Which mascaras for sensitive eyes are best?

The dramatic frame for your eyes that a good mascara creates elevates any look to make eyes look wide and beautiful. But the attempt backfires if you have sensitive eyes that get itchy with the wrong mascara, or if you wear contacts and need a special formula that doesn’t interfere with them. When you’re looking for a dramatic but mild mascara for sensitive eyes, Clinique High Impact Mascara is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy a mascara for sensitive eyes

No matter how mild the formula, be prepared to throw it away

In addition to buying a mascara formulated for sensitive eyes, free of known irritants, another thing to avoid is the bacteria that can build up by putting the applicator close to your eye, then returning it to the tube and repeating that every day, sometimes several times. So remember that it’s recommended to replace mascara every two to three months. Buy a size you’ll finish within that time or get disposable applicators that never get re-dipped.

A great applicator

One of the things that can make mascara more irritating is a brush that’s hard to maneuver. Know your preferred style — curved or straight, fluffy or hard — and buy a mascara with a brush you can use with precision.

Black over color

The pigments used to color mascara can cause irritation to sensitive eyes. If you struggle with mascara making eyes itchy and uncomfortable, stick to black.

What to look for in a quality mascara for sensitive eyes

A paraben-free formula

Among the ingredients that cause irritation for sensitive eyes, parabens are the prime culprits. Parabens are preservatives that keep mascara fresh. They cause irritation by preventing key glands from releasing enough oils to keep eyes lubricated. Parabens are a family of compounds, not just one, so avoid any ingredient with the “paraben” anywhere in its name.


A formula labeled “ophthalmologist-tested” for sensitive eyes generally means that it’s safe and free of common irritants. It’s a good shorthand to look for when you can’t identify all the ingredients in a formula.

Natural ingredients

Mild plant waxes and other ingredients from nature can signal that a mascara is good for sensitive eyes. Read labels and stay away from formulas with complicated, chemical-sounding ingredients.

How much you can expect to spend on a mascara for sensitive eyes

Drugstore brands can be purchased for less than $10. Department store brands generally run from $20-$40.

Mascara for sensitive eyes FAQ

Besides buying mascara formulated for sensitive eyes, how can I keep mascara from making my eyes itchy?

A. Keep your mascara fresh by replacing it every 2 to 3 months. Additionally, even though the common wisdom is to get the mascara as close to the lash line as possible, if you regularly have discomfort with mascara use, start your application closer to the middle and gently extend it out to the ends of your lashes, avoiding the roots. This looks best with a softer black than with mascara labeled “noir” or “blackest black.”

What are ingredients to avoid in mascara if you have sensitive eyes?

A. In addition to the common culprit, parabens, avoid formulas with nickel, shellac, coathylene and yellow carnauba wax. Also avoid formulas with common preservatives such as diazolidinyl urea and butylated hydroxytoluene.

Is waterproof mascara OK for sensitive eyes?

A. If your eyes get easily irritated by mascara, steer clear of waterproof mascara. The harsher chemicals used to make mascara resist moisture tend to be irritating, and the long-wear formula means you’ll have to use makeup remover to get it off, increasing the likelihood that small flakes of mascara will get in your eyes. If you want your mascara to stay on longer, reapply a sensitive-eye formula instead of trying to make one application last all day or night.

What are the best mascaras to buy for sensitive eyes?

Top mascara for sensitive eyes

Clinique High Impact Mascara

Clinique High Impact Mascara

What you need to know: Clinique is well known for its mild, non-irritating ingredients, and this mascara is true to the brand’s values of using components good for sensitive eyes.

What you’ll love: In addition to its non-irritating formula, this is a really effective mascara. It lengthens, volumizes and spreads lashes out.

What you should consider: This can take some work to wash off, so be sure to have a non-irritating makeup remover on hand to remove completely.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

Top mascara for sensitive eyes for the money

Neutrogena Healthy Lengths Mascara

Neutrogena Healthy Lengths Mascara 

What you need to know: Neutrogena creates makeup and skincare products formulated with mild, natural ingredients that are easy on skin.

What you’ll love: This is dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested for sensitive eyes, and also gets the job done beautifully for a non-clumping, smooth application.

What you should consider: This takes a while to dry, so take some time before touching or applying any other products around it.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Blinc Original Tubing Mascara

Blinc Original Tubing Mascara

What you need to know: This innovative formula forms small, water-resistant “tubes” around your lashes, for long wear and maximum hold. 

What you’ll love: It’s been tested to be safe for sensitive eyes, and it’s got tremendous staying power.

What you should consider: It can be work to remove this. The tube has instructions on how to use water and gentle pressure to remove, so be prepared for some extra work to get it off.

Where to buy: Sold by Sephora


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Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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