I used to get allergic blepharitis from time to time, which is characterized by severe swelling and redness of the eyelid from an allergen. It was ugly and painful and took about a week to resolve with warm, wet compresses, lid cleanses two to three times daily, and prescription eye ointment. Interestingly enough, this was when I was experimenting with a lot of different pigments from MAC Cosmetics and using a considerable amount of eye makeup remover. After doing some sleuthing, I discovered that my flareups all stemmed from two substances: bismuth and benzylkonium chloride. Bismuth is a mineral which is frequently used in eye shadows and eye pigments, while benzylkonium chloride is commonly used in eye makeup removers. As soon as I switched eye makeup remover brands and stopped using certain eye makeup items, the horrid eyelid irritation vanished.
In this post, I am picking solely on eye makeup removers because there are major brands which contain benzylkonium chloride. Here are two major brands which I used to use.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover –
This is a very popular brand and used to be my staple. But check out the label ingredients: Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Chloride, Dipropylene Glycol, Poloxamer 182, Allantoin, Tripotassium EDTA, Benzalkonium Chloride, Glycerin, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate. Little did I know that I was potentiating the blepharitis by using a makeup remover!
Lancome Bi-Facil –
This was my mom’s favorite, but because of the benzylkonium chloride I cannot use it.
You may be wondering how I figured this out. Because I am a physician, published researcher and a scientist, I know how to apply deductive reasoning, as well as set up experiments. Although I could include clinical data here, I would rather give a simple explanation of how horrible and harmful benzylkonium chloride is. Here is a succinct and excellent description:
“The Cosmetic Safety Database states that there is a moderate to strong evidence that benzalkonium chloride is an immune, skin, and respiratory toxicant, with laboratory tests hinting at mutative (carcinogenic) effects. The safety data sheet (MSDS) indicates the ingredient is a skin and eye irritant, and can be corrosive to both, with the amount of damage depending on the length of contact.” (From http://www.annmariegianni.com/)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel very comfortable about coming into contact with a substance that is so harmful. What is especially disturbing is that this substance is found in hand sanitizers and eye drops. It is worth spending an extra minute to read ingredient labels before you purchase something that might contain a harmful ingredient.