Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: How should I remove eye makeup if I have blepharitis?

Q. In your article about blepharitis, you didn't say anything about the best way to remove eye makeup. Are oil-based products bad for this condition?

A. Oil-based removers are not recommended for people with blepharitis. This inflammatory condition of the eyelids can affect the Meibomian glands, which line the inner edge of the eyelid and secrete the oily part of the tear fluid that lubricates the eyeball and helps prevent tears from evaporating. Blepharitis may diminish or change these secretions, causing clogged glands and predisposing the eyelid to infection. Oil-based eye-makeup removers could worsen the problem by contributing to clogging.

The cornerstone of eye care for people with blepharitis is eyelid cleansing with water and mild soap, such as diluted baby shampoo. If this doesn't remove your eye makeup, try a hypoallergenic water-based remover. Most of these removers also contain other ingredients, such as botanicals, emulsifiers, and preservatives. Many of these are chemicals whose names are meaningless to most of us. If you want to learn more about the specific ingredients in water-based eye-makeup removers — or any other eye-makeup products — go to www.cosmeticsinfo.org, an industry-sponsored Web site that provides safety and testing information on personal care products as well as a database of ingredients.

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