Ask A Nurse: Can I Wear Makeup If I Have An Eye Injury Or Infection?

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Brigitte Gordon
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Eyes are extremely revealing, not only of your emotional state, but also of your physical well-being. 

When you roll your eyes, cry, glare, glass-over, or wink you are actively expressing your emotions to others. But the eyes are also very important in identifying what is going on with the body internally. For instance, jaundice, which causes the whites of the eyes (sclera) to become yellowed, is caused by elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia). Jaundice is not really a disease in itself, but rather a visible sign that there is some underlying issue going on and that a full medical workup is necessary.

Personally, I always think of my eyes as a quick check for how I am doing. Are they bright, white, and open wide, or are they glossy, red, and half-massed? If the latter scenario is going on, lack of sleep, alcohol, or any other number of emotional or physical stresses may be at work, which is an important litmus test for identifying when I need to pay attention to me!

Despite its importance, eye care is often overlooked. I see many individuals who continue their daily makeup routines without realizing that it may be setting back the healing time of an eye injury or infection. 

On a recent vacation I scratched my cornea while using a fine-grain facial exfoliator. On top of continuously reminding myself not to rub it in, I had to forgo wearing mascara--even though I had a party to attend. It was a hard decision, but I knew that eye makeup would exacerbate the abrasion if it got into my eye, which was highly likely as my eye was constantly watering. 

Here's my advice on what not to wear when you have an eye injury or infection.   

Corneal Abrasion (Scratched Eye Surface)

Makeup is really not advised here. However, if you do use makeup, I recommend no eyeliner, because it easily gets into the eye, especially if applied to the waterline. If you're going to use mascara, opt for something flakeless, like Blinc

To remove makeup without further damaging the cornea, avoid using anything that may get in the eye, like liquid removers or cotton ball fibers. Try a calming wipe like Eyeko's Mascara Off Makeup Remover Wipes instead.

On a personal note, from now on I am avoiding all facial scrubs that could potentially scratch my eyes. I love Tatcha's Deep Rice Enzyme Powder for oily skin. 

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

This is that icky, scratchy, oozy condition that many people pick up from their kids. Conjunctivitis can be allergic, viral, or bacterial; medication is necessary for the bacterial type. Unfortunately, this unsightly condition can be contagious. Not only is makeup ill-advised, but an attempt should be made to throw away any makeup you’ve used since symptoms originated. 

Broken Blood Vessels

This is a condition that is unsightly but usually harmless. Broken blood vessels in the eyes can be caused by crying, vomiting, sneezing, straining, or even screaming and they resolve in about a week. If you don’t know why or when you popped a blood vessel, you should be seen by your regular practitioner. 

Eye makeup may be worn, but make sure it is very gentle so as not to irritate the eye further. Physicians Formula's eyeliners are hypoallergenic, gentle, and safe for contact wearers and sensitive eyes. Always listen to your body: if your eyes feel too sensitive for makeup, steer clear! 

What are your questions on makeup and eye infections or injuries?  

Photography by Maria Morri