If you’re anything like me, you swipe on mascara every single day so that you look more awake and, ok, put together. But day in and day out, as I dunk my wand into the goopy black elixir and slather it all over my lashes, I don’t do a single thing in order to clean it or make sure I’m not introducing all sorts of germs to my eyeballs. But (oops!) apparently, I should be. As in: At least once every three months.
As I recently discovered, there’s a hazardous risk if you’re not replacing your gunky old mascara on the reg, or fully removing it from your eyes at the end of the day. “Long-term use of mascara has been associated with higher rates of eyelashes falling out, and mascara tubes that become contaminated with germs can lead to eye infections,” says Justin Bazan, OD an optometrist and medical adviser to The Vision Council. “The more use a tube has had, the higher potential for it to be contaminated with germs that can lead to eye infections and irritation.”
I’m also about to reveal a dirty secret: I don’t throw out my mascara after being sick, despite fully still using while I’m infected. And, as you can imagine, that’s not a good idea. “Never wear eye makeup if you have an eye infection—throw out the mascara you had on before you got the infection, as it may be contaminated,” says Dr. Bazan. “Your infection could come back if you don’t buy a new mascara.” The same applies if you’re just sick in general and happen to sneeze or cough near your mascara wand—that stuff’s gonna wind up in your eye area.
This is all not to say that you need to start hoarding mascaras or that you should invest in a new one every single week. Just, you know, be more conscious with your lash makeup instead of mindlessly applying it every day without ever replacing it. “There aren’t any universally accepted replacement schedules for mascara that I know of, but preservative-free mascara should be replaced more frequently than those with preservatives,” says Dr. Bazan. “I advise patients to replace their mascara every few months. Also, pay attention to the quality of your mascara over time. If it changes or the performance decreases, it might be a sign that the tube is contaminated and it’s time to toss it.”
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