You’ve probably read a lot about how to do your makeup if you wear glasses. But I know more women who wear contacts than glasses on a daily basis, and a lot of them, like me, love makeup. This presents a bit of a beauty conundrum, because the easiest way to irritate your contacts is with makeup. How many of you have ended up with a fleck of shadow lodged underneath your lens? Or dirtied your contacts so much that you’ve had to prematurely open a new pack? I reached out to optometrist Susan Resnick to find out just how to wear makeup without irritating my lens-covered eyes.
For heaven’s sake, please wash your hands. “You should insert your contacts before you do anything like putting on moisturizer or makeup,” says Resnick. “Anything that’s left on your fingers can transfer onto the lenses, so you want to make sure your hands are squeaky clean.” You also want to make sure they’re 100 percent dry. “Tap water has the potential to contain a parasite called an Acanthamoeba that can be dangerous to the eyes, so you never want your contacts or your contact case to come into contact with water,” she says.
Stick with oil-free products. At least around your eyes. “The oils found in creams and eye shadows can sometimes work their way through the natural contours of your face and into your eyes,” explains Resnick. “Think of it like salad dressing: Oil and water won’t mix, and your lenses will attract the oil.” While it won’t hurt your eyes, cloudy lenses will make seeing difficult.
Stay away from the lid ledge. What is the lid ledge? you might ask. It’s the part of the lid that touches the surface of your eyeballs, and it’s where the oil glands of the eyes open up, according to Resnick. “If you block those glands with makeup, it can lead to dry eyes, dirty lenses, and even sties. You want to have your eyelashes between your makeup and your eyeball, basically.” I’m sorry to say that contact-lens wearers might want to keep tightlining to a minimum.
Ask more of your mascara. No one likes clumpy mascaras, but you should really not like them if you wear contacts. “Clumps and excess particles can fall and get into the eyes and become trapped underneath the lenses, which is very uncomfortable,” says Resnick. (Yep, been there, done that.) And the same goes for mascaras that contain fibers, so stick to traditional lengthening and volumizing mascaras, not the ones with fiber particles.
Get daily lenses. Last year, Resnick suggested I switch to dailies (Acuvue 1-Day Moist, to be exact) because of the amount of eye makeup I try every day with my job. I had been complaining of red, dry, itchy eyes, and the last straw was when I ended up with conjunctivitis. Even though they’re a tad more expensive than the biweeklies, it was worth it. Since switching, I rarely experience redness and irritation, and I chalk that up to starting with a fresh, makeup- and residue-free pair every morning.
But if you don’t get dailies, be diligent about cleaning. “For people who don’t want to wear dailies, two-week lenses are the next-best thing, but you have to be sure to care for them properly,” says Resnick. That means every night, clean your lenses with the multipurpose solution your eye doctor recommends, rubbing them for 15 to 20 seconds to dissolve the grime left on them from the day, and then place them in a case with fresh—let me repeat—fresh solution. It’s also important to clean your case on a daily basis, using contact solution or three-percent hydrogen peroxide, and to clean both the bottom and the top. “You’d be surprised that cases are the most common cause of eye infections,” says Resnick. “And it’s usually the top of the case, because no one ever thinks about that part.”
Buy some lid wipes. An optometrist once recommended I buy OccuSoft Lid Wipes to fully get rid of all my makeup residue so that my lids wouldn’t get irritated. “These are actually great and I will recommend them to my patients who wear heavy makeup and don’t do a great job of taking it off,” said Resnick when I asked her if they were necessary. “Typically we suggest them for patients who have blepharitis, or dandruff of the lashes, but since they’re designed for cleaning around the lids and lashes, it’s a great way to take off makeup as well.”