Yesterday I had a thought when I was struggling to find a hot-pink eyeliner: Could I just use a lip liner on my eyes? It seemed innocuous enough. So I hopped on the Google machine to see what the Internet had to say and…crickets. Other than a few random blog posts and a Yahoo Answers thread from 2009, there aren’t any solid answers. So I spoke with two cosmetic chemists to get the facts—can you use lip liner as eyeliner and vice versa? The answer is pretty shocking.
Turns out you should never, ever use a lip liner as an eyeliner. Here’s why: Even though the ingredients for pencil eyeliners and lip liners are almost identical, where they differ is in the pigments and color additives used for each (and those aren’t always clearly identifiable on the ingredient list). “I would not interchange these two products, since the one made specifically for eyes was formulated with pigments suitable for eye area,” says cosmetic chemist Joseph Cincotta. “You need to be careful around eyes; take no chances.”
The FDA takes this whole matter pretty seriously. They have strict guidelines for what color additives can be used in cosmetic eye makeup. They even caution against using a lip liner, or any makeup product not intended to be near your eyeball, in that general vicinity (you can read their eye-cosmetics safety guidelines here). That means no lipstick, blush, lip liner, or general color product should ever go near your eyes. At best, you risk mild eye irritation. At worst? “Using unapproved colorants around your eye could even lead to blindness,” says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller, the editor of thebeautybrains.com. “Colors intended for use around the eye have to be specially approved by the FDA.”
The reverse scenario, using eyeliner on your lips, is not quite as dire. Since the regulation of pigments is so strict for eye makeup—and the ingredients are almost identical—you can theoretically use your eyeliner as lip liner (though I don’t know why you would need to when there are about 8 billion lip liners in the world). Just be smart: Don’t then go back and start wiping the contaminated pencil on your eyes (ewwww).
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