Beauty Clinic: Can I wear make up with dry eye syndrome?


Q. My eyes often feel sore and gritty by the end of the day and I have now been told I have dry eye syndrome. The optometrist says I should be careful with eye make-up. Can you advise on this and is there anything else I can do?

A. Dry eye syndrome is very common these days, largely due to the amount of time we spend at a screen. The underlying problem is that we don't blink enough when we’re focused on a computer. Research shows that we blink one to three times per minute sitting at our screens, compared to a natural healthy level of 15 to 20 times a minute.

Every time you blink, your eyelids spread a cocktail of oils and mucus across the surface of the eye to prevent them drying out. Blinking also protects the eyes from irritants. If the blinking rate plummets, your eyes are likely to suffer as you describe. Other symptoms are eyes feeling tired and heavy, blurred vision and headaches.

London based eye surgeon Dr. Sabrina Shah-Desai, who is very concerned about the rising tide of dry eye syndrome and also blepharitis [inflammation of the eyelids], has several suggestions for eye make up.

Firstly, never take mascara right down to the roots. Just colour the ends, preferably with a product that does not contain lengthening or thickening fibres. For greater impact, use eyelash curlers.

Avoid powder eye shadow, especially anything with glitter. Instead use liquid eyeliner rather than eye pencil, which may migrate into the eye. (Dr Shah-Desai’s personal favourite is a Bobbi Brown product, such as Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner/£19.50 in ten shades.)

When choosing eye make up, always look to see that it is  ophthalmologist tested for allergens, not just dermatologist tested.

If you experience any sensitivity reaction, stop immediately. Never use old eye make up or leave the container open. Don't pump mascara wands into the product as it invites contaminants. Mascara should be disposed of after three months.

Take off eye make up with a gentle targeted remover formulated for sensitive eyes. Among other mainstream brands, La Roche-Posay ( confirms that all its eye make up removers have been ophthalmologist tested.

If you wear a light-blocking eye mask at night, do keep it scrupulously clean to ensure bacteria don't breed.

For foundations/concealers around the eyes, Dr. Shah-Desai recommends a specialist brand like Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation, which is safe to use on upper eye lids, under the lower lash line for dark circles, and in the shadowy corners either side of the nose. Oxygenetix is available in some clinics (aesthetic doctors are big fans) and online, in 14 shades. There’s a useful colour chart at

Dr Shah-Desai recommends a three-step eye health regime using two leading brands, Optase and Hycosan, both available nationwide and online. Products are preservative free.

Step 1 Heat: You have about 70 oil (meibomian) glands along your eyelids. If these glands get blocked, it can cause irritation and dry eyes. Try using an OPTASE ® Moist Heat Mask/£10.99, daily to stimulate these glands. Heat for 25 seconds in a microwave then relax as your eyes are soothed. NB If you find this is too hot you could steam eyes over a bowl of boiling water with a towel over your head – brilliant for skin and sinuses too.

Step 2 Cleanse: The skin around our eyes is the thinnest and most delicate on our whole body so it needs a specialist product. Cleanse with OPTASE Tea Tree Oil Lid Wipes/£9.99 for 20. Gently pressing the lids helps stimulate oil glands.

Step 3 Hydrate: Very watery eyes can actually be a symptom of dryness. Apply HYCOSAN® Dual eye drops – just one drop in each – to help moisturise dry eyes and reduce itching and burning. If you find the pump dispenser awkward to use, try OPTASE Eye Spray/£15.99, which contains omega-3 rich sea buckthorn oil plus hydrating sodium hyaluronate.