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Tips For Wearing Makeup With Contact Lenses


You may have heard how to make up your eyes if you wear glasses – go large to add extra emphasis to the eyes hidden behind your specs. But what if you wear makeup and contact lenses? Here, we enter a bit of a beauty minefield, because makeup can be a sure-fire way to irritate contacts. 

Hands up if you’ve been derailed by a rogue blob of dried mascara under your lens. Perhaps you’ve wasted a pair of contacts by contaminating them with foundation-y fingers and had to open a new pack. Maybe you’re wondering: do you put contact lenses or makeup on first?

Fear not – we’re here to open your eyes (sorry) with our tips for wearing makeup with contact lenses to keep your eyes sparkling.

1. Wash and dry your hands

If you take away one nugget of wisdom from this article, it’s this: please, please, PLEASE make sure your hands are squeaky-clean before you touch your lenses and eyes. So, before you start on that perfect winged liner, thoroughly wash and dry your hands. This will keep your lenses as clean and fresh as possible before you insert them into your eye. Residue from your moisturizer or serum, for example, can transfer from your fingers onto your lenses and into your eye, causing irritation and discomfort.

It’s super-important to thoroughly dry your hands after washing them, too. You never want your contacts to come into contact with tap water, which can contain a parasite called an Acanthamoeba that can be dangerous to the eyes. This means it’s best to shower or bathe before you pop your contacts in, too.

2. Use hypoallergenic makeup

If your burning question is: can I wear makeup with contact lenses, our answer is a resounding yes! But look for makeup products that are hypoallergenic and formulated for sensitive eyes. This goes for your foundation and blushers as well as mascara and eyeliner, because ingredients from these products can make their way from other parts of your face and into your eyes. Avoid products that contain common irritants such as synthetic fragrances and colours, sulphates, parabens, talc, alcohol, essential oils and preservatives like formaldehyde. Look up ingredients if you’re not sure. 

A cream eyeshadow palette with pot of makeup brushes.

3. Keep an eye on how you apply products

Get to know your lid ledge. What on earth is that, we hear you cry. Well, also known as the lash line, it’s the part of the lid that touches the surface of your eyeballs, where the oil glands of the eyes open up. Blocking those glands with makeup can cause dry eyes, cloudy lenses and even styes. Fans of a smoky eye take note: keep applying eyeliner to the flat, inside part of your lid – or ‘tightlining’ – to a minimum.

Don’t rush. Take your time when doing your face. This means flecks of eyeshadow are less likely to get lodged under your lens. And remember to blink in between coats of mascara to prevent your eyes and contacts from drying out!

Also: don’t skimp on makeup brushes. Bristles from cheap, poorly made ones can fall out and drift into your eyes and under lenses.

4. Use soft products around your eyes

applying makeup to the eyelid with a brush

Soft is good. Silky makeup brushes, cotton buds and squishy ‘pompom’ cream eyeshadow and concealer applicators help you avoid damaging your contacts when putting your makeup on. They also keep you from having to put your fingers in your eye, give you more precise coverage and prevent harsh tugging on the delicate skin around your eye area. 

Cream eyeshadows are the easiest to control – there’s less dust to float around and get under your lenses. The same goes with pressed face powder instead of loose powder. Using an eyeshadow primer will also help the product to stick to your lids. When using powders, try to keep your eyes closed during application. 

5. Be picky when it comes to mascara

Clump, flaky mascaras are a no-go zone in anyone’s book, let alone a contact lens wearer. You don’t want to get a lump of dried-out mascara under your lens (we speak from experience!). So, avoid mascaras that contain lash-plumping fibers, which can flake into your eye. Stick to the old-school lengthening and volumizing formulas. 

Try water-resistant rather than waterproof mascaras – it’ll give you the long-wear, smudge-proof, non-flaky result you need without being a total nightmare to remove. 

Finally: applying your mascara. Everyone has their own technique, but here’s our top tip to keep your contact lenses happy. Apply from the middle of the lashes and sweep through to the tips. This way, you’ll avoid the base, keeping that all-important lash line/eye ledge area cleaner. 

A woman's eye with mascara on the upper and lower lashes.

6. Go oil free 

Oily products don’t mix with water, which is what your lenses are mostly made from. Oils won’t hurt your eyes, but they can make your lenses cloudy, impairing your vision.

7. Take out your contacts before removing makeup

We know we bang on about this, but wash and dry your hands before you take out your lenses. And take them out before you remove your makeup, even if you’re just throwing your daily disposables in the bin. There’s a chance you could damage the lenses while removing your makeup, which could irritate your eyes. 

8. Remove your makeup thoroughly

Don’t leave yourself open to eye infections. Remove the build-up of mascara, eyeshadow and eyeliner on your lids and lash line to avoid blocking the oil glands that keep your eyes moisturized. Yes, that means taking off every smidge of makeup, even late at night. 

Micellar water makes a great makeup remover as it contains micelles that naturally lift dirt, oil and makeup without aggressive rubbing.  

Zoomed in on a woman's eye which is shut. She has no eye makeup on. 

9. Keep makeup clean

Keep makeup palettes and containers tightly closed so no yucky bacteria can grow. Wash your brushes regularly. And if your eyes are red, swollen and irritated in any way, stay away from even pristine, brand-new products. 

A good rule of thumb is to replace your mascara, eyeliners and eyeshadows every three months. Plus, the College of Optometrists advises not to use mascara past the expiry date on its packaging

10. Don’t share other people’s makeup

Whether you wear lenses or not, don’t borrow your friend’s mascara (or let them swipe yours). You’re putting yourself at risk of getting eye infections. 

It’s now so easy to wear contact lenses as well as makeup. Start with a fresh, makeup- and residue-free pair daily disposable pair every morning and minimize your risk of infection or product buildup. Self-conscious about wearing glasses? Consider contact lenses for a more natural look. 

Share this with anyone who might be asking the same question and comment if you have any other helpful tips for wearing makeup with contact lenses. 


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