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7 Makeup Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Anyone who wears contact lenses or glasses knows that it is A LOT easier to put on and wear makeup when you’re wearing contacts. Still, it comes with its risks of infection and contamination, which are not only painful but incredibly serious, potentially threatening your vision. Nothing will irritate sensitive eyes more or increase risk of infection than eye makeup applied in the wrong way. But if you’re someone who can’t give up gorgeous makeup – rejoice! These 7 steps, recommended by Australian Ophthalmologist Dr Jacqueline Beltz, will show you how to wear makeup with contact lenses, safely.

Why does wearing contacts increase my risk of eye infections? Contact lenses are a foreign object and restrict some of the ways in which your eyes can care for themselves. A little bit of product accidentally left on or under a contact lens will not wash away with our natural tears and blinking mechanisms, and sits on the eye in a higher concentration. Always follow up with your eye health professional as a matter of urgency if you suspect you have a contacts related eye infection.

 

A contact lense is on a finger, showing you need to insert it before doing eye make up.

  1. What goes first – contact lenses or makeup?

Neither. Washing hands goes first! Washing your hands is not a step to skip any time you are applying contact lenses (hello, germy infection risk!). Smearing product onto your contact lens of course makes it more difficult to see through (even worse that dirty glasses), but also increases potential to irritate or damage your eye. Before commencing your skin care or makeup routine, wash your hands, allow them to fully dry, then apply your contacts before you get stuck into your smoky eye look.

Got residual soap or sanitiser on your contact lens? Ouch! Remove your lens and rinse your eye generously with water, saline, eye wash or lubricating eye drops ASAP.  Rinse your contact lens with saline solution or multipurpose contact lens solution.  Do not replace your contact lens until your eye feels back to normal, and seek medical attention if things don’t settle very quickly.

  1. Water-based makeup is your best choice.

Contact lenses are often made of silicone hydrogel and while this allows more oxygen to get through to your eye, these silicone polymers are hydrophobic, meaning they are made to repel water and attract oil -including your oil based makeup.  This is why we recommend choosing water-based makeup products for those with contact lenses. If you can’t bear to switch out your favourite eyeshadow, speak to your optometrist about lens options with special coatings or treatments to help reduce this problem.

  1. Avoid the waterline with your eyeliner.

Yes, all the makeup tutorials tell us that to get a fuller, wider eye look, eyeliner on the waterline is essential. The problem for contacts wearers or those with sensitive eyes is that any makeup placed there will be more likely to migrate into your tear film and underneath your contact lenses. 

The compromise? Keep your eyeliner outside the lashes – the look will still be dramatic, but the risk of contamination won’t be.  It’s also better for your eyes in the long run, as the delicate meibomian glands open up along the waterline, and blocking these little powerhouses with makeup will never end well (find out more in our Tips for wearing the makeup you love...without damaging your sensitive eyes…).

 

Preparing to put in contact lenses, which are safe to use with make up

  1. Two things that should never be flaky; best friends, and mascara.

Residual mascara, flakes or fibres can irritate anyone’s eyes, but this is more likely to happen if you wear contacts and the little demons get underneath your contact lens.  If that happens, the only real way to solve the problem is to wash your hands, remove your contact lens, flush out the irritant with lubricating eye drops and then replace your lens. 

Avoid waterproof mascaras which have to be removed with sensitivity inducing rubbing or strong chemicals, and are also more likely to stain your contact lens.

Prevention is always better than cure, so avoid the hassle of rogue flakes by choosing a mascara developed to be safe for sensitive eyes (like our OKKIYO mascara, suitable for everyday use).

NOTE FROM JACQUELINE: I don’t recommend dying your eyelashes if you have sensitive eyes.  Many of the dyes are known to increase eye sensitivities and they can be more trouble than they’re worth.  Semi-permanent lash extensions with contact lenses is also a situation to avoid, as lash extensions harbour bacteria and are difficult to keep clean, increasing the risk of eye infections.  If you want to wear lash extensions, stick with single use and apply carefully with hypoallergenic glue (only after a patch test).

  1. Prime your eyelids for best makeup results.

One sure way to irritate your eyes is to have bits of makeup dropping into them throughout the day.  Use an eyelid primer or a dab of concealer to help eyeshadow stay put, and avoid glittery eyeshadow with loose particles that can work their way in underneath your contact lenses.  We chat more about the best choice for eyeshadow in our blog here.

  1. Consider daily disposables over longer wear contacts.

As an ophthalmologist, Dr Jacqueline does not prescribe contact lenses (in Australia that’s the area of expertise of optometrists). She does however LOVE daily disposables for wearers of contact lenses. 

Daily lenses are single use, they’re handled less and don’t need to sit around in cases or cleaning solutions. They are the only way to be sure you’re starting with a fresh pair of contacts that are free of germs, makeup or skincare residue. They’re also easier to integrate if you prefer glasses, but still need a solution for going out or playing sport 

Long wearing contact lenses with safe storage - but for sensitive eyes, daily disposables are a better choice
  1. Remove makeup thoroughly – AFTER your contact lenses are out.

You know you should be washing your face before bed each night, but what comes first, removing your contacts, or your makeup?

To avoid getting makeup remover beneath your contacts (irritating your eye, leaving an annoying blurry smear on your lens, and potentially changing its chemical composition), first wash your hands and then remove your contacts. Follow up with a gentle makeup remover such as OKKIYO cleansing balm that has been specifically formulated for sensitive eyes – not only helping to remove your makeup but also removing any build-up of crusts, oils and bacteria along your eyelid margins.

JUST DON'T DO IT! Remember to absolutely never sleep in your contact lenses. Ever.  Although some lenses are designed to have greater oxygen flow for longer wear, Dr Beltz says these do not combine well with makeup use and prefers daily use contact lenses.  See your optometrist or eye health professional for more specific advice.

Bonus tip:

Never share eye makeup and always discard your makeup and skincare before the use-by date.  Dr Jacqueline recommends changing eye makeup every 3 months as your safest option.

You don’t have to give up makeup if you wear contact lenses.

By following the first in, first out rule for your contacts, being vigilant with your hand washing and never sleeping in your lenses, it’s easy to protect your eyes while using makeup and contact lenses, so you can keep that long lashed, smoky eye look you love.

 

Dr Jacqueline Beltz Ophthalmologist and creator of OKKIYO, encourages people with contact lenses to wear makeup safely  - sits at a table in an orange blazer, with yellow flowers in the background.

 

Dr Jacqueline Beltz, BMedSci (Hons), MBBS, FRANZCO, MSurgEd(Hons) is one of Australia’s leading cataract, cornea and laser eye surgeons.  She has almost 20 years of experience in eye health, is Chair of the Australian and New Zealand Cornea Society and was recently elected as Co-President of the Australasian Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgeons.  Jacqueline works at Eye Surgery Associates, Melbourne and Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.  She recently completed 6 years as Director of Training for the Victorian Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and 10 years as Associate Medical Director of the Lions Eye Donation Service, Victoria.  Jacqueline loves ophthalmology, sees many patients every week and is always striving to improve, both personally and professionally.

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