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Makeup For Contact Lenses: Q & A

If you’ve mastered the nearly unbearable task of touching your eyeballs every single day, it probably means you’re a contact-lens wearer. Congratulations — just one more thing to add to your daily routine. And, as if touching your eyeballs twice a day weren’t bad enough, you have to deal with the fears that come along with wearing contacts, like mixing up your left contact with your right and only realizing how dizzy you feel when you’re a block from work.

Unfortunately, makeup only complicates things even more. You’ve already given up 20/20 vision — there’s no way we’re going to encourage you to give up makeup, too. C’mon, we know you better than that! We enlisted the help of two LA-area eye doctors, optometrist Dr. Vicki Leung and ophthalmologist Dr. George S. Hoffman, to tell us all about keeping our eyes safe and our makeup immaculate. Check out their answers to some of our toughest questions on wearing makeup and contact lenses.

Question: Should I put makeup on before or after I put my contacts in?

Answer: Both doctors agree: Put your contacts in before you apply your makeup, and take your contacts out before you remove your makeup. This way, you minimize the chances of makeup getting on the contact, says Dr. Leung.

Question: What types of makeup are best for contact-lens wearers?

Answer: “Cream eye shadows are less likely to get into the eyes than powder,” says Dr. Hoffman. If you’re using powder shadow, Dr. Leung recommends tapping the excess powder off the makeup brush before application.

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Question: What types of makeup should contact-lens wearers avoid?

Answer: Waterproof and oil-based makeup should be avoided, if possible. If they get on the lenses, oil-based products will blur your vision more than cream or powder, says Dr. Hoffman. And waterproof makeup requires an oil-based remover, which has the same effect, points out Dr. Leung.

Question: Is it OK for contact-lens wearers to put makeup on their waterline?

Answer: It is never recommended, from a medical standpoint, to apply makeup to the waterline. “Blocked oil glands [which can be caused by makeup on the waterline] can cause styes, as well as aggravate dry eyes,” says Dr. Hoffman. However, if you’re going to wear eyeliner on your waterline anyhow, the doctors had some pointers. Consider using daily disposable contact lenses, and always use a clean, freshly sharpened eyeliner pencil.


Question: What are some general guidelines to follow for eye safety?

Answer: “One of the No. 1 culprits for eye infection is mascara. I change mine every two months, and I recommend patients change theirs every one to two months. And if you do get an eye infection, throw your mascara away immediately,” says Dr. Leung. “The worst issues involve contamination. Bacteria can grow in makeup and cause conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Hands should always be washed before applying makeup and touching the area around the eye. Don’t use old makeup, don’t share makeup, and don’t use makeup if you have an eye infection,” says Dr. Hoffman.

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