While daily use of mascara is probably safe for most, it can cause irritation for some. Read: If this has never bothered you before, you can assume that you are part of the lucky majority and can continue to wear it wholeheartedly.

But if that’s not you: here’s a little anatomy lesson on the eye itself to explain why it causes problems, James Chelnis, MD, oculofacial plastic surgeon and clinical assistant professor at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at Mount Sinai.

Your eyelid has three parts that produce various fluids: water (which we identify as tears), mucus (which you might notice when you wake up with a “scab” in the morning), and oil. For our purposes, the latter is the most important. The oil actually forms a slick around the eye to keep water in, keeping your eyes hydrated. (“When I have surgery or an exam, I can actually see the oil coating on the eye,” he says.)

If our sebaceous glands around the eye stop working properly, they cannot keep the water sealed on the eye. “Have you ever heard someone complain that they have dry eyes but still cry? What is happening over there is that the eye probably doesn’t have enough oil to hold it in. water, ”explains Chelnis. And mascara can actually clog the pores in the area, reducing sebum production, especially if it’s not washed off every night. “This not only leads to dryness, but also to styes and inflammation of the eyelids,” he says.

Plus, “while doing exams or surgery, I actually found mascara debris trapped under the eyelid, often causing inflammation,” he says.

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