7 tips for wearing the makeup you love...without damaging your sensitive eyes.

Have you ever felt shy to ask your Ophthalmologist what the best hypoallergenic mascara is? Do you feel embarrassed to talk about makeup for sensitive eyes, because when it compares to managing your eye condition, the desire to wear makeup really isn’t that important? Leading Ophthalmologist and founder of OKKIYO, Dr Jacqueline Beltz disagrees.

“Makeup is about feeling strong, powerful and in control. It’s not just about looking beautiful. It is important and having a sensitivity or health condition shouldn’t be a barrier. Sometimes it’s even more important to feel powerful after a surgery, when you have allergies, or when you’re not feeling so great."

Even if you have dry or sensitive eyes, for most people it is still okay to wear makeup, and these 7 tips will help you learn how.

1 - You can't believe everything you read.

Believe it or not, the term hypoallergenic is not regulated within the cosmetics industry. Neither is the term ‘Ophthalmologist tested.’ So while the label tells us that the company has the best intent to make products that are suitable for sensitive eyes, you’ll need to dive a little deeper to make sure the makeup you choose is free of common allergens or irritants at the very least, and has undergone rigorous testing, with the results available to the public.

OKKIYO is Australia's first cosmetics brand actually created by an Ophthalmologist specifically for people with sensitive eyes, and it has undergone vigorous lab (not on animals of course!) and independent Ophthalmologist testing, so you can be sure we always do everything possible to make sure our products are suitable for people with eye sensitivities.

Remember that even if a product has been properly allergy tested, and shown to not contain common allergens or irritants, it’s still possible to have a reaction.  If that occurs, discontinue use, remove all traces of the product, apply a cool compress and let things settle.  If necessary, seek medical advice or have your eyes checked by your eye health professional.

Even a hypoallergenic, Ophthalmologist tested product can cause reactions in sensitive eyes.

2 - Sharing is NOT caring.

It’s really important not to share or swap eye makeup products with anybody else.  Ever! So no matter how tempting it is to share makeup bags on your girls retreat, do yourself a favour, and stay selfish with your beauty products.

It’s really important that your eye makeup products, brushes and applicators remain clean, are used as directed, and are stored correctly. We do not want to let dangerous bacteria or fungi grow in our eye makeup! The eye area is delicate and sensitive and infections can be blinding and should never be ignored. Our sight is absolutely too precious to let our standards slip.

We also recommend particular caution with testers or with in store makeup applications; if swathes of single use applicators aren't available to for product testing, walk

3 - Makeup is not made for long term relationships.

We can’t all be built for commitment, so even though the shelf life of your makeup might be 6 months, if you have sensitive eyes we recommend turning over your products every 3 months.  This is especially important for mascara -   so make a note of the opening date, or better yet, sign up for a convenient makeup subscription like ours, so you get sent a new one every 3 months without having to think about it.

Authors Note: If you have sensitive eyes, it’s a good idea to test out anything new when you’re at home and not in a rush or about to go out.  This will give you time to wear the new product for a while and then remove it safely if irritation occurs.

Woman carefully applying mascara, whilst smiling

4 - Dial down the drama.

Eyeliner is a great way to add a dramatic finish to your statement eyes, but it can also be more drama than it is worth. Water-lining – or using your eyeliner right near the eyeball on the inside of your lashes – has the potential to mess with your Meibomian Glands. These little powerhouses live along the upper and lower eyelids and produce the oily component of the tear film essential to your eye health.

It’s really easy for the openings of the Meibomian Glands to become blocked up with little bits of skin, bacteria, or makeup, stopping the oil, which then becomes stagnant, goes rancid, and causes inflammation that can become long standing and damaging to this delicate area. If that sounds like way too much drama, it might be best to save the dramatic eyeliner for special occasions, and be sure to carefully remove all traces thoroughly at the end of the day or night.

Image showing eyeliner applied above the eyelashes of the upper eyelid.

5 - No more Sleeping (in) Beauty.

Sleeping in makeup is never a good idea. Not only will your eyes look terrible in the morning, but they will also feel terrible if you’re susceptible to sensitivities.  Always take the time to thoroughly remove eye makeup with a remover product specifically for sensitive eyes – such as the OKKIYO cleansing balm and OKKIYO cleansing cloths.

 Avoid rubbing your eyes when removing eye makeup – not only is it bad for your delicate eyelid skin with excessive rubbing potentially causing wrinkles, but the cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye) can be permanently damaged from repeated eye rubbing, leading to loss of vision over time.

For further information on how to remove makeup and cleanse your eyelids and lashes, click here.

6 - Sparkle without the debacle.

Who said you can’t wear glitter after 40?! Someone who clearly has no fun.

There are no rules when it comes to something as temporary and expressive as makeup – and we LOVE glitter, BUT with one caveat – you don’t want to be getting that glitter in your already sensitive eyes. A sparkly alternative is a cream eyeshadow as it is both easy to apply, and gentle on your eyes, especially when water based. For powder shadows, using an eyelid primer, or a little concealer on your eyelids will help to prep the area and avoid spillage.

Too little too late? If you happen to get glitter in your eyes it can float around in your tear film, potentially causing grittiness and irritation. Wait until your mascara is dry and then flush the glitter out with artificial tear drops – so long as they belong to you and are still in date.

Author's tip: It’s a good idea to keep some tear drops in your cosmetics cupboard – just keep note of their use by date. When you use them to clear your eyes, place a few drops and blink lightly – avoid those hard, scrunchy blinks as that’s a sure way to wreck the work you’ve already done on your makeup look!


Woman applying neutral looking eyeshadow to the top eyelid with care.

7 - Slow and steady wins the race.

Eye makeup application is not a good time to multi-task.  Any seconds saved by applying mascara in the car or on the tram will be eaten up by painful, watering eyes, and more painstaking minutes needed to fix smudges or worse…if you accidentally poke your eye. Ouch!

You don’t need to have surgeon-steady hands, but you do need to pay attention, keep breathing and hold as steady as you can.  Find this a struggle? You can also support your elbow on the mirror to avoid your arm dangling in mid-air, sit down if that’s better for you, or support your wrist if you’re still struggling.

Poked yourself in the eye? Stop for a few moments, have a few blinks and self-assess.  A scratch on the front of the eye can be very painful, but can be managed with an ice pack very lightly placed over the closed eye. See your eye health professional if it doesn’t settle down within a few minutes. 

Makeup for your sensitive eyes can look amazing AND be safe and healthy.

By being wary of using clean, non-flaking products, avoiding anything that is pro-inflammatory, or containing unnecessary irritants or allergens, plus using caution when applying and removing products, you will give yourself the best opportunity to both enjoy makeup, and keep your eyes healthy. 

Want to learn more? Sign up to our email list at for more eye health and eye makeup advice and information.

Dr Jacqueline Beltz sitting at a table, smiling wearing a bright orange suit.

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 previous Chair of the Australian and New Zealand Cornea Society and current 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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