Eye Care

Poor Mascara Removal Leads to Eye Lesions and Serious Infection

Originally published January 20, 2020

Last updated April 29, 2024

Reading Time: 2 minutes


For over 25 years, a woman admitted to using excessive mascara each day without completely removing it at night before she slept. Complaining of feelings that something was in her eye, the 50-year-old sought help from her ophthalmologist. After a thorough eye exam, the ophthalmologist discovered dark pigmented depositions on the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane lining the inside of the eyelid. In addition, the ophthalmologist noted eye lesions or sub-conjunctival concretions. Following a biopsy of the conjunctiva, results of which were published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology, physicians found deposits of mascara as well as evidence of conjunctivitis or infection.

“It is important to ensure you wash your hands and clean around your eyes regularly to prevent infections from occurring. Having treated cases like this often, infections can lead to very serious consequences and in some cases even vision loss,” says Charles Flowers, MD, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at USC Roski Eye Institute and cornea specialist.

Tips to preventing eye infections

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes or face
  • Do not share your makeup, face towels, or any eye drops
  • Remove your makeup thoroughly before bed and do not reuse make up if you have had an eye infection to prevent it from reoccurring
  • Thoroughly clean your contact lenses, store in clean containers, and use fresh solutions without sharing
  • Wear protective eyewear outdoors or in a workplace where there may be hazards
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you notice symptoms of a suspected eye infection
  • Always use protection to prevent STI

Infections of the eye

Infections of the eye can occur in one or both eyes and in individuals of all ages. Typically, those who have ocular infections may describe redness, irritation, discharge, swelling around the eyelid and eye, pain and possible loss in vision.

Area of Inflammation
ConjunctivitisSurface of the eye
KeratitisCornea, the transparent outermost part of the eye
UveitisUvea, the inner layer of the eye
Vitritis“Jelly-like” ocular fluid in the eye
NeuroretinitisOptic nerve and retina

Eye infections can be viral, bacterial or even fungal. Please see your eye care specialist if you suspect that you may have an infection, are experiencing irritation or pain in your eye.

by Debbie Mitra, PhD

To make an appointment at the USC Roski Eye Institute, please call (323) 442-6335 or contact us to schedule a consultation today.