Migration of Cosmetic Products into the Tear Film

Eye Contact Lens. 2015 Sep;41(5):304-9. doi: 10.1097/ICL.0000000000000124.


Purpose: To examine, record, and quantify the migration of a conventional eye cosmetic pencil when applied to periocular skin in two different locations: behind the lash line (ELI) and along the periocular skin (ELO).

Methods: This was a pilot study (prospective, randomized crossover design) involving two visits on separate days. Three female subjects were randomly assigned one of two eyeliner application conditions: ELI (inside the lash line) or ELO (anterior to the lash line). Pencil eyeliner ("Glimmerstick" in Graphite; Avon, Northampton, United Kingdom) was applied to the subject's upper and lower right eyelid by the examiner. Slitlamp video recording of glitter particles suspended within the tear film was conducted for 30 sec on 10 occasions up to 2 hr post-eyeliner application. The number of glitter particles suspended in the tear film, analyzed using ImageJ software, is reported.

Results: The migration of the glitter particles occurred more readily in ELI application, with maximum contamination of the tear film achieved 5 to 10 min post-application. The migration of eyeliner following ELO application was comparatively slower and reduced compared with ELI application. The quantity of glitter particles suspended in the tear film varied between subjects; however, 2 hr post-application, contamination of the tear film from pencil eyeliner was negligible.

Conclusions: Pencil eyeliner migrates most readily and maximally contaminates the tear film when applied posterior to the lash line. This has implications for contact lens wearers and patients with dry eye syndrome or sensitive eyes. Eye cosmetic usage for participants involved in anterior eye and contact lens research should be carefully considered in the design of studies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cosmetics / analysis*
  • Cosmetics / pharmacokinetics
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Random Allocation
  • Tears / chemistry*
  • Time Factors


  • Cosmetics