Contact Lens Care & Compliance

Prevent Cosmetic Deposition from Affecting Lens Comfort

Contact Lens Care & Compliance

Prevent Cosmetic Deposition from Affecting Lens Comfort


Dry eye and contact lens wear are related. A contact lens splits the tear film, creating a thinner pre-lens tear film that can break up more easily in a dry eye environment. What is often overlooked is the contribution of the lens’ front surface to dry eye. Microscopic deposits on the lens can prevent an even tear flow over it, creating tear breakup.

Lastly, the presence of substances on the front surface of the lenses themselves cause discomfort with every blink, leading to the sensation of dryness (Gromacki, 2012; Subbaraman et al, 2010; Richdale et al, 2007; Brennan and Chantal-Coles, 2000; and others. Full list available at Some of the more common types of deposition on contact lenses come from cosmetics.

General Tips

Here are tips that I have collected from various references and from my own clinical experiences.

• Wash your hands prior to applying or removing contact lenses.

• Use a mild soap or one provided by a contact lens laboratory. Antibacterials, lotions, and/or perfumes can easily transfer from hands to contact lenses.

• In general, you should apply soft contact lenses prior to applying makeup (American Optometric Association [AOA], 2014).

• Apply scleral GP lenses after applying mascara (Gromacki, 2014; AOA, 2014).

• At night, remove lenses before removing makeup. The latter should be performed with mild soap and water.

Makeup Application Tips

Here are specific tips regarding makeup application:

• Apply mascara beginning at the middle of the eyelashes; starting at the base of the lashes can lead to clogged meibomian glands. Avoid “lash building” formulations, as they are more likely to cause flaking (AOA, 2014).

• Refrain from applying eyeliner directly onto the eyelid margin (Sindt, 2013; Ward, 2013). Not only will this clog the meibomian glands—which can result in dry eye, hordeola, or chalazia—but it also can lead to makeup entering the tear film and depositing on the contact lenses. Place it above the base of the upper eyelashes and below the base of the lower eyelashes.

• Pencils are preferred over gel or cream liners, which can dry and flake. Also, soft pencils flake less than hard pencils do. If possible, avoid kohl pencils; they may contain heavy metals unapproved for cosmetic use by the FDA.

• Be careful with facial powders, powdered blush, and eye shadow. Use them sparingly, and close the eyes while applying them. If possible, use cream eye shadows rather than powdered ones (

• Apply perfumes and hair sprays prior to applying lenses; or spray with eyes closed, then step out of the way of the mist (AOA, 2014). These chemicals adhere readily to contact lenses.

In Conclusion

Of course, if your patient is a soft contact lens wearer, consider switching to a daily disposable lens. This can help eliminate the long-term buildup on lenses that may occur due to cosmetics. CLS

For references, please visit and click on document #240.

Dr. Gromacki is a diplomate in the American Academy of Optometry’s Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses and Refractive Technologies. She practices in Chevy Chase, Md.