Eye cosmetics must meet safety requirements regulated by Health Canada, but part of the responsibility of ensuring eye safety rests with you.  If at any time you are unsure regarding the safety of a particular cosmetic item or procedure, do not hesitate to call us Kniaziew Optometry – we are trained in recognizing harmful substances and negative side effects.



Health Canada regulates eye cosmetic products by:

  • Reviewing ingredients to ensure they do not contain ingredients that may cause injury when used as directed on the label.
  • Requiring disclosure of ingredients on product labels.
  • Monitoring cosmetics in the marketplace.
  • Investigating and taking enforcement actions if there is a health and safety problem with a cosmetic product.
  • Ensuring that cosmetics are manufactured, prepared, preserved, packed and stored under sanitary conditions.


Labelling is regulated by the Food and Drug Act (FDA), the Cosmetic Regulations and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations.

To meet these requirements, cosmetic labels must show:

  • The ingredient list.
  • The common name of the product. (ex. mascara)
  • The amount of product in metric units or count. (ex. 150 mL)
  • The name and address of the manufacturer or distributor.
  • Warnings or cautions.
  • Directions for safe use.

All of the above must be listed in English and French, except the ingredient list.

Be careful of products without a Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN) that claim to modify body functions and prevent or treat diseases – therapeutic claims.  These kinds of claims are only allowed on drugs or natural health products, not on cosmetics.

Advertising Terms

Advertisements use different terms to describe products.  Therefore, it is important to understand what they mean to make an informed purchase.  These terms mays include:

  • Fragrance Free or Unscented – This means fragrances have not been added to the cosmetic product or scents in the product have been hidden with a masking agent. This agent may be listed by its scientific name or under the name “parfum” or fragrance.
  • Hypoallergenic – This is not a legal or scientific term. It only means the manufacturer is choosing ingredients with minimal allergens.  This does not guarantee an allergen-free product.  In fact, there is no such thing as a non-allergic cosmetic.
  • Preservative-Free – This term refers to products without preservatives. However, eye cosmetics and other make-up products need natural or synthetic preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria within the product.  For example, the damp bathroom where your makeup is stored is a perfect place for bacteria to grow in your cosmetics and make-up tools.  Preservatives keep harmful bacteria from growing in your products.
  • Natural and Synthetic – Many people think natural ingredients are better than synthetic ones. However, “natural” ingredients may have a similar chemical composition as their synthetic counterpart.  In fact, synthetic ingredients can work better than natural ones in some products because it may be more stable, providing longer use.
  • Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist Tested – This means tests were conducted by an ophthalmologist or dermatologist to make sure the product does not irritate the eye or skin. It is the safety, not the effectiveness, that is tested.  Currently there are no regulations to dictate the type or number of tests needed to deem a product ophthalmologist/dermatologist tested.  If you are unsure of an eye cosmetic or experience irritation of the eye or surrounding skin, book an exam at Kniaziew Optometry.


Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash that can appear after your eye or surrounding skin comes in contact with a substance found in your eye cosmetics.  It is not fatal or contagious, but can be uncomfortable and/or painful.  Usually, the rash develops within minutes or hours after coming in contact with the substance and it can last between two to four weeks.  The skin of the eyelid is thin and has many blood vessels, making it more sensitive to substances than other areas of the body.  The severity of the rash depends on:

  • How long you’ve been exposed to the substance.
  • The strength of the substance that caused the rash.
  • Environmental factors.
  • How your body responds to the eye cosmetic.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Red rash or bumps
  • Itching
  • Dry, cracked and/or scaly skin
  • Blisters, crusting or draining fluid
  • Swelling, burning or tenderness

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and/or feel like you may have contact dermatitis on the skin surround the eye, call Kniaziew Optometry and we can have you come in to take a look.  You should also stop using the offending product immediately.


Contact dermatitis can be caused when a substance found in your eye cosmetic irritates your skin or triggers an allergic reaction.  These substances can cause both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

This is the most common type and is a non-allergic reaction where the substance damages the skin’s outer protective layer.  Common irritants include, but are not limited to:

  • Cosmetics
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Sawdust or wool dust
  • Lotions, soaps and deodorants
  • Bleach

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This happens when a substance you are already sensitive to (allergen) triggers an immune reaction in your skin.  Usually, the substance only affects the exposed area.  Once you have developed a reaction to a certain substance, the smallest amount can trigger the reaction again.  Common allergens include, but are not limited to:

  • Nickel
  • Balsam of Peru, poison ivy
  • Formaldehyde
  • Eucalyptus, camphor or rosemary
  • Cosmetics, sunscreens, lotions, hair dyes and body washes

Contact dermatitis may lead to an infection.  If you scratch continuously, your rash can become wet and oozy.  This creates a good place for bacteria or fungi to grow.


Hygiene is essential for safe and healthy eyes.  Individuals have gone temporarily or permanently blind because of dirty eye make-up and tools, or from the improper use of cosmetics.  Below are a few tips to maintain hygiene and safety when using eye cosmetics:

Don’t Share

You should never share you eye cosmetics.  Another person’s germs can be an irritant or allergen to you.  Avoid “testers” at the retail store.  If you must sample a product, make sure you use a new single-use applicator or disinfectant.

Be Steady When Applying

Avoid applying eye make-up while moving because you risk injury to your eye – like scratching your cornea.  Even a small scratch can lead to an eye infection.

Pay Attention to the Ingredients

If a cosmetic product is sold in a retail store and does not have an ingredient declaration, it is considered illegal.  Do not hesitate to ask the store manager why it is not present.  An ingredient declaration is important because certain colour additives approved for some cosmetics are not approved specifically for eye cosmetics.

Stay Clean

  • Make sure make-up brushes are clean, especially those that are used for eye make-up.
  • Do not allow eye cosmetics to be covered with dust, dirt, soil etc.
  • Do not use old containers for eye cosmetics.
  • Throw out dried-up mascara. Adding saliva or water to moisten mascara is dangerous.  The bacteria from your mouth can grow in the mascara, causing infection.  Likewise, adding water introduces bacteria, while weakening the preservatives used to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Don’t store cosmetics in temperatures above 30° C as preservatives can weaken at higher temperatures.


Eyelash and Eyebrow Tinting/Dyeing

Colour additives in the tints and dyes have not been approved by the FDA.  They have been known to cause serious eye damage and leave individuals temporarily or permanently blind.

False Eyelashes and Eyelash Extensions

Make sure to check the ingredients in the adhesive before applying false lashes.  Stay away from glues containing:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Ammonia
  • Latex

Currently, there are no rules and regulations surrounding eyelash extensions and corresponding technicians.  If you plan on getting lash extensions, take serious precautions.  Check to make sure the adhesive does not have cyanoacrylate compounds.  This can contain or release formaldehyde which is toxic.  If the glue comes in contact with the eye or the eyelid, it could cause:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Chemical burns
  • Infection
  • Possible vision loss
  • Damage to accessory oil and water glands
  • A reduction in tear production, causing dry eye issues

As well, the weight of the extension may be too heavy and cause temporary or permanent eyelash loss – called madarosis.

Follow these precautions to lessen the risk of damage to your eyes if you plan on getting eyelash extensions:

  • Review the technician’s certification and prior experience.
  • Make sure the procedure is done in a clean and reputable establishment.
  • Ensure the technician is washing their hands and instruments have been sterilized.
  • Check the ingredients in the adhesive before agreeing to the procedure.

In both cases, remember the eyelids are delicate and poor safety precautions can cause serious damage to them and the eye itself.