Mascara for sensitive eyes

The 10 Best Mascaras for Sensitive Eyes of 2023 That Don’t Compromise Volume, Length or Color

Price at time of publish: $19

Experts Say These Mascaras Are Safe for Sensitive Eyes

long lashes make everything better

If you have sensitive eyes, then you’re familiar with the struggles of finding a mascara formula (or any eye makeup product) that doesn’t leave you irritated. It’s not uncommon to have sensitivity in this area because the skin near the eyes is especially thin and delicate (fun fact: this is why it’s the part of the body that shows signs of aging faster than others). “The most common symptoms of sensitive eyes are heavy or tired eyes, redness, irritation, dryness, puffy eyelids, burning or stinging, and even intermittent blurry vision,” says Ashley Brissette, MD, Clinique’s guiding ophthalmologist. Luckily, even if you’re susceptible to these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo long and voluminous lashes. If you’re extremely sensitive, searching for mascaras that have “ophthalmologist-tested” on the label or packaging will be your best bet, says Brissette. Also, many mascaras are made with waxes, which can get stuck in contact lenses or in the eyes, so searching for an oil- or wax-free formula is helpful, she adds.

The 10 Best Mascaras for Sensitive Eyes of 2023 That Don’t Compromise Volume, Length or Color

Kristin Limoges is a New York-based wellness and beauty writer and has spent nearly a decade in the print and digital space. She’s constantly in search of the most up-to-date and accurate intel on topics and prides herself on providing in-depth and helpful info for her readers. Check her out on Instagram: @kristinlimoges.

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Best Mascara for Sensitive Eyes

Uncovering your perfect mascara can already feel like a fruitless journey. One person’s end-all and be-all is another’s smudged and flakey — a successful mascara result truly depends on the skin type of the person who’s wearing it. “Eyelid skin is the thinnest on the face and can become sensitive to certain ingredients,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based, board certified dermatologist and founder of skincare brand Dr. Loretta.

And yet, some of the most popular mascaras are packed full of irritants, like artificial fragrance and preservatives, which can spell trouble for the eye area, which is known to be one of the most sensitive spots on our entire body. So we were ecstatic to see the emergence — and subsequently skyrocketing growth — of an entirely new mascara genre wholly dedicated to sensitive eyes that still deliver the results we’ve come to expect of their counterparts. Within this growing subset, you’ll still be able to choose the type of mascara you love, be it volumizing or thickening, without any fear of irritation.

Best Overall

Tower 28 Beauty MakeWaves Lengthening and Volumizing Clean Mascara

Tower 28 MakeWaves Legthening + Curling Clean Mascara

  • This brilliant formula has it all: It’s clean, safe for sensitive eyes (and even eczema), sustainably made, and gives major lift and volume.
  • Those with oily eyelids may need to use a primer base to avoid slippage.

First and foremost, MakeWaves is ophthalmologist-tested and formulated to be safe for sensitive eyes, as well as those who wear contact lenses. It’s even been tested for safety around eczema, a pillar of Tower 28’s brand ethos.

Secondly, it’s also safe for the other crucial aspect of mascara: Removal, which can be a major source of irritation, particularly when mascara is difficult to remove. Yet this little number rinses off easily with just face wash and water.

Formula-wise, MakeWaves includes a handful of interesting ingredients, like vitamin B and castor oil. It also contains Aquaflex Technology, which is more often seen in haircare to define and hold curls, but it’s the inclusion of this particular ingredient that gives lashes a lift and curl that will last all day long.

Last, but certainly not least, the wand is unusually flexible so you can reach and separate every single lash, regardless of how small it is.

The brand developed more than 88 different formulas and brushes in their quest to create a truly fantastic product — sensitive eyes or not.

Price at time of publish: $20

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: One | Size: 0.29 oz | Waterproof: No

Best Budget

Almay Thick Is In Thickening Mascara

Almay Thick Is In Thickening Mascara

  • It’s been tested by ophthalmologists and dermatologists for safety and at under $8, it’s a total steal.

Dr. Ciraldo recommends Almay’s mascara because they’re fragrance-free, making them especially well suited for sensitive eyes. The thickening formula performs like a bold, expensive mascara, yet the ingredients are specifically designed for easily irritated eyes and contact lens wearers. Plus, the inclusion of aloe and vitamin B ensures that lashes are conditioned and poised to grip color easily.

Price at time of publish: $6

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: Three | Size: 0.26 oz | Waterproof: No

Best Splurge

ILIA Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara

ILIA Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara

  • This beloved mascara delivers wonderfully defined and separated lashes with impressive length.
  • It’s not as long-lasting as other options on this list.

Looking for lashes rich in length, definition, and separation? This impressive mascara is not just one of the best clean mascaras, but it’s also one of the best formulas for sensitive eyes, as it’s endured testing by ophthalmologists, who provided their stamp of approval for those with contacts or sensitive eyes.

Another neat feature is the dual-sided brush that allows you to coat lashes with jet-black pigment, along with nourishing shea butter and beeswax to glide on with ease.

Price at time of publish: $28

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: One | Size: 0.27 oz | Waterproof: No

Best Drugstore

Neutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara

Neutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara

  • Beloved by dermatologists, this mascara elongates and volumizes safely.
  • The big, almost giant, wand brush can be tricky to maneuver.

Dermatologist-recommended and ophthalmologist-tested, Neutrogena’s Healthy Volume is one of the brand’s most popular mascaras, which, according to the brand, helps build volume by up to 400 percent. This is partly due to the formula, but it’s mostly the handiwork of the big, bold wand that makes grabbing and coating every single lash easy.

Big wands can sometimes mean big clumps, but this option is surprisingly neither flakey or clumpy, but it can smudge by the end of the day (which makes sense because the mascara was also designed to be easy to remove).

Price at time of publish: $8

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: Three | Size: 0.21 oz | Waterproof: No

Best Lengthening

Glossier Lash Slick Lift and Lengthening Mascara

Glossier Lash Slick Lift and Lengthening Mascara

  • The lengthening mascara provides a subtle, minimalist, no-makeup makeup look with just enough oomph.
  • It may be a tad too subtle for those looking for glamour.

Looking for bold, va-va-voom volume? Lash Slick isn’t that, but it is definitely lengthening and lifting. The dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested formula is fragrance-free and includes Japanese fiber technology that allows lashes to extend up to two millimeters past your natural tips. While you won’t achieve lush fullness or volume, Lash Slick will deliver a tinted, lifted look.

Price at time of publish: $18

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: Two | Size: 0.29 oz | Waterproof: No

Best Waterproof

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Extension Lengthening Mascara

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Waterproof Mascara

  • This volume-enhancing waterproof mascara was specifically developed for sensitive eyes and to last all day.

Sensitive, allergy-prone, and irritated eyes might be tempted to grab any waterproof mascara, but many involve chemicals and ingredients that can make eyes not only painfully irritated, but also incredibly difficult to remove. But French pharmacy sensitive skin brand La Roche-Posay has perfected their thickening, smudge-proof, and volumizing mascara, while keeping safety a top priority.

The trick to removing waterproof mascara is to use a cleanser or wipe that also caters to sensitive folks. The brand makes one — Respectissime Eye Makeup Remover — that will melt mascara away within 30 seconds.

Price at time of publish: $26

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: One | Size: 0.25 oz | Waterproof: Yes

Best for Dry Eyes

Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

  • The dual-sided tube has a primer on one end and mascara on the other, and when used together, you can nearly double the lash length.
  • The formula can flake and smudge after eight hours of wear.

We’ve mused about this impressively lengthening mascara before, and we’ll do it again. It’s clean and hydrating, courtesy of the jojoba oil, but the real clincher comes when the formula is paired with the enhancing primer. Applying the primer serves two equally great purposes: It preps the lashes for maximum results, and it also serves as a conditioning buffer between the eyelid and the mascara, which can reduce the watery reaction that is sometimes triggered in dry eyes. All it takes is one swipe of the primer, pause for about 20 seconds to let it dry, then zigzag the mascara through lashes for results you have to see to believe.

Price at time of publish: $18

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: One | Size: 0.25 oz | Waterproof: No

Best for Allergies

Twenty/Twenty Clean Sweep Mascara

Twenty/Twenty Clean Sweep Mascara

  • This mascara was created by an ophthalmologist to be as safe as possible for eyes.
  • It doesn’t layer coats easily, so swipe slowly and with precision the first time.

Created by board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo, the Clean Sweep Mascara is impressive for many reasons, one of which is that it’s made entirely of non-irritating ingredients. With reactive and allergy-prone eyes (both seasonal and ocular) top of mind, Dr. Hilal-Campo developed a super safe, multitasking mascara rife with conditioning hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and biotin, to deliver hydrating and strengthening capabilities. Your lashes will not only look great, but over time, they’ll be healthier than ever.

Price at time of publish: $28

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: One | Size: 0.33 oz | Waterproof: No

Best Volumizing

Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara


  • This cult-status tubing mascara is famous for the long, natural-looking lashes it imparts.
  • Tubing mascaras can naturally dry out quicker and this option is no exception.

Celebrity makeup artist Kasey Adam Spickard uses this lengthening mascara on all his clients, full stop, not just the ones with sensitive eyes. “What I love about a tubing mascara is that it doesn’t transfer once it’s dried down and it is still incredibly easy to remove,” he says.

“For my sensitive eye folks, sometimes the worst part of makeup is the removal, which can trigger inflammation and further irritation,” he adds. “This mascara comes off so easily with just warm water — no detergents or makeup remover is needed.”

While some volumizing mascaras can clump or leave lashes looking spidery and feeling brittle, emollients shea butter and castor seed oil ensure you get soft, fluttering results.

Price at time of publish: $25

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: Three | Size: 0.38 oz | Waterproof: No

Best Clean

Ami Cole Lash-Amplifying Mascara

Ami Cole Lash-Amplifying Mascara

  • This mascara earns high marks for its dark-as-midnight shade and buildable texture that swipes clean, even after a few passes.
  • Lashes can lose a touch of their curl after a long day.

The new It brand, Ami Cole, is one of the buzziest new mascaras we’ve seen in a long time. It’s formulated with 87 percent naturally-derived ingredients, including moisturizing shea butter and jojoba oil, which also offers just the right amount of slip so the wand travels through lashes easily and thoroughly. Swipe once for definition and twice (or more!) for drama that doesn’t look overdone.

We love the intense Rich Black shade when we want bold, luxurious-looking lashes. Place the bushy brush right at the base of your eyelid and wiggle outward for a fully feathered, dramatic look.

Price at time of publish: $19

Expert Approved: Yes | Shades: One | Size: 0.30 oz | Waterproof: No

What to Keep in Mind

Doctor Tested

Reaching for mascaras that have been tested by dermatologists and ophthalmologists during product development is crucial. Dermatologists focus on evaluating the mascara’s interaction with the skin and whether it is triggering a reaction, while ophthalmologists zero in on the ingredients as they relate to the overall health of the eye.

Opting for a mascara that is both dermatologist and ophthalmologist-approved ensures a professional level of vetting that results in a safer product, which is particularly necessary for sensitive eyes or contact lens wearers.

“More than anything else, it is important to use an ophthalmologist-tested and -approved mascara, which will help avoid sensitivity caused by mascara,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo.


Your natural inclination might be to grab a waterproof formula if you have sensitive or allergy-prone eyes, perhaps believing it could outlast any eye-watering or rubbing throughout the day. But surprisingly, waterproof formulas often have more chemicals that boost their longevity, making them more potentially risky to reactive types.

That said, if you really prefer the lasting power of waterproof formulas, there are a handful of sensitive products that are both expert-approved and waterproof (like our waterproof pick La Roche-Posay Toleriane Waterproof Mascara). Be sure to use a sensitive-eye and skin makeup remover and resist rubbing or tugging.

Your Questions, Answered

Is clean mascara better for sensitive eyes?

“A lot of traditional makeup is formulated using hazardous ingredients — but brands that tout themselves as being clean often follow stricter guidelines when developing their products,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo.

Mascara naturally has a dizzying list of ingredients while clean formulas aim to eliminate unnecessary filler ingredients when possible. “For me, I think of it like an insurance policy — why not use ingredients that are better for you, especially when it’s going so close to your eyes,” notes Amy Liu, founder and CEO of Tower 28.

But one note of caution: The ‘clean’ seal of approval doesn’t always mean it is ophthalmologist-approved. “It is important to understand that “clean” does not necessarily mean non-irritating and safe for the ocular surface,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo.

Does mascara expire?

“Mascara expires faster than most beauty products due to issues like cross-contamination and the fact that bacteria thrive in dark, damp environments (like a tube of mascara),” says Dr. Hilal-Campo.

Every single expert used the exact same lifespan for mascaras: Three months. In fact, if you have particularly sensitive eyes, cut that window down to one month, recommends Dr. Hilal-Campo, who argues that it’s simply not worth the irritation.

Why do my eyes burn when I wear mascara?

“It can be a reaction to the type of wax used or to any strong fragrance in the formula,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo. “Even if you use a “clean” formula, you may still have allergies to something in it. For example, many people have nut allergies — you may experience a reaction if you use a mascara with coconut oil.”

What is the best way to remove mascara?

The beauty of using a sensitive eye-focused mascara is the removal. Most, including our overall winner from Tower 28, come off easily with soap and water, thereby eliminating the need for makeup removers (which can be alcohol-based — a major no for sensitive eyes).

In the case of fiber mascaras, they don’t even need soap: A true fiber or tubular mascara will slide off the lashes with ease when soaked in warm water for 10 seconds. For all other formulations, Spickard recommends saturating a cotton pad in an oil-based remover, his favorite being the Clinique Take the Day Off Remover. “Hold the cotton pad to the closed eye for 30 to 60 seconds,” he says, allowing the remover to break down the product. Then gently swipe away and continue your cleansing routine.

Why Shop With Us

Kristin Limoges is a freelance editor for numerous publications, including Byrdie, Harper’s Bazaar, and WWD Shop, and has nearly a decade of beauty writing experience. She considers herself a sensitive eye expert — having experimented with innumerous mascaras on her sensitive, often irritated eyes for decades. To compile this list, she researched and tested several sensitive eye mascaras, and consulted with many experts — ophthalmologist Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo, dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, makeup artist Kasey Adam Spickard, and sensitive skin expert and brand founder Amy Liu — to lend their expertise and share their favorite tips and products.