May 4, 2023 | Cataracts

When It’s OK for Eye Makeup After Cataract Surgery

By Barrett Eubanks, M.D.

When It’s OK for Eye Makeup After Cataract Surgery

Getting rid of cataracts leads to wonderful improvements in vision. But not only that, many people are able to get out of or reduce their need for glasses after cataract surgery. This also allows one to show off their eyes!

But there is one issue with showing off the eyes immediately after cataract surgery.

If you desire eye makeup to enhance the look, it must be avoided for about one week afterwards. Eye makeup can irritate already sensitive eyes after cataract surgery. Applying and removing the eye makeup may also increase the risk of causing the cataract surgery wound to leak and increase the risk of infection.

So before you reach for that mascara, let’s understand how makeup affects the eyes after cataract surgery.

Makeup Can Make The Eyes More Sensitive

Directly after cataract surgery, your eyes may already be more sensitive. Going through any eye procedure can irritate and inflame the eyes; and cataract surgery is no exception.

The cornea on the eye gets irritated during cataract surgery. There are a whole host of reasons why, but the end result is that many people will have an increase in eye sensitivity or dry eye after cataract surgery. Learn more at Precisely How Long Does It Take To Recover From Cataract Surgery.

Some reasons for this increase in sensitivity are unavoidable - such as, the prescription eye drops you take for the first month after cataract surgery. These eye drops contain preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria. But these preservatives can irritate the eye.

But there are some things which can make the eyes more sensitive which are avoidable - eye makeup.

Similar to the prescription eye drops, eye makeup also contains preservatives. Again, this is for the same goal of preventing the growth of bacteria in the makeup. But similar to the prescription eye drops, preservatives in makeup such as Benzalkonium chloride (BAC) can irritate the eyes.

Of course you aren’t applying the eye makeup directly to the eye, but even when on the eyelid or surrounding the eye, tears or eye drops can wash those preservatives into the eye.

So not only does this apply to mascara, eyeshadow and eyeliner, this also applies to eye creams and serums. Anything around the eye.

In addition to the preservatives, some makeups also contain fragrances. For some, these fragrances can cause an allergic reaction. This means red, inflamed and irritated eyes.

The inflammation from the irritation will actually cause the eyes to dry out more. This in turn will lead to more inflammation and worse irritation and prolonged and persistent dry eye.

Adding extra irritation from makeup to already irritated eyes will impair the recovery after cataract surgery.

Risks When Applying & Removing Eye Makeup

After cataract surgery, you were probably given a list of activities to avoid in the initial recovery weeks. And there are many activities to avoid.

Avoiding all these activities has one principal goal. Reducing the risk of an infection inside the eye.

Today’s cataract surgery is fast and efficient with a quick vision recovery. But cataract surgery is still a surgery and still requires tiny micro incisions. These tiny micro incisions heal over time, but there is a risk that these micro incisions can leak in the early recovery period. A leaky incision provides an avenue for bacteria to make their way into the eye and cause an infection.

And infections are bad! Having an infection after cataract surgery can cause a significant loss of vision. But fortunately they are rare; occurring in 1 or fewer of every 2,500 cases.

But despite them being rare, we can take steps ourselves NOT to increase the risk of them. The biggest way (that applies to makeup) is to avoid rubbing or putting pressure on the eye. Putting pressure on the eye may cause that tiny micro incision to leak.

You may think you can apply eye makeup without rubbing or putting extra pressure on the eye. And if you are careful, you may be correct. Applying gently is unlikely to cause any issues. The bigger issue, however, comes when you try to remove that makeup. It is very difficult to remove makeup on the eyes without rubbing or putting any pressure on the eye.

Rather than risk it, it is much better to hold off on eye makeup until those tiny micro incisions are more healed a week or two later.

Face Makeup

It’s important to point out that the problems with eye makeup after cataract surgery don’t necessarily apply to makeup for the rest of the face. After-all, this makeup is further away from the eyes. There is no risk of rubbing the eyes when applying or removing face makeup and it will be difficult for the preservatives in makeup on your face to make their way into your eye.

Thus, while eye makeup should be avoided for a while after cataract surgery, it isn’t necessary to do the same with makeup over the rest of the face.

Tips When Resuming Eye Makeup

After about a week or two, it is safe to resume eye makeup. There is a much reduced risk of causing the cataract surgery wound to leak by applying and removing makeup and for many, the extra sensitivity after cataract surgery has significantly improved. But still pay attention to whether your makeup is irritating your eyes.

When you resume eye makeup, there are a few techniques that can allow you remove the eye makeup as safe as possible.

  • Allow the makeup remover to do most of the work. No need to scrub and rub the makeup off. Instead use light gentle dabbing motions around the eye.
  • Be sure to use a more eye and skin friendly such as a micellar water makeup remover.
  • To wash away the makeup remover, instead of splashing water into the eyes (which we want to avoid after cataract surgery), use dabbing motions with a wet clean washcloth for more control.


It’s important to avoid eye makeup for the first week or two after cataract surgery. Applying and especially removing eye makeup can possibly increase the risk of the cataract surgery incision leaking. Preservatives within the makeup can also irritate the eyes delaying and prolonging the recovery after cataract surgery.

Like what you just read? Use Social Media?

Stay connected and join the discussion by following Eye Mountain on Facebook, Twitter and Threads

Also Check Out:

This article may contain links to products on As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Please note: The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. See the Disclaimer and Terms of Use for more information.