Can liquid eyeliner cause a sinus infection? An investigation.

I’m one of those people who always, ALWAYS has sinus pain.

I’m constantly rubbing my face and complaining that it hurts, and as soon as there’s so much as a gust of wind or a change in season, I have a sinus infection.

I’ve typically put it down to the structure of my face and my weirdly-uneven nostrils, but last week, I heard a different suggestion.

I was at work, whinging (obviously) about my… face, when my colleague said in passing, “it’s your own fault”.

Umm. How… rude.

Taken slightly aback by the insinuation that my chronic face pain was my own fault, I asked her why.

“Stop wearing eyeliner,” she responded. “It causes sinus infections.”



What do you mean eyeliner causes sinus infections?! That sounds like a thing that definitely isn't true and someone a little bit made up.

But then I thought about it. I'm stuck in that early 2000s phase (inspired by Laguna Beach and The Hills) where I wear liquid eyeliner on my water line. Not the really wet liquid eyeliner, but the type that has the consistency of clay, and stays put. On the inside of my eye.


The theory goes that the eyeliner trickles into your tear ducts, drains into the sinuses, gets trapped, and causes an infection.

It's so gross it could just be true.

So I asked Dr. Brad McKay - my go-to for any of my countless health concerns - whether eyeliner causing sinus infections is actually a thing.

First, he said, I shouldn't worry too much about eyeliner getting in my eyes. “Liquid eyeliner is designed to be used around your eyes, so you’re bound to get some in it," he said. "The vast majority of the time, this is not an issue."


“Some people are surprised to find that their nasal secretions are the same colour as their eyeliner when they blow their nose." That's... that's me. He's talking about me.

But it seems my worrying was for nothing. "Liquid eyeliner is fortunately 'liquid' and unlikely to form clumps, block tear ducts, or cause sinus infections," said Dr. Brad.


HOWEVER, that's not to say liquid eyeliner can't cause problems.

"Some eyeliners can trigger allergic reactions in some people, causing allergic conjunctivitis," said Dr. Brad. "If this happens, you need to stop using the eyeliner straight away, give yours eyes a break, then try a different product when they’ve recovered."

And you should definitely be paying attention to the expiry date on your eyeliner. "When eyeliner gets past its expiry date, bacteria starts growing in the liquid," said Dr. Brad. "However, applying 'bacterial soup' to your eye line is much more likely to give you conjunctivitis than a sinus infection - the surface of your eye is much more susceptible to infections."

'Bacterial soup' is a term I'm really happy to have learnt today.

And I'm also relieved my penchant for liquid eyeliner probably isn't causing my sinus problems. Now it seems I have to work out what's happening with the rest of my face.

You can read more about Dr. Brad McKay, here