IMPORTANT Notice to clients:

This is a reference for eyelash extension technicians. If you are experiencing a reaction, contact your technician immediately. Verifying your technician is licensed AND certified will ensure you receive the best care possible.

Your client calls you in the morning crying because her eyelids are the size of golf balls. She says her eyes itch and burn.  Did you do something wrong? Is she having an allergic reaction or was it caused by something else

What does an allergic reaction to eyelash adhesive look like?

Most clients with a reaction will swell, redden and itch.  A reaction normally occurs within the first 72 hours post service. You will notice the redness and swelling more on the lid as opposed to the actual eye. Think Quasimodo.  Not a pretty sight.  As a reaction can be very uncomfortable, as well as very unsightly, it is recommended that you remove the extensions as soon as possible.  Some clients will try to bear through it rather than forgo their beautiful lashes. However, chances are if they react once they will continue to react over and over again.

What causes adhesive reactions?

Allergic reactions to eyelash extensions are caused by an allergy to the cyanoacrylate base that is virtually in every eyelash extension adhesive.  Cyanoacrylates are a family of strong and fast-acting adhesives used in many different industries.  As with any chemical or substance, individuals can become allergic at any time. You can see a reaction after the first application or even years down the road.  It should be noted that reactions are not due to ‘formaldehyde’, because formaldehyde is not an added ingredient to eyelash adhesive, although it has been publicized otherwise.

Reactions are also not caused by the fumes or vapors of the adhesive. Allergies occur when the adhesive has had direct contact with the skin.  The more often the adhesive makes contact, the more likely a reaction will occur. The more prolonged the exposure, the more likely a client is to eventually react. I saw many more reactions in my clients during my early lashing days for this reason. As a newbie, I was using an excess of adhesive, as well as definitely getting too close to the lash line. This resulted in far more reactions than I see today. Since then, as an industry (myself included), we have realized that less is more. This is imperative to help cut down on reactions.

Could it be something else?

In addition to adhesive reactions, we should also remember that clients can react to many products and it may not be your adhesive that is causing it at all. Could your client be allergic to the cleanser or primer you are using? Could the eye pads you are using possibly be the culprits?  Although it is more likely that a client would react to the adhesive, don’t count out your other prep and procedure products. Some clients will complain of burning when having a reaction. Although this could signify a reaction it can also be what lash techs call “chemical pink eye”. When adhesive vapors enter the eye for an extended period of time, they can actually physically burn the sclera (the white of the eye). This can be caused from accidental eye opening during the procedure or an eyelid that does not close completely flush throughout the application.  This will usually resolve itself over the next day or so. Most clients complaining of only burning, not swelling or itching, are most likely experiencing this type of chemical burn as opposed to a cyanoacrylate adhesive reaction.

What can I do to prevent or avoid reactions?

A variety of precautions can be taken when trying to avoid a reaction. When dealing with sensitive clients we should:

  • Cleanse with a very gentle cleanser that doesn’t contain any fragrance or other irritating ingredients.
  • Skip the primer. Use saline to prep the lashes. It is the closest thing to natural tears and will avoid adding extra chemicals to the mix.
  • Skip the eyepads. Try using paper, foam, or transpore tape instead of eye pads. The collagen and other eye pad ingredients can expand and irritate your clients’ eyes. Mini biogel pads are also less irritating and may be an option as well. Be sure to ask your client beforehand if they have allergies to any type of tape.
  • Do not apply the extensions any closer than 1mm to the eyelid. Keeping this buffer will keep the adhesive on the lash and off the skin.
  • Use less adhesive. Despite what eyelash training you’ve received, you don’t actually need to see a bead or extra adhesive on the extension. You can get just as great of a bond using less, as long as your bases are secure.
  • Nebulize, or use a nanomister. The small microns of hydrogen in these devices won’t get the lashes wet, but will provide enough hydrogen that the adhesive will be instantly cured, making an end to adhesive fumes and vapors which could irritate the eyes further.
  • Teach your client proper aftercare. Teaching your clients how to efficiently clean and care for their lashes will help them to avoid reactions in the future. Maintaining good eye and eyelash health will promote healthy skin that is less easily irritated.
  • Do not give your client medical advice. Just a note to add, whether you have a sensitive client or a client experiencing a full blown reaction, NEVER give your client medical advice. Do not suggest OTC or prescription medications. Protocol when a client reacts is to remove the extensions as soon as possible, thoroughly wash the eye area, and apply cold compresses. Then advise your client to see their physician. As much as we like to think that our clients are looking out for us, any reaction is not worth you being held legally liable because you gave them medical advice.
In summary, take time to become educated about allergic reactions, specifically in relation to cyanoacrylate adhesives. Your clients trust you to take care of their eyes and it’s a lash tech’s duty to apply eyelashes as safely as they can. Because of this, never skip a client consultation and never forget to have clients sign a consent form. Make sure to go over your clients’ health history and look for any contraindications that may exclude them from getting eyelash extensions. Take care of your clients and take care of yourself. Happy Lashing!

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