The Major Eye Liner Mistake You Might Be Making, From An MD

I tend to hear most makeup mistake complaints from professional makeup artists. Since they practice the artistry for a living—and therefore have hours and hours of practice—they always have several habits that make them cringe when viewing. Now occasionally, I’ll get a makeup complaint from a dermatologist, as makeup can absolutely influence skin health. But an ophthalmologist? Well, they have a stake in the makeup game too.

Since some of our favorite, everyday products are those that grace the eye area, it makes sense. Many people out there count eyeliner or mascara as their desert island beauty products—the tools they simply don’t want to live without. 

And all that usage, well, it can irritate the delicate eye if you’re not careful. One way in particular? Using eyeliner on the waterline may lead to dry eyes.

How bad eyeliner habits can lead to dry eyes, from an M.D. 

Of course there are many ways to sport eyeliner—a soft, smudged smoky eye, a bold floating liner, or a subtle “kitten-eye,” or a less aggressive take on the classic winged option. Then there’s the waterline. Applying liner on your waterline is a quick and easy way to define the lashes and make your eyes pop; additionally, many people will use white or cream pencils on the area to make their eyes appear larger.

However, doing this too much—and without the proper care after—may lead to dry eyes. In a recent TikTok video from Brittani Carver, M.D., the ophthalmologist takes viewers through photos of oil glands that are located in your upper and lower eyelids. 

“Do you ever wonder why eye doctors don’t recommend wearing anything on your waterline?” she asks. “The waterline is actually where oil is secreted for the eye. If the glands are obstructed or blocked, they will atrophy and die out. This can lead to extreme dry eye.” (Click over to the video to see the oil glands in action—unless things like that make you squeamish, then just follow along with us below.) 

Here’s a little anatomy lesson on the eye that we’ve previously learned from James Chelnis, M.D., oculofacial plastic surgeon and assistant clinical professor at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai

Your eyelid has three parts that produce various liquids: water (which we identify as tears), mucus (which you might notice when you wake up with “crust” in the morning), and oil. For our purposes, that last one is the most important. Oil actually forms a slick around the eye to keep the water in, keeping your eye hydrated. 

If our oil glands around the eye stop working properly—as in the case of this video—they can’t keep the water sealed on the eye. “Have you ever heard anyone complain about having ‘dry eyes’ but still tearing up? What’s happening there is the eye likely doesn’t have enough oil to keep the water in,” says Chelnis. “This not only leads to dryness but sties and eyelid inflammation.”

Wearing makeup on your lashline may be a popular sartorial choice, but it can harm your eyes in the long run. If you naturally have dry eyes, be extra careful. Take it from these M.D.s: Don’t line your waterline daily (occasionally should be fine), and always be sure to remove all makeup at night before bed. 

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