No more panda eyes: How to stop your eye makeup from running

Red, watery eyes can take your look from hero to zero. Here are our expert tips for saving your makeup.

We’ve all been there.

You have been meticulously applying your makeup – only for your eyes to start watering.

And once those floodgates open, it can be a tricky fix.

Why do your eyes go watery when applying makeup?

Celebrity hair and makeup artist Kimberley Forbes says there are many reasons.

“Makeup can clog the meibomian glands located on the waterline of the eye,” Kimberley says.

“These glands secrete oil that lubricates your eyes and gives your tears surface tension which stops them from dribbling down the cheek.

“When the meibomian glands are blocked, tears evaporate rapidly, which makes your eyes feel dry and they overcompensate by watering.”

Not only that, some people’s eyes are sensitive to touch and so the physical act of applying makeup can cause them to water, according to celebrity makeup artist Desiree Wise.

“Small particles of makeup can work their way into your eye and your eyes might be irritated if you’re using old or expired products,” Desiree says.

“Tired eyes are also more easily aggravated by the application of makeup.”

So how do you avoid watery eyes after applying makeup? Experts share their top tips:

Use the correct makeup in the right place

Ophthalmologist and eye surgeon Dr Nick Andrew warns against using any cosmetics near your eyes unless they are intended specifically for that use.

“For example, don’t use lipstick as eyeshadow — you’ll spread bacteria and may cause eye infections,” Dr Andrew says.

Watch where you apply your eyeliner

Dr Andrew says studies show people who apply eyeliner along the lash line (inside the rim) get a higher volume of particles in their tear film, compared with those who apply eyeliner just in front of the lash line.

“The makeup particles mix with the tears and irritate the eye,” Dr Andrew says.

“The surface of your eye has the richest nerve supply of any tissue in the body, which means it’s very sensitive to any products that you put near it.”

Give products time to settle

If you’re not accustomed to wearing eye makeup on regularly, you may initially get a little tearing, Desiree cautions.

“In most cases eyes will stop watering within an hour or so, as the products settle and dry and you become accustomed to them,” Desiree says.

Bin out-of-date products

Desiree advises to replace old and expired products, even if there’s some left.

“This is particularly the case for mascaras and pencil eyeliners,” Desiree says.

“Often you can tell when a product such as a mascara has ‘gone off’ because you’ll notice a change in the smell and texture – it will become dryer and grainier.”

She warns old pencil eyeliners can be targets for mould.

Tinting may reduce eye watering

Kimberley says to consider having your eyelashes tinted if mascara irritates them, or using hypoallergenic products to minimise irritation.

“Use eyedrops and an eye primer and avoid powders on the eyelid or underneath. And make sure your brushes are clean,” Kimberley says.

Focus your eyes

Desiree recommends fixing your eyes on a specific point when you’re applying makeup.

“The distraction of really focusing the eyes on a certain point, rather than just looking in a general direction, will limit your eyes’ response to the process that’s occurring,” Desiree says.

Kimberley says to keep tissues close by and dab under your eye while leaning forward.

“Diversion is a great technique, wiggle your toes or think of something else while you’re dabbing,” Kimberley says.

Written by Liz McGrath.