What Happens If You Sleep With Mascara On?

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A well-known beauty rule is to Always remove mascara before going to bed. This is one of the most important steps in maintaining good eye and lash health.

Buuuut sometimes things go wrong. When you closed your eyes, you didn’t think you were gonna fall alseep for the night.

In this article, we will go over what happens if you sleep with mascara on and what you can do about it.


Can Mascara Damage Your Eyes?

Mascara, if used and REMOVED properly should not cause damage to your eyes.

That said, there are a lot of issues that can result from improper use and removal of mascara. They run the gamut from irritation, swelling, and lashes falling out, becoming thin, brittle, bent, and weak, to bacterial infections and dry eye disease, just to name a few.

Some of these issues can arise from the ingredients that can be found in some low-quality mascaras (not bat poop, if you’re wondering).

We will get into those ingredients you want to avoid when shopping for mascara a little further down.

But even using a good mascara, free of the potentially damaging ingredients, can lead to problems that could damage your eyes if you are not careful.

The good news is that these problems are more to do with “user error” than the mascara itself.

Using mascara past its expiry date, improper use and handling, or not removing it properly, regardless of how “good” it is, will ultimately put your lash and eye health at risk.

Using mascara past its expiry date, improper use and handling, or not removing it properly, regardless of how “good” it is, will ultimately put your lash and eye health at risk.

What Happens If You Sleep With Mascara On

These are all problems that can arise specifically to sleeping with mascara on:


If you sleep with mascara on, your mascara and other makeup around your eye area can seep into your eyes while you sleep, which can lead to irritation, discomfort, itchiness, and redness.


If mascara crumbles or flakes off and gets into your eyes, these flaking and crumbling bits of mascara can not only cause irritation but also introduce bacteria which puts you at risk of an eye infection.

Eye infections can become serious and could, in extreme cases, lead to blindness.


When you sleep with mascara and other eye makeup on, small hair follicles can get clogged around your eyelids, which can lead to styes.

Lash Loss & Breakage

Mascara makes the lashes stiffer, so being squished into a pillow can cause breakage and lash loss.

Scratching Your Cornea

You also run the risk of flakes of mascara, or even a dried, stiff eyelash getting into your eye and scratching the cornea.


Failing to remove mascara and eye makeup before going to bed can lead to concretions, which are small solid masses that form underneath the eyelids. Usually concretions are deeply embedded into the tissue, but in some cases, they erode the overlying conjunctival epithelium and come in contact with the cornea.

In these cases, it will cause a foreign body sensation as you blink and it runs across your eye. This too can damage the cornea.

How To Avoid Eye Problems Caused By Mascara

Now that you know what happens if you sleep with mascara on, and understand that you should ALWAYS remove mascara before bed, we’ve put together some information for you so you can wear your mascara without worry.

We’ve separated this information into 3 categories – 1. Mascara ingredients to avoid, 2. Mascara Dos & Don’ts and 3. How to Properly Remove Mascara.

1. Mascara Ingredients to Avoid

There are certain ingredients you want to avoid when looking for a mascara that will not end up causing the problems mentioned above.

Avoid mascaras that contain the following:


Parabens are known irritants that can cause rashes, swelling, and redness. Parabens in your mascara can be indicated on the list of ingredients as propylparaben, benzylparaben, methylparaben, or butylparaben.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is used in mascara to maintain its liquid consistency. However, the reason you want to avoid it in your mascara is that it’s an irritant and can cause allergic reactions.

Coal Tar Dyes

Coal Tar dyes contain heavy metals and can trigger skin reactions including lesions, redness, rash, itchiness, irritation, and in extreme cases, can cause skin ulcers as well as lash loss.

Coal tar dyes used in mascara can be listed in different ways on the label.

Look out for something that looks like this: FD&C Yellow 5, Red 3. They may be listed as a Colour Index number with a CI, followed by a 5-digit number, like CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492. They may also be labeled as aminphenol, diaminodenzene or phenylenediamine, PPD, benzenediamine, paraphenylenediamine, or aminoaniline.


Now although nickel is not completely banned in cosmetics, products being sold in the US must be tested to ensure it falls at or below one part per million of bioavailable nickel — i.e. 1ppm (0.0001%).

This low amount of nickel is not going to do you any harm. But where you may run into issues is if you are buying cosmetics from Asia (or knockoffs) that can contain far higher levels of nickel, which can cause serious allergic reactions in some people.

Nickel may be listed as niccolum, or by its chemical symbol Ni.


Rosins are used to help the color in mascara adhere to your lashes. Rosins can cause eyelid dermatitis, a condition that causes the skin on or around the eyelid to become dry, itchy, and irritated and result in lash loss.

Rosins may be listed as any of the following: colophonium, colophony, resin terebinthinae, tall oil, abietic acid, methyl abietate alcohol, abietic alcohol, abietyl alcohol.


Paraffin is a petroleum derivative. Most often found in waterproof mascaras, paraffin can clog the oil glands in the eye. This can lead to irritation, and in some cases, infection and dry eye disease.


“Fragrances” may fall under proprietary confidentiality as a manufacturer’s secret formula, so they don’t need to list exactly what it contains.

But if you see that word, you will want to steer clear for the same reason they stopped making scented toilet tissue and feminine products. They found that it was a major irritant and causing all sorts of skin reactions in people.

Any Silicone, Oil or Petroleum-Based Mascara

Most waterproof mascaras are silicone, oil or petroleum-based and should not be used daily. What makes the mascara waterproof also makes it damaging to the lashes and a lot harder to remove, which in turn can cause even more damage.

Using waterproof mascara once in a while for a special occasion is not going to harm your lashes, but using a waterproof mascara as your daily go-to will damage your eyelashes and can lead to lashes falling out in the long term.

2. Mascara Dos & Don’ts

DO – Properly clean lashes before starting your mascara application.

Soak a cotton pad in your favorite makeup remover and make sure you have removed any residual dirt or traces of leftover makeup.

DON’T – pump the wand in and out of the mascara tube.

Pumping your mascara will force air and bacteria into the tube, which will then become trapped. This can lead to eye infections and will also make the mascara dry out and break down faster than it normally would.

DON’T – use mascara past its expiry date.

We all want to make our product last as long as possible and can’t bear the thought of throwing something away if it’s not finished. What a waste!

But the shelf life of mascara begins when you open it, so whether or not there is still mascara in the tube and it’s past its expiry date, it’s time for a new one. The shelf life of mascara is about 3-6 months. Check your packaging.

DON’T – add water.

Trying to remoisten a drying-out mascara by diluting it with water will just mess up the formula. Water can also introduce bacteria into your mascara and lead to an eye infection.

Do not add water inside the tube. See How To Refresh Dried-Out Mascara for a better way.

DON’T – use too many coats.

The more coats you apply, the more it will weigh down your lashes and can even cause them to eventually fall out. Most mascaras are meant to have no more than two coats applied. Adding too many coats also makes mascara harder to remove.

Excess friction from scrubbing can damage your lashes and cause them to fall out.

Pro Tip: make sure to wait 30 seconds and let the first coat partially dry before adding the second to avoid clumping!

DO – Always remove mascara before going to bed, for all of the reasons we’ve mentioned above.

3. How To Properly Remove Mascara

STEP 1: First things first – wash your hands.

STEP 2: Choose an eye makeup remover that is gentle, water-based, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.

STEP 3:  Apply remover to the pad.

STEP 4: With your eye closed, rest the pad on your lashes for a few seconds. This will give the remover a chance to loosen the mascara and it should come off much more easily and gently.

STEP 5: Swipe in a gentle downward motion, not side to side. When you are removing any eye makeup, don’t vigorously rub. This can cause lash damage, loss and there’s’a greater risk of getting the makeup in your eye.

STEP 6: Repeat this process until your eye is completely free of makeup.

STEP 7: Use a separate, clean pad for each eye so as not to transfer any makeup or bacteria you may have in or around one eye to the other.

STEP 8: Rinse with warm water and pat dry.

Is It OK To Wear Mascara Every Day?

Wearing mascara every day should be perfectly okay as long as you are using and removing it properly,  as well as avoiding mascara with the ingredients we mentioned above.

All of the following mascaras are ophthalmologist-tested, safe for sensitive eyes and do not contain any of the items on our list of ingredients to avoid.

essence | Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara | Gluten & Cruelty Free
essence | Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara | Gluten & Cruelty Free
If you receive this mascara UNWRAPPED, it did not come from essence cosmetics.
$4.99 Amazon Prime
Honest Beauty 2-in-1 Extreme Length Clean Mascara + Lash Primer | Lengthening + Volumizing | EWG Verified + Cruelty Free | Black, .27 fl oz
Honest Beauty 2-in-1 Extreme Length Clean Mascara + Lash Primer | Lengthening + Volumizing | EWG Verified + Cruelty Free | Black, .27 fl oz
Cruelty Free; Vegan; Ophthalmologist Tested; EWG Certified; Made without: Parabens, Paraffins, Synthetic Fragrances, Silicones, Mineral Oil
$19.99 Amazon Prime
COVERGIRL Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara Pack of, Black Brown, 1 Count
COVERGIRL Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara Pack of, Black Brown, 1 Count
FSC CERTIFIED: Packaging is made from 80 percent recycled paper from well-managed forests
$7.44 Amazon Prime

That said, even the ‘cleanest’ mascaras can take a toll on your eyelashes if you are wearing mascara 365 days a year.

Promote healthy lash growth by giving them the weekend off from mascara every once in a while.

Take Away

Mascara should not cause issues if you are using and removing it properly, and you don’t keep it past its expiry date. You should always remove mascara before you sleep.

If you’ve woken up realizing you’d forgotten to take off your mascara, there’s no need to panic. But just make sure you don’t make it a regular habit, as it could lead to negative consequences.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).