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Beauty hack or risky trend? Why you shouldn’t use lip liner on your eyes

Beauty hack or risky trend? Why you shouldn’t use lip liner on your eyes

It’s a makeup hack that’s been around for years. Famous makeup artists do it and these days TikTok influencers are sharing video tips on how it’s done: using lip liner around the eyes to get just the right colour and smoky effect you want. If you think it sounds like a great idea, think again.

“My first thought was, ‘ew!’ Think of all the germs that live in your mouth, you don’t necessarily want to put those close to your eye,” said Dr. Kirsten North, an optometrist based in Ottawa, in a phone interview.

“[It’s] a really, really bad idea. And when you get an infection in your eye, if it gets bad enough, it can scar the eye and affect your vision for the rest of your life.”

Still, beauty blogs have written about it. One website described doubling the lip liner’s function on the eye as a way to “maximize its potential.”

A user would apply the lip liner on the eyelid and/or underneath the eyes along the lash line, then blend it with a brush, but regulatory guidelines in the U.S. advise against using cosmetics near the eyes “unless they are intended specifically for that use.”

Health Canada says eye tissue infections can be serious enough to cause blindness and among its recommendations, stresses to “never use saliva to moisten mascara or other eye make-up.”

It’s not just the billions of bacteria – and hundreds of different species – that lurk inside your mouth that’s concerning, it’s also the ingredients in the lip liner. Because what’s good enough for your lips, may not be good enough for your eyes.

“There are dyes that are permitted to be used in cosmetics that are not permitted in cosmetics that are used near the eye. So we have no idea if that’s in the lip liner you’re choosing or not,” says North.

“The skin around the eyes is much, much thinner than it is around your lips, so if there’s going to be absorption that’d be enhanced in that area as well.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically singles out lip liner as a product that should not be used as an eyeliner as far back as 2006, warning users they could be exposing their eyes to ingredients like colour additives that are not approved for use around the eye area, or to contamination from the mouth, which could cause infections.

Ingredients for eye makeup are strictly regulated in the U.S., the FDA says, noting that a number of additives approved for general use in other cosmetic products are not approved for use around the eyes.

“When you think about when you have an allergic reaction, your eyes will get itchy, your eyes will get puffed up,” North explained.

“That doesn’t happen to the rest of your face. So it’s just that the area is primed with more protective mechanisms because it is so much more vulnerable.”