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Eye cosmetics such as mascara, eye shadow and eyeliner are used extensively to highlight the eyes, and are normally applied external to the ocular surface. Adverse reactions of cosmetics within the ocular surface include mild discomfort, eyelid dermatitis, pre-corneal tear film instability, and keratitis. These are attributed mainly to the preservative (benzalkonium chloride (BAC)) constituent of cosmetic product material (CPM). Transport of CPM from an external environment to any location on the ocular surface, essentially precedes the adverse interactions occurring at the location, and the control of these transport modes is therefore of clinical relevance. The inter-transport of CPM across the TF occurs due to both diffusion and drift processes. Diffusion of neutral species is driven by concentration gradients, and the drift of cationic BAC is influenced by the inherent electric field; determined by the distribution of the various ions secreted into the aqueous layer, and the negative glycocalyx charge at the mucin layer. In the presence of mucin deficiency, the corneal epithelium is exposed to invasion by both incident BAC and lipophilic species. The transport of cationic BAC across the TF may be controlled by regulating the secretion of various electrolytes at the lacrimal gland. This is of clinical significance in reducing corneal epithelial adverse effects. However, the risks of adverse effects at the corneal surface due to invasion by the lipophilic species remain. Patients with mucin deficiency, and especially those on eye ointment/drops medication, should be discouraged from using cosmetics in a way likely to contaminate the TF. Copyright © 2012 British Contact Lens Association. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Adeela Malik, Charles Claoué. Transport and interaction of cosmetic product material within the ocular surface: beauty and the beastly symptoms of toxic tears. Contact lens & anterior eye : the journal of the British Contact Lens Association. 2012 Dec;35(6):247-59

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PMID: 22890123

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