Makeup Tips for Dry Eye Sufferers

02/18/2011 05:18 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Esther Joszef greets me with a fresh face.

"You see this," says the 20something entrepreneur of Total E cosmetics, pointing to her flawless complexion, "I purposely didn't put on any eye makeup today to show you that you can bring attention to your eyes without putting on eye makeup." Knowing that I suffer from extreme DES (that's Dry Eye Syndrome for those not in the know) and blog about it, Joszef has volunteered to teach me some tricks of her trade.

The apples of her cheeks are rosy, her blue eyes are prominently on display, but the rest of her face looks au natural and as far as makeup goes, I can't spot a smidge.

She shows me her "secret tool," an eyelash curler reminiscent of 1950s pinups, and, for some reason, Joan Crawford -- someone who would truly suffer for beauty through torturous devices. I grimace while Joszef explains that there's nothing to be afraid of, an eyelash curler is a girl's best friend.

Her point is that you can bring attention to your face, or as she eloquently puts it, you can achieve "Visage Attention," with great skin, curled lashes and perfectly arched brows.

"There are so many ways to get this attention without having that sexy smoky eye or any eye makeup at all," Joszef explains, "This clean look can be created with great luminous foundation or base and good shading bronzer, which gives great definition to bone structure. For a more glamoruos look, add a red shade of lipstick and a pop of blush. Finding the right red lipstick and blush to match is key. It can really help bring out your eyes."

When I apply my Mary Kay lip glaze in Mango later on, I see what she means. It is exactly the right coral-red to make my eyes pop out despite the fact that I'm wearing it far from my eyes.

"Excellently shaped brows are essential," says Joszef as I think smugly, well, I've got that one in the bag. As if reading my thoughts she says "Your eyebrows are a little too long" and snip, snip, she fixes them just like that.

When I speak to my friend Abbie Leibowitz, an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics and a fellow dry eye sufferer, she tells me that unlike Joszef, she can't do without eye makeup. "The purpose of eye makeup is to draw attention to the eyes. I'm not sure what I would do without it." She mentions various cream and powder shadows from Mary Kay that don't irritate her eyes. I explain that mascara and liner can be killers for me, but Leibowitz, who uses the prescription drop Restasis, says that she waits a half hour and applies eye shadows, liner and mascara from the Mary Kay line.

When I ask my ophthalmologist if there is a particular makeup brand that he recommends, he says to stick with hypoallergenic brands like Neutrogena and Almay and then he pauses, concluding that most brands have gone hypoallergenic today (Joszef echoes his thoughts when I talk to her about hypoallergenic brands). He adds that using a cream rather than a powder shadow is key because powder can travel into the eyes.

At Joszef's place, she applies Total E gel liner in Onyx to my upper lids just above the lash line and some light brown cream shadow that is also from her line. These products stay put the entire day, For once in my life after applying eye makeup, my eyes remain unperturbed by a product (save for my usual dryness). When my regular facewash doesn't do the trick that night, I take out Abbie Leibowitz's Mary Kay Oil-Free Eyemakeup Remover to get the liner and shadow off. Now that was some powerful makeup that didn't irritate my eyes!

Joszef also gives me a blush that can double as a bronzer. It is just the right natural shade (and I am reminded of Nars "Orgasm" blush) to bring attention to my eyes through a healthy glow that is nowhere near the eyes. I am thrilled when the Total E mineral matte blush in Adobe works well on the nose and forehead without turning me into a carrot or an Umpa Lumpa.

After consulting with experts and from years of experimenting on my own and being a total product junkie, I would advise readers to do the following to bring attention to eyes without irritating them. These tricks will give you that celeb makeup look without tearing (that's TEER-ing) your eyes out:

Apply eye drops first, then wait 1/2 hour before applying makeup.

Whether you use Restasis or natural tear drops like Blink Gel Tears (my favorite), Systane or Refresh, let your eyes become as moist as possible before you begin your makeup routine. Avoid drops for red eyes (Clear Eyes and Visine) because ophthalmologists warn that those drops can actually dry out your eyes.

Stick with Cream.

As mentioned above, powder can travel and irritate the eyes. If there's a powder shadow that you prefer, Leibowitz advises using an eyeshadow primer (i.e. Mary Kay Eye Primer). This cream keeps the eyeshadow on by providing a base on which to adhere.

Be brave and invest in an eyelash curler.

This is one piece of advice that I personally won't follow, but mascara can be very irritating to eyes, so curling one's lashes may be the secret for achieving that feminine lashy-lash look. If you must use mascara, stick with the kind that's for sensitive eyes. As Joszef and my ophthalmologist warn, do not use waterproof mascara. Mascara is worn so close to the eyes and when mascara is waterproof, the process of trying to remove it can be so irritating to the eyes.

The power of light or white.

Tyra Banks might throw tantrums on TV and cry every time she eliminates a Top Model contestant, but she has something down to a science: the power of white. Tyra's tip for taking eyes from tired-looking to refreshed? applying white eyeliner in the corner of the eye. I wear mine in the upper inner corners to really brighten up my blue eyes (and I'm careful not to apply it too close the eye itself). Lancome Le Crayon Kohl eyeliner pencil in Blanc is what does the trick and I find Lancome makeup to be stellar and great for sensitive eyes.

I also use Lancome's Maquicomplet Complete Coverage Concealer in Light Buff to cover up dark circles under the eyes. The concealer doesn't budge so it is non-irritating and it also is packed with moisturizer for hydration so you don't have that unnaturally concealed look. It also delivers a certain lightness to the undereye area (where it's generally darker unless you're genetically blessed) that illuminates skin and further draws attention to the eyes.

In addition, above your blushed cheeks at the top of the "apples," you can apply a dot of a brightener such as Mary Kay's Facial Highlighting Pen. This product has special light reflecting pigments to make your face look brighter. A brighter face will draw attention to your eyes and make them brighter, again, without you having to apply product near the eyes. Just keep in mind when it comes to brighteners that a little goes a long way toward achieving the right contrast.

Choose a lipstick that puts Snow White to shame

Aside from the well-known tips of choosing a lipstick color based on your skin tone and looking for a shade that's 2 shades darker than your natural lips, when you try on a shade, pay special attention to what it does for your eyes.

I've noticed that brownish reds and light plum shades seem to draw my blue eyes out. Don't try to go too dramatic or goth because inevitably, you'll end up wiping it off when someone tells you something doesn't look right. Stick with a lipstick or gloss that's not too unnatural but also brings an element of drama to your look.

I felt that I could really achieve this through Joszef's Total E Plumberry lip gloss. For a more summery look, I use a shade that Leibowitz gave me from the Mary Kay lipstick line - The shade is Pink Passion and it has enough lightness to contrast with baby blues. The best part is that for me, it doubles as a blush.

Choose a blush that creates a post-exercise flush

Go to the gym and then check your face out in the mirror. That after-exercise flush is the shade of blush required for your skin. You'll look natural and pretty and in turn, this too will bring out your eyes. Nars blush in Orgasm works for many women (with a name like that, how can you go wrong?) and Nars now offers a brand new shade (and another great name) called Sex Appeal. It provides a sheer natural hint of color that seems to suit most complexions.

Don't forget to exfoliate!

The last step in achieving a great face that's dewy, fresh and ready for makeup is keeping your skin smooth. I'm pretty sure Clara Bow didn't know much about exfoliating in the 1920s, but it's the word on every makeup artist's glossy lips. If you're makeup isn't sticking or your moisturizing isn't seeping, "exfoliation" probably isn't in your lexicon...but it's the tip that's being talked up, so it probably should be.

I recommend using Lancome's Exfoliance Confort, which has natural antioxidants like honey and will leave your skin feeling soft and smooth to the touch.

As Esther Joszef says "To showcase your eyes, you need clean, supple looking skin." Exfoliate 2-3 times per week.