
Put simply, a hypoallergenic formula is one that doesn’t include ingredients that are common allergens (usually allergy tested) and is free from fragrance, making it a safe bet for those with sensitive, watery eyes. Most hypoallergenic brands will be marked as such on the tube, or bear the label ‘suitable for sensitive eyes'.
SHOP: The Best Mascaras For Sensitive Eyes
Mascaras For Sensitive And Delicate Eyes
This mascara contains ginseng and caffeine to energise sleepy peepers, while rosemary extract conditions the lashes for a super-healthy flutter.
When French pharma brand La Roche-Posay create a mascara, you know it's going to be good. This fluffy wand delivers fuller, healthier-looking lashes in a single sweep.
Although all Clinique mascaras are hypoallergenic, this one is our top pick for sensitive eyes. It does everything you need – adds volume, lengthens and defines in one quick stroke.
This luxurious, rosewater-infused mascara is smudge-proof, yet comes off easily, even just with warm water. Definitely worth the splurge.
98% natural, this no-nasties mascara is enriched with Vitamin E, beeswax and sunflower oil to condition and nourish lashes.
Called Lash Slick, it took Glossier more than 18 months and 248 iterations to formulate. Costing £14, it promises to lift, curl, scalp and lengthen lashes with a tiny fibre coating that can be washed off with just plain old warm water.
Hypo-allergic, natural and organic - this mascara lengthens lashes and is formulated with plenty of good stuff; essential fatty acids, red algae, organic shea butter and organic jojoba oil to strengthen them too.
This all-natural formula lengthens and protects lashes with rose wax and beeswax. Extracts of eyebright and black tea also soothe the sensitive eye area. Happier peepers all round.
Should I wear waterproof mascara if my eyes are sensitive?
If you’re battling with watery, puffy eyes each day - waterproof mascara might seem like an obvious solution. But while a tear-proof formula might initially make for fewer panda-eye smudges, it won’t do you any favours in the long term. Waterproof mascaras are, of course, harder to remove, and scrubbing away with make-up remover can aggravate sensitive skin further, leaving you with itchier, more irritated eyes.
Which are best for sensitive eyes?
Steer clear of fibre mascaras – while these formulas might give you long, thick lashes, the fibres may drop into your eyes throughout the day and exacerbate the irritation. Your best bets are natural PH balanced formulas with soothing ingredients, which will care for lashes while lengthening and won’t flake or clump. It’s also worth looking out for ‘tubing’ mascara formulas, which form ‘tubes’ around the lashes. It’s waterproof, but slides off the lashes easily, without any need for over-scrubbing (cutting down the risk of irritation).
Which ingredients should I look for, and which should I avoid?
As a general rule, you want to find a volumizing mascara with as simple a formula as possible, containing fewer potential irritants. Stick to black rather than brightly coloured mascara (apologies in advance to all those ‘80s beauty enthusiasts), and avoid formulas containing parabens and phthalates (fragrance). Look out for mascaras that have been ophthalmologist tested (which means an eye doctor was consulted during the formula's testing). Also, avoid irritants like the thickening agent HEC (which is also found in soap) and instead look for soothing natural ingredients like aloe vera, which can help to tackle inflammation.
It’s also worth noting that good make-up hygiene becomes imperative if you suffer from dry, sensitive eyes. Make sure you throw away old make-up (mascara should only be kept for three months maximum) and never try to re-use dried out mascara by adding water.
What’s the best way to apply mascara to sensitive eyes?
Avoid applying lash mascara right at the roots of your lashes; instead, brush it towards the ends to minimise contact with your eyes. If you’re an eye makeup and eyeliner junkie, you should refrain from ‘tight-lining’ inside the waterline. Though this blogger-approved technique undoubtedly yields dramatic results, it’s one that those with sensitive eyes should avoid, and can potentially increase risk of infection. For an extra boost without over-loading your lashes with product, it's worth investing in an eyelash curler. Kevyn Aucoin The Eyelash Curler, £17, is widely considered to be one of the best in the business.