The Grapevine

Dangers Of Sleeping With Makeup On Include Potential Blindness

After a long night out, taking a minute or two to remove your eye makeup does seem like a herculean task. Sometimes, it just seems easier to skip the routine. But what is the consequence when this becomes a long-term habit?

A recent case was detailed in the May 2018 issue of the American Academy of Ophthalmology journal, where an Australian woman began experiencing an uncomfortable sensation underneath her eyelids. 50-year-old Theresa Lynch was found to have dark pigments, thought to be fragments of mascara, building up in that part of her eye.

"[The lumps] were embedded so deep that particles were building up on top of each other," Lynch said. "I was so uncomfortable. My eyelids were swollen and heavy because I left it for so long."

According to the authors, she had admitted to not removing her mascara before going to bed for almost 25 years. Since the mascara fragments had embedded themselves into her eyelids, blinking caused them to repeatedly rub the surface of her eyes, thus putting them in danger.

If one of the fragments caused a scratch which eventually became infected, Lynch was at risk of going permanently blind. Ophthalmic surgeon Dr. Dana Robaei performed a 90-minute procedure to remove the foreign material deposited under her eyelids. However, she still had to face certain consequences from her long-time habit.

"It was certainly disabling," Dr. Robaei explained. "She has suffered permanent scarring on her eyelid and the surface of her cornea. The symptoms are like somebody throwing a handful of sand in your eye — it's constantly irritating."

Dr. Eric Schweiger, the founder of the Clear Clinic in New York City, stated that products like mascara and eyeliner end up inside the eyes due to being rubbed by the pillow during sleep. "Sleeping in eye makeup repeatedly may result in the clogging of the tiny hair follicles and oil glands on your eyelids. When these areas become clogged, bacteria can build up and cause inflammation," he said.

Furthermore, he recommended that makeup remover pads be placed by the bed to wipe across your face and eyes on nights when you may feel too tired or not have enough time to properly cleanse.

"The eye is the thinnest skin in the body so it's very delicate, and using any type of scrub — no matter how gentle the label claims — can cause micro-tears or broken blood vessels, and can even lead to infections," said California dermatologist Dr. Debra Luftman, insisting on gentle makeup remover. 

To reduce the risk of an eye infection, avoid the same product for different parts of the face such as the same pencil being used for the lips and the eyes. Another precaution is to never share eye makeup with a friend as the product may carry bacteria from one person to another.