Horror is that feeling when you’ve just finished an amazing makeup look on yourself, you go to put on false eyelashes as the finishing touch, and your eyes start to water, streaking your concealer, blush, and highlighter. ~Hits knees and waves fists at the sky while screaming, “NOOO!”~ Watery eyes can make a precise eye makeup look turn into a watercolor mess. But if you tend to get teary, waving your hands in front of your eyes isn’t the only solution—and, honestly, that doesn’t really work.
First, you have to figure out what’s causing your eyes to water. It could be dust or allergens in the air, an allergic reaction to the product you’re using, a corneal infection, a side effect of eye strain, or dry eyes, says Andrea Thau, M.D., the immediate past president of the American Optometric Association. There could also be a case where your lids don’t close properly or the tear ducts aren’t quite open or are clogged. You should see your optometrist for a full exam and diagnosis if watery eyes is something that bothers you on the regular.
If this is something that comes up only when you’re getting your makeup done, it’s most likely reflex tears. “There are two types of tears,” says Dr. Thau. “Tears that are designed to keep the cornea lubricated, protecting it from exposure and evaporation, and reflex tears in response to an insult. These tears irrigate the eye to eliminate whatever foreign substance is there.” Reflex tears are the ones that pop up as soon as you even think about putting something close to your eye (like lashes or a sharpened eyeliner pencil).
We spoke to Dr. Thau and Smashbox global pro lead artist Lori Taylor Davis for tips on getting these reflex tears under control, and how to keep your makeup from getting messed up when you tear up.