The Reason Why You Are Having An Allergic Reaction to Eye Makeup

Makeup, and specific skin care products, can enhance your beauty, minimize imperfections, make skin appear flawless and eyes appear bigger. But, what happens when the makeup you’ve used forever…now causes an allergic reaction? Itchy eyes, redness, watery eyes – none of that is fun and can certainly ruin your makeup look of the day – so let’s dig into why this happens and what you can do when having an allergic reaction to eye makeup.

Can you suddenly become allergic to eye makeup?

Dermatologists say “Absolutely, you can.” The eye makeup you’ve been using for years has suddenly become an allergy catalyst, causing redness, puffiness, and mid-day itchy eyes. So, is it an allergy or an irritation? Yes, there is a difference between an allergy and an irritation.

An eyeshadow allergy, for example, can happen gradually over time due to repeated exposure.  Your skin “fights” off the irritating ingredients without you really noticing or causing those itchy eyes – and then after years of “fighting” your skin just gives up and gives in to the redness and itching – and now “all of a sudden” you are allergic to those ingredients (or ingredient).

A simple skin irritation caused by eye makeup, usually occurs the first time you use the product. Letting you know immediately that an ingredient in this eye makeup is irritating to your skin.  If you’ve got sensitive skin, you’ve probably noticed that your are irritated by many brands of makeup. Eye makeup tends to be the most obvious because it contacts the most sensitive part of our face.

So, what is the name of this mystery ailment? It’s called allergic dermatitis or contact dermatitis, and it worsens as the years go by (mainly because the skin has been “fighting” since you first began applying products of any kind to your skin). It can appear as a dry, itchy, and scaly area that’s restricted to the area where the makeup was applied…in this case the eye area.

What is allergic or contact dermatitis & why the itchy eyes?

1. The eyes comes into contact with an allergen (which conventional eye shadows are loaded down with, and some highly irritating). When the eyes first come into contact with the offensive ingredient, specific “memory cells” are sensitized by your body.

2. These sensitized cells stay on standby for the next time whatever it was, hits your skin again. When you apply makeup again, the cells release a molecule, called a cytokine, to go “fight it” out of your skin. THIS is the allergic reaction.

Repeatedly exposing yourself makes the problem worse over time. More and more cytokines, larger battle ground, more and more reaction.  Which is why so many of our customers haven’t been able to wear eye makeup for years (until they found us, that is).

makeup that can cause itchy eyes

Can I be allergic to eyeshadow if my eyes are itchy?

When it comes to eyeshadow, we are talking about one of the most sensitive parts of your body…your eyelids, which are designed to keep toxins out of your body. When your body wages war at the skin level like this, skin cells die in the crossfire. The real culprit is an eyeshadow made with fillers (and known irritants).

In order to cut costs when making eyeshadow, companies will cut it with talc. Yes, talcum powder, hydrous magnesium silicate to be exact. In fact, so much Talc is used that it’s usually the first ingredient on the ingredient list.  In addition, other toxic ingredients are added. Parabens, Aluminum (cheap colorant), and Triclosan (similar to paraben), dimethicone are all major skin irritants and are all added to cheaply made eyeshadows – even if they charge you luxury prices.

How do you treat an allergic reaction to eye makeup?

allergic reaction to eye shadow

There’s a few ways and a phone call to your eye doctor or PCP might be in order if it feels severe. We are not medical professionals so please always use caution and speak to your health care provider before making any decisions.

  1. Stop using the makeup. Ugh, I know – you spent good money on that! Always try to return the product – if you explain that you had a strong allergic reaction to this product most stores and companies will give you a refund. If they don’t, then you know that’s a company you don’t want to do business with. Read about our open-container 6 month return/exchange policy here.
  2. Give your eyes a break – don’t wear any eye makeup until the itchy eyes and the reaction have diminished (that includes night eye creams, foundation, etc. – even makeup you’re sure wasn’t the culprit) – you want to give your skin a chance to heal
  3. While some doctors recommend OTC hydrocortisone creams, using these around the eye area can be dangerous. Definitely check with your doctor before running to the drug store.
  4. Many natural remedies exist including calendula and aloe both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. This website has recommendations for specific products made with natural ingredients that can calm itchy eyes and irritation from makeup or general eyelid contact dermatitis.
  5. Clean your tools/brushes – this one is probably obvious but after you’ve returned the product you’ll want to clean any tool that was used to apply that makeup so the ingredient doesn’t continue to be inadvertently applied.

Why DON’T Red Apple Eyeshadows Give Me Itchy Eyes?

Our truly hypoallergenic eye shadows are a dream come true to many hesitant-at-first customers, who have tried every eyeshadow under the sun without being able to wear them.  Our goal has and will always be to make makeup with the highest quality ingredients so that everyone can enjoy wearing makeup again.

We use very few ingredients that we ensure are non-nano particle minerals. From an itchy eye perspective – we don’t use any ingredients that are known to be toxic and irritating to the eyes. Using very few ingredients allows us to not only make a cleaner product but also a product that we are confident will work with 99% of people.

No ingredient contains gluten, talc, mineral oil, petroleum, fragrance, phthalates, wheat, paraben, dairy, dimethicone (or other -cones), and a huge list of ingredients we just don’t let into our facility.

From an ethical perspective (which doesn’t affect allergies/irritations) we use humanely-mined Mica from the U.S. and high-quality natural Silica. All of our makeup is vegan & cruelty free – which means it doesn’t contain ingredients derived from any living creature, is free of palm oil, and was never tested on animals (raw ingredients & finished product), nor are we sold in any country that requires animal testing (like China).  While these core-values don’t create irritations to the skin they do affect our conscience and the conscience of our customers – so it’s important to mention here.

This process works so well at making a natural mineral eye shadow, there’s no need for a filler, like talc.  However, it does cost more to manufacture makeup in this way.  We know that investing in high quality products to put on your face (especially your eyes) is a worthwhile endeavor not only for your current health but for your future self (so no allergies develop over time).

The result is a silky, velvety eyeshadow with beautiful pigment that lasts all day without making your eyes itchy.

Have you ever had an allergic reaction to eye makeup? Tell us what helped you in the comments below!


  1. Hi, I was curious if you will be coming out with a foundation? My eyes have become ridiculously sensitive to everything. Thanks!

    1. Jay Harper says:

      HI Jess. At this time we don’t have any immediate plans on making a foundation, but it is something we discuss often.

  2. I am allergic to citric acid which is used as a bonding agent in a lot of things. I have stopped using make up because my eyes get itchy and get red irritation. I may be allergic to other things your make up does not contain but citric acid whether applied to the face or ingested is a big problem for me.
    I would love to try your product but need to be sure it does not contain citric acid. Thank you.

  3. Do you sell your eye shadows in the UK?

  4. I’ve had issues with my skin since I can remember. However, right around 28 is when my skin started to freak out, mostly around my eyes. I’m 31 and can’t wear makeup at all. Seems anything touches my eyes, the skin reacts. They’ll burn, flake, appear patchy. My skin is so thin around my eyes that if I get sick(vomit) my blood vessels burst and it looks like I’ve been beaten directly in the face. Can’t wear coverup for that, or my face would also cause issues. I miss wearing makeup so much. Just a little mascara is all I’d love to be able to wear again.

    1. Oh my gosh! This literally sounds identical to me. Starting having issues around 26yrs and now at 29 have been trying lots of brands out and just can’t wear any of it!

  5. Alissa Miller says:

    Hi, I have all of a sudden become severely allergic to my mascara. I would like to know if you use any type of aloe Vera in your mascara or eye shadow. I also am very allergic to aloe Vera. (Strange I know)
    I would love to buy some products but first wanted to ask this question. I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

    1. Are you also allergic to latex, though?

  6. Lori Jiskra says:

    Why is my rimmel scandal eyes eyeliner all of a sudden making my eyes red. I have been using it for years.i thought i had pink eye but it wasn’t. I stopped using the eyeliner for a few days and my red eyes went away. What brand would be good for me i am a contact lense wearer??

  7. Janet Davenport says:

    Do you make a makeup also? If I get to close to eyes its as bad as eyeshadow.

  8. I suffer from ocular rosacea
    which starts w/lash margin (upper & lower) itching followed by severe red eye requiring mediated (steroid/antibiotic) drops. I am closely monitored w/frequent eye pressure checks as steroids in/around eye can be very dangerous to use – can lead to glaucoma! I also tend to get itchy bumps from just about anything I put on my lips. I believe these issues might be connected to Carnuba wax in products. I don’t really use eye shadow and recently found a wax free mascara. Do you make ANY eye products that are wax free? My routine is typically concealer, and a liner but recently my liner (ELF) is bothering my eyes as well. My daughter is getting married in 2022 and I’m desperate to find eye makeup products that won’t give me this uncomfortable flare up after use!

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Debra, Thank you for sharing your background with us as it helps us help you better. Other than our eyeshadows we don’t have wax free eye makeup. However, our eyeliners do not have carnauba wax. One trick you might try (which I often do and actually did for my own wedding because for me it actually lasts longer) is use eyeshadow as eyeliner. I often will use or Chocolate Martini shadow for this. You can use the shadows both wet and dry.So what I like to do is get an angled brush a little damp and apply the shadow by dabbing it along the lash line and then I will go back over it dry and smudge it out a little. I hope this helps.

    2. Mary Postiglione says:

      ELF is what did it to me

  9. Ljsommers says:

    I’m very allergic to latex products. Are your brushes safe for me to use with your eye shadow?

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hey, thank you for your question. All of our makeup brushes are latex free so they are safe to use.

  10. Ann in FL says:

    Hello from a big fan of Red Apple. The article above contains one problem. There is a suggestion made to use cortisone creams when a reaction occurs. BUT… cortisone can be dangerous around the sensitive, thin-skinned eye area and cause damage. It should not be recommended for use on eyelids especially. My M.D. dermatologist told me this.

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Ann, Thank you for your comment here. I couldn’t find a date on this article but I do believe it’s quite old and as you know information and protocols change all the time. I will make a note on our Monday board to look into updating this post with the current information that’s out there. Different DRs. have different recommendations too so it’s always best to look into things and make the best decisions we can for ourselves <3

    2. I have had a handful of such bad of a reaction that my dermatologist prescribed Triamcinolone Acetonide Cream, 0.025%, to be applied very, very sparingly.

  11. Hi I wear high end eye shadow. I love this palette but I’m allergic to the red dye. Is there something I can put on first so i can wear the makeup without getting all the puffiness, redness itch and pain? Thanks in advance

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Michelle, just to clarify. Which palette are you using? One of ours or another brand?

  12. Do your eye products have nickel?

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Kim, thank you for your inquiry. Our products don’t contain nickel.

  13. i recently tried a more high end eye shadow, there was no pain, or itching outside what i normally sometimes feel when using cheaper eye shadow, or just randomly. But after removing the make up the area was red, but it appeared more dyed then inflamed and it doesnt hurt to touch nor is there swelling. Is that still an allergic reaction or could that more be a side effect of the make up being used. other parts of my face where i used the shadows havent reacted the same and seem fine.

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Val, the eye area is very delicate. It’s possible it was a reaction. What was the color of the eyeshadow, and what was used for removal?

      1. I am not the original asker, but I have had the same exact type of reaction when I specifically use darker pink eyeshadow – & from at least 3 different companies, different ingredients – one of the 3 companies is “clean”, so it doesn’t have any of the bad stuff. The other 2 companies aren’t clean, but they are well-established, higher-end. Also, one is matte, one is satiny …. I don’t think any of them have glitter.
        I don’t really wear red eyeshadow – a few times but didn’t get a reaction like explained in the post. But I figure the dark pink is just a diluted with white red. Do you know though what it could be? I LOVE dark pink eyeshadow lol I’ve never had a problem with red dye in any foods or clothes.

        1. Ashley Teague says:

          It’s hard to say for sure but most likely it is the pigment or combination of pigments. Pink is usually going to be a mix of iron oxides and likely titanium dioxide. The minerals or pigments used for makeup and for food can be different. My recommendation would be to speak with an allergist or dermatologist to really get down to the bottom of what’s causing the reaction but my guess would be the minerals/pigments.

  14. Great article I have been buying dollar tree eye shadow and it never used to effect me but im in my 50’s now and this article described my problem, Thank you

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Rachelle, Happy to hear that you found this article helpful 🙂

  15. Can it be carmine in eyeshadows? My eyes swelled up and got itchy from shadows made with carmine and stained the lid.

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Absolutely. Carmine is not just an ethical issue. It can certainly be an allergen for some people. From what I understand, the most common reaction to Carmine is contact dermatitis.

    2. Sherri Stigler says:

      Marie…ABSOLUTELY…Carmine is the WORST. I have searched for years to find good, quality eyeshadow that does not contain carmine. Red Apple eyeshadows…specifically those matte’s…are game-changers. Really worth it!

  16. I bought some eyeshadow about three weeks ago that was $6.99. I am not a makeup wearer lol. Anyhow, the next day, I had what resembled a sty and it took over a week to be gone. I used it again yesterday, to make sure if it were the eyeshadow or not, and now this morning, I have what resembles a sty again so I think it’s safe to say, it’s because of the makeup. What can undo to make it go away sooner?

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Pre,

      Just wanted to check in and see if it was one of our shadows? if so can you please let us know the order id#? That can be emailed to either myself [email protected] or [email protected]. My honest advice is to throw it away. There’s a chance that it’s not from the shadow and it’s actually from a makeup brush or applicator but once the eyeshadow has been contaminated you will likely keep getting a stye/styes when using it. If you don’t want to part ways yet I would recommend cleaning your makeup brushes *it’s good to do this anyway even if it isn’t from your brush* and then you could try to spray the eyeshadow pan with rubbing alcohol. I can’t guarantee this will fix it but it’s worth a try. Also, wait until the stye if fully healed before wearing eye makeup again. I do like the homeopathic stye eye drops from Similasan. I have found those to be helpful in getting a stye to go away quicker. I hope this helps <3 ~ Ashley

  17. Marianne Maerz says:

    I recently developed a reaction to, (I think) eye shadow. I would like to give your products a try, but
    what if I find it too is irritating? Can I return it?
    PS I have heard that mica can be a problem for some people

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Marianne, Absolutely! We have a six-month return policy So in trying the shadows if you find them to be irritating still you can send them back within the 6 months for a refund or an exchange (if you just are not happy with the color). Mica can be an issue for some. I suggest trying matte shadows first.

      1. Angie Olivia says:

        I been wearing makeup since I was 16 now I am 37 I wear liquid makeup n other day my left side of my face swallowed up
        N when I put eyeliner on it itchy n makes my eye really water. Why is that?

  18. Brandy Collins says:

    I think sometimes it’s just the microscopic glitter in makeup with shimmer… under a microscrope these shiny sharp shards can’t be good for our skin and primers don’t always help.

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      It’s possible for sure. I usually recommend for anyone who is very sensitive to try our matte shadows first just in case.

  19. Please make a burnt orange shade! Bought a palette and love it!

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Thank you, Katie for the recommendation 🙂

    2. Yes please, an orange would be awesome!!

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