Because you’re worth it

Coming clean about a misguided foray into cosmetics and the perils of poor make-up hygiene


My longstanding aversion to make-up can probably be traced back to my earliest memories of childhood originating from fear of the BBC Test Card as a short trousered toddler circa 1976, and no doubt responsible for an irrational distrust of clowns that persists to this day.

My wariness of the ‘dark art’ continued through my formative years having witnessed my older sister and her gaggle of friends serve their cosmetic apprenticeship with a liberal application of endless powders, gels, lacquers, polish, spray and other potions to rival the contents of my junior chemistry set. 

Fast-forward to the 1980s and against the grain, a brief make-up flirtation of my own in what I can only describe as a misguided experimental stage brought about by my adoration of The Cure and the dubious styling influence of lead singer, Robert Smith. Remnants of deeply engrained eyeliner still evident on a Monday morning, stubbornly resistant to Mum’s anxious attempt to remove all traces ahead of school, using her trusty spit and fingernail technique. Safe to say that my foray into the cosmetic world was brought to an abrupt conclusion by Dad; his somewhat stern approach refuting Robert Smith’s assertion that ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry’. 

In my professional capacity as an optometrist I have witnessed the perils of cosmetic abuse first-hand on countless occasions. A view from the microscope showing particles of the wretched stuff bathing in the tear film just waiting for the opportunity to unleash bacteria and infect the surrounding structures of the eye. Indeed, having done my homework I was horrified by the revelation that around a third of mascara products are bacterially contaminated within three months of use. Perhaps more alarmingly, almost 80% tested positive for nasty stuff like staphylococcus aureas, which is about as pleasant as it sounds. Add to the mix that many confess to using cosmetic products beyond their expiry date, share products with friends, and even dilute the dregs with saliva and you can understand how infections arise.

And don’t get me started on the foolhardy commuters adorning themselves on the bumpy route into work. Prodding and poking with blatant disregard for the delicate window at the front of the eye – the cornea is only half a millimetre thick after all. 

The messages are clear: replace products as recommended; never ever share (even with your best friend); and less is most definitely more.

Read more blogs from the AOP team.

Ian BeasleyOptometrist, Dr Ian Beasley is Clinical Editor for Optometry Today, Head of Education for the Association of Optometrists and postgraduate researcher at Aston University