Itchy Eyes - am I allergic to my eyeshadow or could it be something else?

Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2024 by Michelle Fox

Wondering why your eyeshadow makes your eyes itch? Could you be allergic to eye makeup? A particular brand? A certain ingredient? I was in the same situation and I spent months researching the topic. The culprit I discovered could be the source of your itchy eyes as well, since it is a known allergen and irritant and yet is a common ingredient found in many shades of, not just eyeshadow, but all sorts of makeup! This week's blog discusses the difference between an allergic reaction and a sensitivity to an ingredient. And then it goes on to reveal one ingredient in particular that may be responsible for your itchy eyes. Read on!

Episode #48 - Why Does Eyeshadow Make My Eyes Itch?

Speaking of eyeshadow, did you have a chance to check out my recent post about different eyeshadow finishes? Eyeshadow Finishes - matte, shimmer, and so much more!

Itchy Eyes - am I allergic to my eyeshadow or is it something else?

Many of us associate itchy, irritated eyes with allergies, and therefore assume we are having an allergic reaction when our eyeshadow makes our eyes itch. But in addition to an allergic reaction, one can develop a sensitivity to an ingredient over time. That said, understanding the difference can be very helpful in getting to the root cause of the problem.

Allergic Reaction 

When the immune system senses a "threat" of some kind, it releases histamine and other chemicals which lead to redness, itching, swelling, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions usually occur shortly after exposure to the allergen. 


Unlike allergies, sensitivities don't necessarily involve the immune system. You will see similar symptoms, such as irritation, redness, or discomfort. But unlike the quick trigger seen in allergies, sensitivities might develop over time with repeated exposure to a particular substance. The severity of sensitivity often depends on the level of exposure, making it important to identify possible causes.

See Hue, Tint, Tone, and Shade applied to basic Red in the photo below.


Carmine is a vibrant red dye made by crushing cochineal insects, hundreds of thousands of them. Because so many insects are required, Carmine is quite expensive to make and is found in high-end cosmetics. Furthermore, since Carmine comes from a natural source it is often labelled Natural Red #4, which makes it seem harmless. The problem is that Carmine has been identified as a known irritant and allergen, and, yes, a cause of itchy eyes.

What's in a name?

Carmine may also be listed as: Cochineal extract, Natural Red #4, Carminic acid, or Crimson Lake. Most often an ingredient list will say "may include Carmine" so it is best to contact the company to get a list of Carmine-free products. 

What to do next

When determining the cause of a sensitivity, it is wise to begin with the most likely suspects. The top two culprits for causing itchy eyes when wearing eye makeup are Carmine and mica. Mica is affected by it's size, so starting with Carmine is simplest. Contact the manufacturer of your makeup and get a list of shades containing Carmine. Eliminate them completely from your makeup wardrobe for a period of time and see if that solves the problem of itchy eyes. Be sure to wash all of your makeup brushes and anywhere else the eyeshadow has come in contact with.

Red isn't the only shade to be wary of. You'll find Carmine in blue, purple, pink, and even brown! You can only be certain whether your eyeshadow has Carmine in it by contacting the customer relations department of that brand.

Attention Vegans!!!

Vegan lines may use Carmine as an ingredient in some products. It will be listed as Natural Red #4, so be on the lookout for that! And keep in mind, that companies that offer Vegan lines of makeup usually carry other lines that are not Vegan. Buyer beware. 

Read this article for a list of Vegan brands: 13 Vegan and Cruelty-Free Beauty Brands You Can Actually Trust

Carmine - Free Eye Color Samples!!!

some restrictions apply*

I've already done the research for you! If you would like samples that are guaranteed Carmine-free, 

click the pink button below!

*must be a resident of the United States; over 18; and not currently working with another Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant to accept this offer. This offer is not available for other Mary Kay consultants or directors. 

Need help with any of this? It's what I do!
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Wrap Up

Now that you have somewhere to start, you can begin the process of elimination on your journey toward discovering the cause of your eye itchiness. Could it be an allergy to eye makeup? It's more likely a sensitivity to an ingredient. And I hope this blog helps you discover what that is. 

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