MY FORMULATION & DO NOT BUY LIST
Ingredients mean everything when it comes to the high maintenance needs of the eyes. There are so many details to consider when I formulate new products for my patients. I think about the layers of the tear film, the various glands that orchestrate clear and comfortable vision but that are also prone to damage and/or infection, eyelash follicles, eyelashes, the eyelids, eyelid margins, the conjunctiva, the cornea, blood vessels, epithelium, the blink, pollution, makeup, blue light from devices . . . just to name a few 😊.
There are thousands of ingredients that I do not use in my formulations. Here I will expand on a few that may need further explanation. But first, let me talk about the claims that are printed on my unit cartons. I choose not to formulate with sulfates, gluten, parabens, formaldehyde, or fake fragrance because I believe there are better, healthier ingredients available for eye care formulation. Along the same thought process, I choose not formulate with polyethylene glycol (PEG-#) compounds or paraffin. Instead I prefer to formulate with plant based glycols and botanical waxes and esters.
Now let’s talk more about ingredients you read about everyday . . .
Retinol & it’s derviatives. This is a hot topic because you see tretinoin, retinols, and retinals used in eye and face preparations to no end. How an ingredient is formulated matters just as much as in what form an ingredient enters the body. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is administered orally and has shown to damage the meibomian gland epithelium which impairs oil and tear function (The Influence of 13-cis Retinoic Acid on Human Meibomian Gland Epithelial Cells; Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013 Jun; 54(6): 4341–4350.).
Here is where things get confusing. In my 20 years of practicing, I have seen devastating and debilitating dry eye with Rx topical retinoids such as Retin-A / tretinoin, and also OTC topical retinols and retinals. I have also seen patients that have no problem whatsoever. On top of that . . . as an optometrist, I know that Vitamin A is also healthy for the tear film for a dry eye patient. There is so much more to learn about this area.
But moving forward, as a precaution, for my patients that have been diagnosed with dry eyes / meibomian gland dysfunction – we have a discussion and depending on the severity and symptoms. Many of my patients are advised to avoid all retinoids, retinols, and retinals on the face and eye area. Migration from the face to the eye area is always a concern whether it be transfer from rubbing in during skin care routine or pillow transfer – it’s hard to say exactly.
And it’s important to note that currently there are no definitive studies showing that topical retinoids etc . . . are safe and/or harmful to meibomian glands. So talk to your optometrist and see what's best for you.
Phenoxyethanol. How an ingredient is formulated and in what percentage concentration matters very much. You’ll see this ingredient in most eye makeup products nowadays. It is a very good preservative to keep your eye liner, mascara, and concealer type products safe. The EU has banned cosmetic products with phenoxyethanol in concentrations higher than 1% due to toxicity.
As a precaution, I currently do not formulate with phenoxyethanol. But if you find this ingredient in any of your eye care or skin care products, you can always contact the manufacturer to confirm the percentage is 1% or less before using.
Tea Tree Oil. There is a study that came out of Harvard Medical School showing that even in low concentrations, when the active chemical component of tea tree oil, terpinen-4-ol, is left in a petri dish with meibomian gland cells for at least 15 minutes, damage does occur. As a precaution, I always have my patients wash off the cleansing oils and foaming cleanser that contain tea tree oil. And of course, do not spend 15 minutes removing your eye makeup, wink.
CBD. To this day, there are no set standards as to how much CBD should actually be used in cosmetic formulations. I believe that because of this, CBD as a skin care ingredient has trended out. From an eye care perspective, there are studies that may or may not suggest that CBD may or may not increase eye pressure. I know, super vague and iffy – but until I know that CBD definitely does not alter eye pressure, my patients are restricted from using CBD products around their eyes or face.
BAK. Benzalkonium chloride is the most common form of preservation in prescription and certain OTC eye drops. It is also the preservative used in Latisse lash serum. I have more patients allergic to BAK than I ever thought possible. And for some of my patients that are addicted to “get-the-red-out” type eye drops, having them discontinue the eye drop (hence eliminating the BAK) – fixes their dry eye problems!
MY DO NOT BUY PHILOSOPHY
DO NOT BUY! Reading labels on cosmetics can be overwhelming and intimidating. But you must ALWAYS READ labels before using. I’m all about saying how it is and being fully transparent about the ingredients that I use to formulate. I’m a forever student, and these are the 3 things I’ve learned along my formulation journey. As a general rule of thumb:
If the full ingredient list of any eye makeup or eye care product is not fully disclosed on the website AND product packaging before buying . . . DO NOT BUY!
If the full ingredient list is listed in alphabetical order, instead of the INCI cosmetic standard, by concentration order . . . DO NOT BUY!
If the product after opening date or recommended replacement period for any eye makeup or eye care product is not 6 months or more. This, in my opinion, is not a well formulated, stable product, and perhaps not a properly preserved product. DO NOT BUY!
THE NECESSARY EVILS. In a perfect world, I wouldn't need any of these ingredients. These are ingredients are a must when creating products that are safe, stable, and with a shelf life. Usually these ingredients run extremely low in concentrations at 0.001% to 1.0%.
- Preservatives to prevent bacteria and mold growth. Preservatives can also wipe out good, natural flora when applied. It’s something I’m always mindful of. All eye care products need to be tested for preservative efficacy at a third-party FDA approved lab. No exceptions.
- Solvents (other than water) used to dissolve other ingredients so they can be formulated. A common one is alcohol for dissolving ingredients that come in powder form.
- Emulsifiers that allow oil based ingredients to mix with water based ingredients.
- Chelators that keep a formula stable over time.
- pH adjusters are used to help a formula achieve a particular acid number for ocular comfort and ideal preservation efficacy. Common ones I use are citric acid and sodium hydroxide at levels less than 0.1%.
Love + Healthy Eyes,
Dr. Tanya Gill – Optometrist, Founder & CEO