Eye Allergies and Makeup

Dre Morggan Debaets


By Dr Morggan Debaets, optometrist

Co-owner of Alliance Opto-Réseau clinics of St-Félicien and Métabetchouan

It happens at some point every year: your eyes get red and watery, and it’s all you can do not to rub them! Even if most allergies rear their ugly heads in the spring, they can act up at any time during the year, whenever your eye comes into contact with an allergen. Along with pollen, animals, and dust mites, makeup—especially mascara and eyeliner—is a major cause of allergic reactions.

Patients generally seek attention for itchy eyes, red or watery eyes, and swollen eyelids or conjunctiva (the whites of the eyes)—all signs that the immune system’s defences have overreacted to an allergen with an allergic reaction.

If you suffer from chronic allergies, it’s best to treat them as quickly as possible, preferably before you come into contact with the allergen. For example, if you are allergic to pollen, you should use special anti-allergy eye drops starting in April.

Sometimes, you might have an intense allergic reaction to an allergen that may seem completely innocuous, like foundation applied too close to your eyelashes, hand cream, or a new laundry detergent. Your eyelids and conjunctivae swell dramatically and quickly. For immediate relief, use eye lubricants (which force the allergen out of the eye) and cold, dry compresses (which make them less itchy), or consider using cortisone eye drops.

If only your eyelids become red and dry it’s likely contact dermatitis, in which case we’d suggest using a cortisone cream.

Allergies to metal frames (containing nickel) are also common. In cases like this, the contact points where the frames touch the skin on your nose, ears, temples, and cheeks often become red and irritated. Choosing nickel-free frames made of stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, or plastic solves this problem. Treating the frame with a varnish can also be effective, though not permanent.

To sum up, if you suffer from—or suspect you suffer from—eye allergies, feel free to talk to your Opto-Réseau optometrist. They will be sure to give you the best advice and prescribe an appropriate treatment, and our opticians will recommend the right frames if you have a metal allergy.