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Outta Line: Eyeliner and the waterline

Tightlining or waterlining is the technique used for drawing eyeliner inside, tight against the lashes of the upper lid or lower eyelid margin, which make the eyelashes look longer.

It was a rainy day in London, so I decided to take the opportunity to spend some time indoors at the new Harrod’s Beauty Hall. First, the Beauty Hall is a makeup-addict’s dream — it’s so seductive with all the cosmetics brands strutting their stuff as if on a runway! The music, lighting, luxurious displays… even though I entered on a very bad hair day (thanks to the very soggy and soaked-umbrella), I felt magically beautified. Lovely!

I explored the different brands, prodding the saleswomen with Dry Eye Diva questions — particularly, “What products can you recommend for sensitive eyes?” That was a loaded question, of course. It is always surprising that saleswomen are not better-versed in sensitive eyes. Do these women never have itching, burning, irritating issues with their eye makeup? Though I cannot say that I encountered any particular brand that was eye-friendly, I was quite amused (and horrified) by the saleswoman who recommended a new eyeliner that is great-for-sensitive-eyes. Fabulous color grey, but… This new eyeliner is so waterproof, it’s waterline-friendly. Great! So, then this eyeliner is so impermeable that it won’t melt off when applied to the waterline, i.e. tightlining. OMG. My meibomian glands begin screaming!

The waterline is that inside-line of your eyelids where a lot of women like to apply makeup. Tightlining or waterlining is the technique used for drawing eyeliner inside, tight against the lashes of the upper lid or lower eyelid margin, which make the eyelashes look longer. This waterline is packed with meibomian glands, the delicate glands which line the top and bottom eyelid (sort of like pores in the eyelids). By applying eyeliner or eye makeup along the waterline, these glands are basically suffocated, e.g. the glands cannot do-their-job and release a moisturizing fat & oil mixture onto the eye's surface. Okay, yuck, but, truly, when meibomian glands are compromised, they do not function properly — This is more specifically called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), which is a leading cause of dry eye disease.

So ladies, what does this all really mean? Every time you blink these glands are made to express a protective oil layer, meibum (lubricant), to cover the eye’s surface and prevent tear evaporation and dryness. The application of eyeliner to the waterline covers these glands and does not permit them to function properly. When eyeliners are used along the eyelid margin covering the meibo­mian gland orifices by tightlining, the waxes and pine tar derivatives in eyelin­ers can physically obstruct the meibo­mian gland terminal orifices, thereby limiting meibum delivery to the lid margin lipid reservoirs and subsequent delivery onto the tear film. This gland-clogging can increase the inflammation-inducing evaporative load of patients with dry eye disease, aka ocular surface disease (OSD). Over time this can contribute to the gland obstruction, or in simple terms, they don't work. Your risk for getting a “stye” or hordeoulum is greatly increased — Yes, a big ugly inflamed-red bump on your lid is not a good addition to anyone’s beauty routine. Combine the waterline application technique with the plethora of chemicals found in eyeliners and it’s a fantastic cocktail for eye irritation.

Even better yet… That super-duper waterproof eyeliner has chemicals that allow it to adhere better to the eyelid & also make it a challenge to thoroughly remove at the end of the day. Although this eyeliner application should not be confused with waterboarding, the Dry Eye Divas deem this so-called eye-enhancing beauty practice torture to the meibomian glands and an unre­alized hazard among many of our OSD patients.

Spare your meibomian glands! Keep the eyeliner away from the ‘waterline’, top or bottom!

Dry Eye Diva, Amy

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