Having an allergic reaction to eyelash extensions is rare, but it does happen. If you have been in the lash industry for a few months or many years you have probably heard about or personally experienced a client having an allergic reaction. Many times, what a client perceives to be an allergy could really just be irritation. Knowing the difference between the two, and recognizing the signs of each, will help you better educate your clients and ensure their safety and peace of mind.
I highly recommend giving each and every client a waiver form to initial or sign that lays out the risks associated with getting eyelash extensions applied, so they acknowledge and accept the responsibility that comes with the service. I also recommend telling your clients about an allergic reaction during their consultation, before their service. Not to scare them, but to keep them well informed so they know what to look for in the rare case that they do have a reaction. It is important to note that you cannot give your clients medical advice of any kind, or “diagnose” them, but you can give them knowledge and keep them educated so they can make their own decisions.
Clients will often associate any type of reaction to an allergy, so it is important to know the difference between irritations vs allergies.
Eyelash Extension Allergic Reactions:
What is an allergy? “An abnormal reaction of the body to a previously encountered allergen introduced by inhalation, ingestion, injection, or skin contact, often manifested by itchy eyes, runny nose, wheezing, or skin rash.” – Dictionary .com
What are the symptoms? The most common symptoms of an allergic reaction to eyelash extensions is swollen eyelids, redness along the lash line, accompanied by discomfort or itchiness around the eye area. There typically isn’t any oozing of fluid from the eye, like there would be if one had pink eye or another type of eye infection. The symptoms will most likely show up a day or two after the lashes have been applied and will become increasingly worse the more the client is exposed to the allergen, i.e. continuing to get eyelash extensions applied. It is important to note that an allergy usually does not show up after the first application, it can develop after a few exposures or years of exposure which is why it is important to educate your clients from the beginning.
What causes the allergic reaction? When a client experiences an allergic reaction to the eyelash extensions it is actually to the adhesive. More specifically the base ingredient in all lash adhesives. This ingredient is called cyanoacrylate and is the main ingredient that solidifies when curing or setting. In other words, this ingredient is what creates the strong bond between a client’s natural lash and the eyelash extension. Because this ingredient cannot be left out of the adhesive, switching to another brand or a “sensitive” adhesive will still expose your client to the allergen and they will still experience symptoms. Although sensitive adhesives contain smaller amounts of this ingredient, and some clients can tolerate a sensitive formula better, it needs to be noted that the allergen is still present, and the reaction will most likely not go away until the adhesive is completely removed.
What can you do to treat an allergy? As stated above, clients who have had a true allergic reaction will continue to have a reaction when exposed to eyelash adhesives, no matter the formulation or brand. Taking an antihistamine has been known to help alleviate symptoms, and removing the extensions as soon as possible is also advised. If a client insists on keeping the lash extensions on, there is topical medications that can be used to treat the allergy, so they can continue to enjoy lash extensions, but the medication requires a prescription. I have found it helpful to have a doctor(s) who you can refer clients to in the case of a true allergic reaction.
Eyelash Extension Irritation:
What is irritation? Irritation and allergies can appear to have the same symptoms, but irritations are typically less severe than allergic reactions and usually don’t last longer than a day and will get better over time. One exception to this is that lash extensions can contribute to the symptoms of seasonal allergies, when a person already has irritated and sensitive eyes, or for a client who is just extremely sensitive.
What are the symptoms? Irritations can cause redness, usually to the whites of the eye (sclera) and itching of the eye area. See how this can get confused for an allergic reaction? Irritations are much milder and will subside with time, whereas allergies will not.
What causes irritation? Fumes! Majority of irritation will come from the fumes the lash adhesive gives off as it cures or sets. The individual gas molecules from that base ingredient, cyanoacrylate, leave the adhesive while you work and can cause irritation to the eyes, as well as to someone breathing it in.
How can I prevent irritations from occurring? Limiting the amount of fumes your clients are exposed to will be the biggest help. You can do this by:
- working in a well-ventilated room. Use a fan, open the door or a window to keep air flowing.
- Make sure your client’s eyes are securely shut while working. If they open their eyes periodically, adhesive fumes can seep in and cause stinging, or irritation. (swapping out the lash pads for medical tape can help clients with extremely sensitive skin. I use a barrier cream under the eye before applying the medical tape).
- Shake the bottle extremely well before using to make sure it is mixed well. If the adhesive is not properly mixed, it will be separated, and the first drops will be extremely concentrated.
- Use the correct amount of adhesive. Adhesive should not be pooling up around the lashes. Using a thin, even amount tends to work well and limit irritation.
- Use a Nano-mister frequently throughout the service will cure the adhesive, limiting exposure to those pesky molecules that are floating around.
- Rinse your client’s eyes, just their eyes NOT their lashes, with saline. This will remove any residue from the fumes from in their eyes.
- Explain after care instructions to your client so they understand the importance of keeping their lashes clean. Buildup breeds bacteria which is bad news for their eyes.
Even when avoiding things that can cause irritation, and following all the guidelines, allergies and irritation can occur. Take your client’s concerns seriously and check in on them after a day or two if they have let you know they are having some irritation after having lashes applied. Don’t automatically assume it’s an allergy. The best thing you can do is remain calm and confident so as to not freak your client out unnecessarily. Staying educated and being able to recognize the signs of an allergy or irritation will keep your clients safe and build their confidence in you as a professional.
*PLEASE NOTE: THE ABOVE IS JUST A GUIDLINE TO HELP MINIMIZE IRRITATION AND IDENTIFY AN ALLERGY. IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO CONSULT A HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL WHEN MEDICAL RELATED ISSUES ARE INVOLVED.