Contact Lens Care & Compliance

Contact Lenses and Makeup Contamination

Contact Lens Care & Compliance

Contact Lenses and Makeup Contamination


By Michael A. Ward, MMSC, FAAO

Eye-area cosmetics can contaminate contact lenses, creating comfort and vision difficulties for patients and management challenges for practitioners. It is unlikely that patients will stop wearing makeup; therefore, we must consider alternate approaches to manage cosmetic contamination on contact lenses.

Makeup contamination of contact lenses is not new. It wasn’t much of a problem with PMMA lenses, but soft contact lenses by their hydrophilic nature adsorb more inorganic surface contaminates. Adding silicone to rigid corneal lenses reduced their wetting properties, making the lenses more attractive to organic surface debris. Similarly, silicone hydrogel soft lenses attract more organic debris due to their hydrophobic surface properties. Eyearea cosmetic contamination on high-Dk materials used in scleral GP lens designs is increasingly reported as a significant problem (see my August 2012 column).

Management Tips

Single-use soft lenses are an easy remedy for dealing with heavy makeup wearers if their prescriptions can be accommodated.

To assist my makeup-wearing scleral lens patients, I have formulated the following partial list of tips gleaned from various sources regarding eye-area cosmetics and contact lens hygiene:

• Always wash your hands before handling your contact lenses. Use mild, basic soap and avoid antibacterial, deodorant, fragranced, or moisturizing liquid soaps (many liquid soaps have moisturizers that can contaminate your lenses during handling).

• If possible, look for eye makeup specifically labeled for use by contact lens wearers; use premium products.

• Apply eye-area cosmetics after applying contact lenses (this will help prevent cosmetic contamination of lens surfaces from handling of cosmetics).

• Remove lenses before removing makeup.

• Remove makeup daily with mild soap and water; do not use oil- or petroleum-based makeup removers; specifically, avoid moisturizing bar soaps and eye makeup removers that contain mineral oil and cocoa butter.

• Choose water-based makeup; avoid any oil-based or “waterproof” eye-area products (oils will travel across the skin and contaminate the tear film).

• Avoid “lash-extending” mascaras with artificial fibers, and apply mascara only to the ends of lashes; do not apply mascara to the base of the eyelashes or on the eyelid margin.

• Do not apply oil-based moisturizers on the eyelids (oils can spread on the skin).

• Do not apply any makeup to the eyelid margin (shelf) between the eyelashes and the eyeball.

• Apply face powders sparingly; use pressed powder instead of loose powder; try to stay away from the eye area as much as possible; avoid frosted powders.

• Choose liquid or gel rather than powered eye shadows.

• Replace eye makeup at least every three months; do not share cosmetics.

• Use caution with hair styling sprays. Spray aerosols with eyes closed and step back out of the mist before opening the eyes. These gel/wax/lacquer sprays can significantly coat contact lenses.

• All lens storage cases should be emptied, rinsed with fresh solution, wiped, and air-dried between uses.

• Finally, a rear view mirror is not intended for makeup application while driving. CLS

Mr. Ward is an instructor in ophthalmology at Emory University School of Medicine and Director, Emory Contact Lens Service. You can reach him at