7 eye doctor-approved mascaras for sensitive eyes that keep watering out of sight

August 22, 2019 at 11:02PM by CWC

Mascara can do a lot of amazing stuff. The right product can lengthen and volumize your lashes in the flick of a wand. The wrong one, though, can leave you itching and burning, especially if you’ve got sensitive eyes. That makes finding a suitable mascara for sensitive eyes especially important—even if it’s not always easy to do.


“Sensitive eyes” is a pretty big blanket term, and there are a whole lot of causes, including seasonal allergies, migraines, light sensitivity, and wearing contacts. Yet, plastering lashes with a coat of lash lacquer isn’t exactly helpful for any of these conditions. “Ingredients in eye makeup—including mascara—may have harmful effects,” says Mark Jacquot, OD, clinical director at LensCrafters. “Many mascara products on the market that can help you gain length and volume in your lashes contain ingredients that can negatively affect your vision.” He suggests always, always reading the label before you purchase a mascara, and calls out ingredients including aluminum powder, propylene glycol, retinyl acetate, and color additives as the ones you should stay away from. 

Typically what happens is that the eyes, and the skin around them, area may get inflamed, which can cause itching and burning. Many different eyelid conditions, caused by certain ingredients in  eye makeup products, can cause infection or build-up at the eyelashes,” explains Dr. Jacquot. “So keeping your lashes and eyelids clean can help prevent this from happening.”

In addition to picking the right product, practicing good eye hygiene is pivotal for avoiding irritation, because the lash line is just as important as the fringe itself, so take extra care to make sure you’re not just leaving old mascara on lashes. “Removing mascara near the end of the day and reapplying or changing your mascara for your evening out is a great habit to prevent buildup and hence the negative affects to your eyes and eyelashes,” he adds.

Makeup artists conquer: “Some people may have reactions to a particular mascara, simply because their skin does not agree with an ingredient,” explains makeup artist Aliana Lopez. “Keep in mind, not all mascaras are made the same and you may find one that ends up working for you.”  And that sensitivity can reveal itself in different ways. “My sensitivity shows up by watering—I tear and tear and the makeup falls off my face,” says makeup artist Molly R. Stern. She echoes Dr. Jacquot’s recommendation that if there is any itching and burning happening, you should get some gentle remover on you lashes, and quick.  Lopez also suggests adding a cold compress, and keeping the product away from the area to prevent further irritation.

Your best bet for finding a mascara that won’t cause any issues is to look for something non-toxic and water-based, because it’s “milder on your eyes and lashes,” says Dr. Jacquot. A lot of people have a love affair with waterproof mascara, but since it’s more difficult to take off at the end of the day you’ll likely wind up with some residue left behind, so consider skipping it. When trying something new, do a patch test on your lashes to see if there’s any irritation, and be sure to pay attention to the expiration date on your products so you aren’t coating your lashes with bacteria.

“It’s really about trial and error when it comes to mascara—what a person is allergic to varies from eye to eye,” says Stern. Here, seven of the best mascaras for sensitive eyes that fit the bill.


Rimmel Lash Accelerator Mascara Black ($5)

Stern swears by this drugstore pick for her own eyes, which she calls “very sensitive.” It lengthens lashes, and also helps stimulate growth to get them to look longer on their own.


Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara ($72)

Spending $72 on a mascara is certainly an investment, but according to Stern you really can’t go wrong with this one from Chantecaille. It’s basically like falsies in a bottle, and helps to stimulate lash growth with the use of peptides.


Mascara for sensitive eyes
Photo: Ilia

Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara ($13)

After years of trials, I’ve finally found a natural mascara that amps up my lashes the way my old favorite used to. This tube lifts, lengthens, and curls while also conditioning with beeswax carnauba wax, shea butter, and keratin.


Mascara for sensitive eyes
Photo: Crunchi

Crunchi Lashes For Days Mascara ($28)

Countless reviewers have called this mascara the only one that doesn’t make their eyes itch, which makes sense considering all of the A-plus natural ingredients it uses to add some oomph to lashes. The hero here? Green tea fibers, which lengthen and shape lashes in a single swipe.


Photo: Honest

Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer ($14)

For a clean, eye-friendly mascara at a drugstore price, look no further than Honest Beauty. Their version comes with a primer, which lengthens lashes before you apply a little extra va-va-voom with the mascara itself. Every sensitive-eyed reviewer on Amazon has given the product at least four stars, calling it out as irritation free in every scenario.


Mascara for sensitive eyes
Photo: Clinique

Clinique Lash Power Mascara Long-Wearing Formula ($20)

“For me, Clinique is my go-to when looking for products appropriate for skin sensitivities,” says makeup artist Aliana Lopez. “This formula is a great place to start if you have sensitive eyes.” It happens to be waterproof, but is ophthalmologist tested and said to be safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.


Mascara for sensitive eyes
Photo: Neutrogena

Neutrogena Healthy Lengths Mascara ($6)

This tube lauded by reviewers for the fact that it doesn’t clump or irritate eyes. It also really will bring your lashes to “healthy lengths,” which is always a definite plus.

Want fluffier lashes? This is exactly how many coats of mascara you need to get ’em, according to a makeup artist. Plus, how to be sure that you’ll never, ever wind up with raccoon eyes, even in the hottest and most humid months of the year. 

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Author Zoe Weiner | Well and Good
Selected by CWC