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Is A Mascara Allergy Causing My Stye?

Posted Sep 21 2011 2:01am

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DBritt asks…I am 50 and have used Lancome mascara for about 20 years without complication. 5 yrs ago, I switched to Arbonne and had no issues until about a year ago. I started getting a pimple like thing in my lower lashes every now and then. This morphed into an occasional stye type sore near the corner of my eye in my upper lashes. Now, my eye(s) will turn red and bother me plus the lash area is itchy and sore. The only thing that helps is going without mascara over the weekend or longer. Is there any product out there which is truly hypo-allergenic? It Are these symptoms consistent with an allergic reaction to mascara?

The Right Brain responds:

Well, DBritt, we have good news and bad news for you.

First the good news: From what we’ve been able to glean from various sources, styes are not caused by any kind of allergic reaction. So there’s not need to mount a quest for the Holy Grail of  hypoallergenic mascaras. Rather, styes are caused by bacterial infections.  The follicle which grows the eyelash hair can become infected and the resulting puss-related swelling creates a stye.  Exposure to stye-inducing bacteria can come from rubbing your eye or from contaminated eye makeup, especially mascara.  To protect yourself, you should, as Lindygirl was quick to point out in our Forum ”change mascara at least every 3 months or it can get bacteria in it.”

Now the bad news: We could find no advice for the kind of recurrent styes that you’ve described. If you’re already diligent about changing your mascara (and assuming you’re not causing reinfection by rubbing your eyes) then perhaps you have a different condition. Here are three other possible causes of eye bumps:

  • Xanthelasma: raised yellow patches that tend to happen with ages and can be a sign of  high cholesterol.
  • Papillomas: Pinkish bumps that are mostly harmless unless they interfere with your vision.
  • Cysts: tiny fluid-filled sacs on your eyelids.


You should probably see a doctor to make sure that what you spy is really a stye. And check out WebMD for a good discussion of styes, chalazia, blepharitis, and internal hordeolums (which sound much nastier than they are.)

Styes are not caused by allergic reaction to mascaras but bacterial contamination can be a problem. Change your mascara often and check with a doctor if the problem doesn’t go away.

Have YOU ever had a stye caused by eye make up? Leave a comment and share your experience with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

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