My Eyes Are Insanely Sensitive—These Are the Mascaras I Swear By

Long lashes, without irritation.

model applying mascara
(Image credit: Getty)

As someone with chronic dry eye and allergies galore, I’m well acquainted with the mascara woes for sensitive eyes. The wrong formula can make the whites of my eyes go bloodshot and leave me tearing, puffy, or irritated for hours on end. I’m not alone either—46 percent of people report having sensitive eyes. That in mind finding the best mascara for sensitive eyes (read: ophthalmologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free) is of utmost importance for general safety—and comfort. 

“Some people may experience allergic reactions, manifesting as eyelid swelling, watery eyes, and itching, while continuous use can also lead to eye irritation and dryness,” explains board-certified optometrist Dr. Inna Lazar. “These symptoms can range from mild to severe, including redness and inflammation, itching paired with a burning sensation, watery or teary eyes, swelling of the eyelids and the under-eye area, dryness and flakiness, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.” 

While your best bet is always going to be a consult with your dermatologist or ophthalmologist, I’ve consulted the pros and done my fair share of (safe) mascara testing. Whether volume and density or length and pigmentation are your top priority, I promise there’s a sensitive eye-approved mascara out there that will deliver great results sans the itching side effects. Read ahead for the best mascaras for sensitive eyes. 

What to Look For


First and foremost, always look at the ingredient list. “A significant number of mascaras available today harbor ingredients that could cause trouble for your eyes, particularly for those with heightened sensitivities,” explains Dr. Lazar. While it’s hard to know exactly what every ingredient means, here are the biggest culprits for irritation: 

  • Benzalkonium chloride (BAK)
  • Argireline (Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 or Acetyl Hexapeptide-8)
  • Formaldehyde-releasing compounds
  • Fragrance
  • Isopropyl cloprostenate 
  • Parabens
  • Phenoxyethanol

Waterproof vs Regular

While waterproof mascaras are certainly enticing thanks to their long-wearing capabilities, they’re honestly not the best for sensitive eyes. “These products frequently contain PFAS chemicals that are not only toxic to our ocular surface but also present a challenge to our overall health,” says Dr. Lazar. “The tenacity of waterproof formulations often means vigorous rubbing, further exacerbating irritation and leading to dryness and premature aging.” 

Safety Testing 

You’ll always want to seek out a dermatologist-tested and ophthalmologist-tested label, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nava Greenfield. This will ensure the formula is safe for the delicate eye area. 

The Best Mascaras for Sensitive Eyes

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