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

Ingredients 

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

Meet the Experts

Dr. Nava Greenfield
Dr. Nava Greenfield

Dr. Nava Greenfield is a dermatologist practicing at Schweiger Dermatology Group. Dr. Greenfield earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Queens College, City University of New York, where she graduated Cum Laude with honors in mathematics, natural sciences, chemistry and biochemistry. Dr. Greenfield attended medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University. She completed her internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital and her residency in dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Greenfield has been published in many medical journals, including The Journal of Dermatological Treatment, the Journal of Women’s Dermatology and Pediatrics. Dr. Greenfield is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, Women’s Dermatologic Society and the American Medical Association.

dr lazar
Dr. Inna Lazar, OD

Dr. Inna Lazar is a leading expert on primary eye health and one of the country’s most sought-after experts in the treatment of dry eye disease. She earned her Doctor of Optometry Degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (Salus University) with a focus on advanced ocular surface disease and myopia management. Soon after, Dr. Lazar founded Greenwich Eye Care along with the Dry Eye Institute, a specialty practice that offers the most coveted, technologically-advanced drop-less treatments for dry eye.

Lazar was named one of “America’s Best Eye Doctors'' by Newsweek in 2022 and featured in Fairfield County’s Business Journal “40 Under 40 Best Doctors” in 2021. Lazar recently received an “Ambassador of Sight” award from the National Lions Team, a prestigious, international non-profit organization that aids people with eye care issues and eyeglass needs.

As a specialized eye care professional and KOL, Lazar uses her social platforms and the podcast (Transparent Show) she co-founded to educate her followers on unexpected, non-traditional eye health topics. She speaks openly about medical findings; the benefits and dangers of ingredients in many big-name brands; eye health as it relates to aesthetics in beauty, fashion, lifestyle, and much more. Dr. Lazar is a frequent public speaker, healthcare consultant, and advisor to major companies in the eye care industry. She can be found @dr.innalazar on Instagram and @eyeballdoc on TikTok.

Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, Delish.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.