A: I've seen lots of women having their brows dyed in various salons over the years, so I thought this question was a no-brainer. But it's not. There are no FDA-approved dyes for tinting lashes or brows, and serious eye injuries, including blindness, have resulted from using permanent dyes on them, says Marguerite McDonald, MD, clinical professor of ophthalmology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center. An allergic reaction to the dye could result in swelling, inflammation, and an increased chance of infection in the eye area, says McDonald. But because I've seen so many women coloring their brows, I asked McDonald if there's anything you can do to minimize the risk of problems. After reiterating that she thinks dyeing brows and lashes is a very bad idea, she advised these three things:
1. Put a 1-inch strip of a bland ophthalmic ointment (like Refresh P.M.) in your eyes by pulling down the lower lid and squeezing the ointment into the little pink space inside. After a few blinks, the ointment will spread evenly over the entire cornea. Though your vision will be blurry for an hour or so, your corneas will be protected if the dye splashes or drips into your eyes.
2. Apply a thin coating of the same ointment on both upper and lower eyelids, as close to the lashline as possible, and extending about 2 inches away. This will protect your eyelid skin from a splash.
3. Keep at least two bottles of sterile eye irrigating solution (such as Bausch & Lomb Advanced Eye Relief Eye Wash) within arm's reach while the dyeing is being done. You will know if dye has gotten into your eyes because you will feel a terrible pain or burning. (Thank you, doctor.) If that happens, irrigate the eye with the entire bottle; use the second one if the burning continues. Get medical help if your eyes still burn or sting, you have impaired vision, or your lids are irritated. And never have your brows or lashes dyed when you have a cold or allergies; a sneeze could flip the dye into your eyes.
Bottom line: A safer choice would be to use an eyebrow pencil or powder and mascara, because they contain colors and compounds that are FDA approved for use in the eye area.