Sensitive Eyes, Don't Despair! These Picks Prove That You *Can* Wear Mascara

by Marshall Bright
Drobot Dean/Fotolia

Eyes are a particularly sensitive part of the body and mascara can contribute to a number of reactions including dry, itchy, or runny eyes. Contact-wearers and allergy suffers, in particular, sometimes find that mascara can make symptoms worse. However, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer bare-lashed if you don’t want. The best mascaras for sensitive eyes are formulated with natural and hypoallergenic ingredients which can help curb or avoid reactions. And you don’t have to just settle for natural-looking formulations if you want something more dramatic, either. There are plenty of mascaras that can get you the lashes of your dreams without things turning into a nightmare.

When shopping, look for phrases like “ophthalmologist-tested” or “hypoallergenic.” There are also brands that only sell hypoallergenic formulations, like Clinique on the higher end and Almay on the drugstore end. But even the best hypoallergenic mascaras can cause irritation if you use them incorrectly. No matter which brand you pick, be sure to thoroughly and gently remove the product before bed. Old mascaras can also irritate eyes, so be sure to replace it every four months at the least. Since many sensitive eye-friendly mascaras don’t have preservatives, which can be an irritant, they especially should be replaced regularly. Plus, newer formulas work better and flake less — a win-win.

Editor's Note: If you think you’re having a serious reaction like swelling or a rash, you should consult your doctor before experimenting with other mascaras.

The Best Overall, Especially For Length And Wear Time

Mascara that tubes rather than paints lashes isn't new, but they can still be harder to find. This L'Oréal tubing mascara has a primer, with the dark, lash-extending formula going on second. You can build up the primer as much (or as little) as you want for desired length. Ophthalmologist and allergy tested, this tubing mascara also won't flake or smear, keeping it out of your eyes. It's also long-lasting, but, unlike waterproof mascara, comes off without scrubbing, just hot water.

What reviewers say: “If not for this product I would have either given up on mascara or wear false eyelashes, which would have been an absolute last resort. I get great body and volume from this product. Washes off easily with facial soap and water. No flaking or stinging of eyes. No redness. What a treat!”

The Best Long-Wearing Mascara For Sensitive Eyes

Another tubing mascara, Clinique Lash Power lengthens lashes (though not as dramatically as L'Oréal Paris's Double Extend mascara since there's no priming coat) for natural, all-day wear. Because it's tubing, it won’t budge even in sweaty or humid conditions and is easily removed with warm water, keeping soap away from your sensitive eyes. Like all Clinique products for eyes, this is rigorously tested by an ophthalmologist and for for allergies.

What reviewers say: “I have very sensitive eyes and this mascara is the best I've used. It stays a long time and does not sweat off or leave a ring under your eyes.”

The Best Volumizing Mascara

This nourishing mascara formula with vitamin E helps lashes look full and soft, just like the name promises. For those who don't want to lengthen their lashes, or just want a more subtle look, this is a great hypoallergenic option. People who already have longer lashes may also wish to skip lengthening formulas and still find this gives them a more dramatic look. It's also ophthalmologist and allergy tested.

What reviewers say: “I have sensitive eyes and this feels the best even during hot weather when my eyes are most vulnerable to irritation. Highly recommend for no clumps or smudging.”

The Best False Lash Alternative

Sensitive eyes can be irritated by lash glue or heavy false lashes, but there's an option for those with sensitive eyes to get really dramatic, exaggerated lashes without falsies. Plenty of reviews tout the effectiveness of this three-step system on sensitive eyes, and the ingredients are hypoallergenic. However, it is not ophthalmologist tested. A priming gel formula preps lashes, and dry fibers go on next to create incredibly long, buildable lashes. They are then sealed on by a second layer of the gel. 3D Fiber Lash also boasts more than 2,400 five-star reviews on Amazon.

What reviewers say: “My eyes are so sensitive and I barely have any lashes. This mascara doesn't irritate and make my lashes look awesome! Something I haven't seen in years!”

The Best All-Natural Mascara

Made from 100 percent natural ingredients, W3ll People's signature mascara provides soft, natural volume and coverage. The molded brush catches even short lashes for a clump-free look. W3ll People does not say if the formula is tested by ophthalmologists, however, but it, as well as the company's other products, are Environment Working Group verified. EWG is a nonprofit that looks at ingredients in a range of household products and for EWG’s ratings of all the ingredients in the Expressionist Mascara, all but one ranks at 1 on a scale of 1-10, or super-low hazard, with one ingredient ranking at 3, a very low “moderate hazard.” However, the formula is not the most long-wearing.

What reviewers say: “This is the only mascara I've used that does not irritate my eyes. I finally get to use mascara!”

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