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Why I Don't Recommend Waterproof Makeup to my Patients!

What Does Waterproof Makeup Do to Your Eyes?

Makeup wearers are always looking for ways to make makeup more long-wearing and convenient. Whether it's something as complicated as permanent makeup tattoos, or something as simple as waterproof mascara, consumers love cosmetics that stay put after application.

But unfortunately, makeup habits and ocular health are inextricably linked. The more we try to make eye makeup indestructible, the more we put our eyes at risk. As an eye doctor, it’s my job to educate patients about potential eye health threats. So let’s take a look at waterproof makeup and how it could impact your eyes.

How Are Waterproof Formulas Different From Other Makeup?

Makeup is kind of like baking. When you're making chocolate chip cookies, you're always going to use the same basic ingredients. The proportions of the ingredients might vary based on the recipe, and there might be a few extra ingredients like nuts or raisins. But generally, to make chocolate chip cookies you're using the same basic formula. When makeup companies make a liquid eyeliner, a pressed pigment, or mascara, they're using roughly the same ingredients with a few variations to make the product to perform differently.

The Formula for Standard Mascara: A non-waterproof mascara formula usually includes the following things:

  • Pigment - typically carbon black or iron oxide

  • Polymer - a substance to help coat the lashes

  • Oil or wax - something that thickens the mascara and helps it stick to the lashes

All of these ingredients are water-soluble, meaning water is enough to dissolve or loosen the formula.

The Formula for Waterproof Mascara: A waterproof mascara formula includes roughly the same ingredients we just listed. The main difference is the inclusion of dimethicone copolyol – a film former. Film formers spread out and create a thin layer that is relatively light and comfortable to wear. The film repels water, which is what makes the product waterproof.

The Problem With Dimethicone Copolyol

In order for your lashes to live through their full growth cycle, they need to be properly hydrated. The problem is, dimethicone copolyol dries out your eyelashes, which can cause them to fall out sooner than they normally would. Using waterproof mascara on a regular basis could essentially cause your lashes to become sparse, giving you the exact opposite effect of what you wanted.

Waterproof Makeup Requires More Rubbing

The whole point of waterproof makeup is that it doesn’t come off easily. That means when it’s time to take your makeup off at the end of the day, you’ll most likely end up rubbing and scrubbing at your eyes just to get rid of it all. But your eyes and the skin around them are very delicate. Rough or excessive friction can lead to all sorts of issues.

Premature Ageing

When you rub your eyes, you pull at the very delicate skin surrounding them. Over time, this repeated motion can reduce the skin’s natural elasticity, causing it to look droopy or wrinkly. This may make you look older than you really are.


Putting pressure on or around your eyes can easily burst capillaries – the tiny blood vessels under your skin. This may lead to discoloration and the appearance of dark circles under your eyes, which could make you look tired and worn down.

Possible Gland Damage

Your lid margins house your meibomian glands, which help ensure your tears don't evaporate too quickly. These glands are quite delicate; persistent friction and stretching could damage them and lead to an increase in dry eye symptoms.

Weakening the Cornea

In extreme cases, excessive eye rubbing can cause the cornea to thin and bulge outwards in a condition called keratoconus. This condition distorts your vision and is very hard to correct, as it is a type of irregular astigmatism.

Things to Consider Before Wearing Waterproof Makeup

Do You Have Dry Eye?

Wearing products designed to repel moisture will most likely exacerbate your dry eye symptoms. It's better to go for hydrating products, or at least products that don't dry out your eyes and the tissues around them.

Do You Wear Contacts?

I always say that anything around your eye ends up in your eye. The mascara you wear will end up in your eye to some extent. If you're wearing waterproof mascara or eyeliner and you're also wearing contact lenses, that makeup will get stuck under your lenses, causing more damage or discomfort.

If you must wear waterproof makeup with contact lenses, I suggest wearing daily disposable lenses. This way, makeup won’t build up on your lenses day after day, which reduces the potential for infection.

Do You Have Thin or Sparse Lashes?

If you're trying to add volume to relatively thin or sparse lashes, waterproof makeup probably isn't for you. These formulas are likely to dry out your eyelashes and could easily cause them to fall out faster, giving you even less to work with.

All Things in Moderation

Personally, I don’t wear waterproof makeup. It’s just not worth the risk to me. That’s not to say you can’t wear it. But if you do wear waterproof makeup, I would caution you to wear it very sparingly, and remove it carefully with oil-based cleanser at the end of the day. Check expiration dates and always throw out expired makeup. Makeup is fun, but remember, the real secret to beautiful eyes is keeping them healthy.


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