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Makeup Safety Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Cosmetic makeup is one of the most marketed groups of consumer products in the world. Although regulated, consumers should take safety precautions about what they wear and how they remove it. Makeup can cause allergies, skin irritations and infections if not handled correctly. Our makeup safety guide can help.

woman putting on eye makeup


Most people today cannot imagine stepping out of the house without applying makeup. But questions have been raised about the safety and long-term effects of using makeup. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics, and FDA approval carries an assumed blanket of safety. Although some ingredients in certain products could irritate consumers, the FDA does not require manufacturers to test or gain pre-market approval before selling their products.

Because of this, consumers should take precautions with makeup products and how to apply them just as they would with any other chemical being sold. (Think cleaning products.)

Whether you are using dry, brush-on powders, liquid face paints or lipstick to put on a full face of glamor before heading out the door, makeup can help you feel confident and look your best when you follow safety guidelines.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about makeup safety, including its dangers, general safety tips, eye infections, tips on applying eye makeup, understanding cosmetic labels, safely removing makeup and dealing with allergic reactions. We will also answer a few questions regarding makeup safety.

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Dangers Associated with Makeup

Makeup can cause skin damage and disease, but this depends on the makeup type and brand you use, and how you apply it. Most people use makeup products without any problems. However, using the wrong products or applying them incorrectly can cause various health issues. Below are dangers caused by makeup.

Eye Infections

On average, women use about eight products daily. Some even reported up to 30 products daily, which means they potentially apply hundreds of chemicals in this sensitive area every day. Using various products increases the likelihood of eye infection. It also occurs when you don’t wash your hands before applying makeup or share your cosmetics with others.

Endocrine Disruption

Some makeup contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals that interfere with hormones, resulting in reduced fertility, obesity, and diabetes. A study found that women who applied more than five different products before sleeping had higher chemicals linked to endocrine disruption.


The chemicals in makeup can cause allergic reactions like skin irritation, swelling, burning, stinging, redness, and acne breakouts. A study published by Advances in Dermatology and Allergology revealed that about 56 percent of women suffered from allergic reactions due to their makeup products.

Skin Inflammation

Many makeup products contain ingredients, including preservatives and fragrances that may be allergenic or sensitizing. Women with sensitive skin or eczema or prone to allergic contact dermatitis may develop skin inflammation after using makeup.

General Tips for Using Makeup Safely

Allergies, skin irritations and infections can develop because of makeup. But there are tips to help you limit your risk. They include:

  • Follow product guidelines by reading the label.
  • Clean your hands before applying makeup to prevent contamination.
  • Clean brushes regularly to reduce the spread of bacteria.
  • Don’t use the same applicator twice.
  • Avoid sharing makeup.
  • Don’t put makeup applicators directly on your face. Instead, apply the product to your hand, then use a clean brush or sponge to put it on your face.
  • Don’t add anything to your makeup. For example, don’t add water to make it last longer or saliva to moisten dried-out mascara. It introduces bacteria that can cause an infection, such as conjunctivitis.
  • Keep the containers clean and properly covered.
  • Keep containers out of high-temperature areas.
  • Don’t use expired makeup.
  • If the color or scent of your cosmetics has changed, toss them out.

How Often Should You Change Your Makeup?

Below is a table to help you know how frequently you should change your makeup.

Liquid face makeup6 months
Lipsticks and gloss2 years
Dry powders2 years
Cream Eye shadow6 months
Pencil eyeliner2 years
Liquid eyeliner3 months
Powder Eye shadow2 years

Safety Tips for Eye Makeup 

The skin around the eyes is very delicate and needs to be handled with care. There are also some ingredients in eye cosmetics that you should avoid using in these areas. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Avoid glittery cosmetics around your eyes. Glitter can be made of sharp pieces of metal, plastic, or glass, which can scratch your eye and cause irritation, redness, or corneal abrasions.
  • Avoid liquid eyeliner that isn’t hypoallergenic. Liquid eyeliner can contain ingredients that irritate the delicate skin around your eyes. Choose a waterproof formula to prevent smudging and smearing.
  • Don’t share eye makeup with others. It can spread bacteria and viruses from one person to another.
  • Avoid adding water or saliva to mascara. It can introduce bacteria into the product, which can cause an infection or allergic reaction in your eyes.
  • Discard old makeup regularly. Don’t continue using old makeup or any product once it has expired because it can harbor bacteria and cause an infection or other problems.

How to Apply Eye Makeup Safely

Here are some tips to help you apply your eye makeup safely:

  • Step 1: Wash your hands before applying eye makeup to prevent bacteria from entering the eyes.
  • Step 2: Grab a small amount of eye makeup remover and spread evenly across the lid of your eye.
  • Step 3: Start from the outer corner of your eye and work your way in, being careful not to get too close to the inner corner of your eye. Use a cotton swab to avoid poking your eyes.
  • Step 4: Keep cosmetics clean after using: Bacteria can contaminate makeup, especially liquid-based solutions like mascara and eyeliner.

Understanding Cosmetic Labels

Familiarizing yourself with makeup products before using them is smart. Ensure you read the product labels, including expiration date, ingredients, warning, and how to apply it. Familiarize yourself with the following terms, all of which are likely to be on a product label:

Fragrance-Free or Unscented

Unscented means no fragrance has been added to mask the natural scent of the ingredients. However, it doesn’t mean there are no fragrances that can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Natural or Organic

Don’t be fooled by natural, organic, botanical, and herbal terms. The origin of the ingredients has no bearing on the product’s safety. Don’t assume the products are safer than those created with other components.


Hypoallergenic product contains no known irritants. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t cause an allergic reaction in someone else who’s never used it before.

Dealing with Allergic Reactions

Allergy symptoms can be mild to severe, including skin rashes, hives, swollen airways, wheezing, itching, and a runny nose.

If you experience any allergic reaction from makeup, take the following steps to deal with it:

  •  Discontinue using the product that caused the reaction.
  •  Wash your face with water or a gentle cleanser.
  •   Apply a cool compress to soothe itching and inflammation.
  •  Use over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or oatmeal-based lotion to relieve symptoms.
  •   Take an antihistamine to reduce itching and swelling.
  •  Switch to a hypoallergenic cosmetic brand.

If the symptoms persist, it indicates you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that needs medical attention right away.

How to Safely Remove Makeup from Around the Eye

Removing makeup around the eye is crucial for the safety of your eyes – for both permanent and temporary options. Learn how to remove eye makeup safely with these tips.

Step 1: Gather All Your Tools

You will want a soft washcloth, a facial cleanser suitable for sensitive skin, cotton pads and eye makeup remover. Makeup remover has to be gentle but effective to remove even waterproof mascara.

According to Dir. Patricia Wexler, a New York City-based dermatologist, the best cleanser must be oil-free but not alcohol-based; should not clog pores or cause skin irritation and should leave the skin feeling clean and moisturized.

Step 2: Soak the Washcloth in Warm Water

Place the washcloth on your face for about 30 seconds to loosen up dirt and makeup while opening your pores.

Next, put some cleanser onto your fingertips and gently massage it into your skin in small circular motions. Then, wipe away the cleanser and any remaining makeup with a damp washcloth.

Step 3: Saturate a Cotton Ball

You will want an oil-based remover as your liquid. Now press it on your closed eyelids for 30 seconds to loosen the makeup. Then, gently wipe across each lid from the inner corner to the outer corner using circular motions with your fingertips.

Step 4: Use New Cotton Balls

Continue removing the rest of your eye makeup with fresh cotton balls until you can’t see any more color on them.

Step 5: Remove the Residue

Finally, use the damp washcloth or makeup remover to wipe away any remaining residue from around your eyes.


  1. Small Businesses & Homemade Cosmetics: Fact Sheet. (July 2022). U.S Food and Drug Administration.

  2. Meta analysis of skin microbiome: new link between skin microbiota diversity and skin health with proposal to use this as a future mechanism to determine whether cosmetic products damage the skin. (May 2017). Cosmetics.

  3. Personal care product use among diverse women in California: Taking Stock Study. (May 2021) Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.

  4. Nutritional interventions to 6ameliorate the effect of endocrine disruptors on human reproductive health: A semi-structured review from FIGO. (February 2022). International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics.

  5. Allergy to selected cosmetic ingredients. (October 2013. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology.

  6. Investigation on the use of expired make-up and microbiological contamination of mascaras.  (April 2013) International Journal of Cosmetic Science.

  7. “Hypoallergenic” Cosmetics. (February 2022). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  8. Eye Cosmetics.  (February 2022). Cosmetic Dermatology.

  9. Guidelines for removing permanent makeup. (January 2020). Journal of Surgical Dermatology.

Last Updated March 30, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.

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