Eye makeup like mascara enhances your eyes and improves the appearance of your eyelashes, but it may also cause irritation. Various types of mascara contain different ingredients, depending on the manufacturer and the product. If you are allergic to one or more of the substances in your mascara, you may have an allergic reaction in your eyes or on the skin surrounding the eye area.
An allergic reaction occurs due to exposure to a substance that your body mistakenly perceives as a threat. Some individuals have allergies to air-born materials, such as dust mites, pollen and pet dander; others have allergies to topical solutions that touch the skin or mucous membranes. Cosmetics, including mascara, can cause allergic reactions in individuals that are sensitive to one or more of the ingredients.
Mascara can cause contact dermatitis and conjunctivitis. Contact dermatitis is a reaction that occurs when certain substances that cause allergic reactions, known as allergens, come into contact with the skin around your eyes. Conjunctivitis occurs when these allergens flake off from the mascara and fall into your eye, irritating the conjunctiva, which is the thin, moist membrane that covers the surface of your eyeballs.
Common symptoms of eye allergies include redness in the whites of your eyes; itching in your eyes, eyelids and throat; burning or stinging in your eyes; watering eyes; sensitivity to light; discharge and swelling. Upon close examination, you may see tiny bumps on the surface of your eyeballs. Symptoms may appear in one or both of your eyes.
Various substances in mascara can cause allergic reactions. Some of the more common allergens in mascara include paraben esters, which are the most commonly used preservatives in pharmaceutical preparations. Cosmetics, including mascara, often contain a mixture of five paraben esters, known as paraben mix. Imported mascaras may also contain kohl, a color additive linked to lead poisoning in children, according to the University of Illinois Eye & Ear Infirmary.
Try to avoid substances that irritate your eyes. If you have allergic reactions to numerous brands and types of mascara, your doctor can help you determine the allergenic ingredient that is causing the reactions by performing allergy tests. Eye drops and oral antihistamines may provide temporary relief from redness and irritation. Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops or corticosteroid eye drops to help reduce your discomfort.