Annie Spratt | Unsplash
Ever worry about leaving your makeup on too long?
An Australian woman didn’t do much to remove hers for 25 years, and she could have suffered permanent damage to her sight because of it.
The woman’s case was reported recently in Ophthalmology, a journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
After using mascara heavily for 25 years and not removing it properly, the 50-year-old woman went to the doctor complaining that she felt there was something in her eyes.
When doctors inverted her lids, they saw dark spots, some of which had eroded the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the white of her eye.
The doctors took biopsies and found that the mascara had essentially dyed her inner eyelids and left calcified bumps, called subconjunctival concretions.
According to an article in Newsweek, the patient underwent surgery to remove the calcified lumps under her eyelids.
How does this happen?
Dr. Sarah Mireles Jacobs, an assistant ophthalmology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, called the case interesting and said that she hasn’t seen anything like it.
She noted that the results are not a common side effect of leaving makeup on overnight but that women should be meticulous in makeup removal.
“Usually, debris from cosmetics floats on the tears on the surface of the eye,” she told Healthline. “It can mildly irritate the ocular surface when that happens or sometimes cause no symptoms at all.”
What makes this patient’s case unique is that the debris went into the surface of her eyelid.
“I’ve never seen that happen before,” Mireles Jacobs said. “Considering the fact that it got published as a case report, I would hazard a guess that most eye doctors have never and will never see something like this in their careers.”
Mireles Jacobs said she wasn’t sure why this happened to this woman but not others. It could be the formula of the mascara, how thickly it was applied, or factors related to her soft eye tissue.
The patient experienced follicular conjunctivitis and corneal erosions. The calcified bumps (subconjunctival concretions) under her eyelids had to be surgically removed.
Mireles Jacobs said that follicular conjunctivitis occurs when the back surface of the eyelid is exposed to something that irritates the immune system. The irritant could be a bacterial or viral infection, allergen, or irritant, such as cosmetic debris.
“Most of the time, follicular conjunctivitis does not cause permanent damage after it resolves. However, this patient’s embedded particles have caused longer-lasting effects,” she said.
The corneal erosions can be common, and they affect the tissue in front of the colored iris.
“When the epithelial cells are injured or irritated, the junctions between the cells get loose in a way that makes the corneal surface slightly rough instead of smooth,” Mireles Jacobs explained. That can also be caused by rubbing, chemical exposure, or infections in the body — it’s most often a result of dry eye.
Be rigorous about taking off your makeup
The patient, identified as Theresa Lynch by the Daily Mail, had a warning for other fans of eye makeup.
“I had fallen into a bad habit of wearing a lot of makeup and not washing it off. I should never have let it get this far,” Lynch told the Daily Mail.
“It’s so important to properly take your makeup off every single night. You can’t miss a single day,” she said.
The report didn’t say if Lynch had any severe corneal damage, and messages to Lynch’s original care team were not returned.
While the story may be getting a lot of media attention, Mireles Jacobs said people shouldn’t expect to have that severe of a case simply from leaving mascara on.
That said, regular makeup wearers should exercise caution when removing the product.
“Apply cosmetics sparingly. Remove cosmetics gently each day,” she said, adding that liquid makeup should be thrown away regularly or about every three months to avoid bacterial growth.
If your eyes are irritated and you think your makeup is the culprit, take a break to see if irritation decreases without application. Otherwise, talk to your eye doctor or have an exam.