The modern day plague of the lash industry. The dreaded lash allergy.
I have become slightly obsessed with this subject. I enjoyed having lash extensions for a couple years. Then one day, out of nowhere, I became allergic. I did all the things to try and keep my lashes. We will go over all these “things” that have been rumored to help later. Let me start off by answering a few general questions
What does the lash allergy look like?
There will be some degree of the following...
swelling of the eyelids
dry and flaky skin on eyelids
How long does it take for symptoms to appear?
generally 12-24 hours. For me personally it was always the next morning. I would wake up with my lids swollen and severe itchiness that wouldn’t calm down until I had them removed. Typically the allergy will present itself after the client has gotten her lashes done 3 times. This is because it takes a few times for the body to be exposed to the allergen before it builds up a response. I know that there are several people out there (myself included) that took years for the body to produce a response to the allergen. Then there are some who have an immediate response the first time being exposed. This is a mystery and has no answers. Doctors aren’t sure why our bodies do this. This is the same with food. You can eat a food for your whole life and then become allergic or have it for the first time and go into shock.
It’s estimated that 5% of the population is allergic to cyanoacrylate. This ingredient is in every single lash adhesive on the market today. It is the ingredient that allows our adhesive to cure and harden. The higher percentage of cyanoacrylate the faster the adhesive cures.
Since there is always a possibility of our clients developing an allergy what should we do?
Patch test? This is a method when a lash artist will apply a small amount of adhesive onto the clients skin and wait 24 hours for a reaction. This method is actually very outdated. I don’t recommend doing a patch test. A more accurate test will be to apply 5-10 lash extension on each eye. Keep the extensions the same length as the clients natural lashes so they don’t have to walk around looking funny. I do this method when I have a new client come to me that is scared of having an allergy because she has very sensitive skin or has had a small reaction from extensions in the past but seems unsure if she’s allergic. Applying a few lashes will help you make a determination if they should proceed with a full set. Give them a call the morning after and see how they did. It’s very important to keep in mind that your client may still have a reaction even if they were able to tolerate a few lashes. The exposure will obviously be much more intense with a full set. Warn them!!! I do not do this with every new client. I only offer this if the client expresses concern.
The next thing that you 100% need to do is Talk to your clients!!! If you have a new client let them know about the possibility of being allergic. Even if this client has been getting lashes from another artist with no reaction. You need to be having this conversation with every single client that walks in your door. This will help reduce the amount of anxiety your clients will have if they do have a reaction. During your new client intake process you should go over the possibility of having an allergy or developing one in the future. Have a game plan in place just in case. I have my clients sign an acknowledgement that....
#1 there is a possibility of having an allergy
#2 what my policy is if this happens (I offer free removal but no refunds)
#3 what their options for treatment are (we’ll get into this soon I promise)
Type up a simple lash allergy informed consent and have your clients sign it!
Ok, so what about all the tips and tricks out there on good ole Google? Here are a few things that you may have heard of. Yes, these things may work for some clients and not others. There will be one success story and it will spread like wild fire but then the same technique wont work for your client. Let’s talk about some of these things. First, I’m going to tell you why they may work for some and not others. There is no way for us to know if our client is actually allergic or just having a reaction from a sensitivity. If it is in fact a sensitivity, we have no way of knowing what level of sensitivity they actually have. Severe? Mild? Who knows. If they are allergic then none of the industry tricks will work. None.
What we’ve learned from google and other lash artists...
Try a sensitive adhesive...
If your client is not in fact allergic but only has a sensitivity then this may work for them. The problem is that we have no way of knowing. Even if it is just a sensitivity you don’t know what level of cyanoacrylate their body will tolerate. You may try 10 different sensitive adhesives and your client may still have a reaction to every single one. Or maybe it will work for one client but not the other. I personally don’t like playing this game. Adhesives are expensive! This guessing game can be very costly. Also, the lower the percent of cyanoacrylate, the slower the adhesive will dry and the lower the retention goes down. These glues simply dry very slow which causes frustration and they get horrible retention.
Try a clear adhesive...
This will only help if the client is indeed allergic to the carbon black and not the cyanoacrylate. This is very uncommon. I find that people who are allergic to carbon black have already been exposed since this ingredient is also in cosmetics and know they are allergic.
Try a formaldehyde free adhesive...
This is a marketing ploy. Don’t fall for it. Every single professional adhesive on the market today is formaldehyde free. It’s like advertising strawberries as being gluten free. No sh** they’re already naturally gluten free.
Using a bonder or sealant...
This will help clients who have a slight irritation when they get extensions but it will not help clients who are allergic or highly sensitive.
Place the extension a little lower on the lid...
This will not help a allergy and will only put unnecessary stress on the natural lash.
I know there are a lot more tricks out there but in a effort to wrap this up before I bore you to death, I’m going to move on.
Before going over the exact protocol that will beat the lash allergy I need to tell you that your client will need to do their own due diligence by seeking medical attention.
They must go to the dr and get a proper diagnosis. The technical term is Contact Dermatitis. There is a topical steroid cream that will be prescribed to them. This will alleviate the symptoms almost immediately. There is no way around this. If they are allergic and want to keep their lashes then they must get this prescription to get relief and to avoid the allergic symptoms. Once they have the prescription they are able to use to actually prevent any reaction all together. I was actually able to get the prescription before the reaction by telling my dr about the reaction I’ve had in the past and that I wanted the cream on hand to hopefully prevent these symptoms from appearing. I only had to use the steroid cream for two days. This is very typical according to the studies that have been done. The body’s initial reaction will calm down after a couple days and they can discontinue use. However, it is very important to understand that the reaction will reappear every time they have a lash service so you will want to have this script on hand. Once your client has the prescription then you will be able to work with them and follow this protocol to actually prevent the reaction from appearing. I’ll say it again, there is no way around seeing a dr for a proper steroid that is SAFE to use around the eyelid!!!! Over the counter steroid creams are not meant for the eye area and will have warnings on the packaging. Your clients must get a dr prescribed medication.
The protocol that I’m going to share with you is the only thing that helped me. I am now able to wear lash extensions. I work with my dr and lash artists to manage my allergy. This is what worked for me and you can share this with your client.
The night before lash appointment wash lashes with a lash shampoo. Apply the topical steroid to the eyelid area focusing on the base of the lash line.
Repeat this step in the morning.
Wash lashes well with a lash shampoo to remove all traces of the cream/ointment right before lash appointment. We don’t want our clients coming to us with this gunk all over their lashes!!!
Lash artist part...
When your client arrives make sure that all traces of cream/ointment are removed by cleansing lashes yourself. Don’t just ask the clients if they are clean. Actually clean them to make sure. I suggest our Pregame no rinse cleanser to make your life a little easier. Spray it on an adhesive wipe and cleanse the lashes thoroughly.
After applying the last lash extension allow adhesive to dry for 3 minutes. Then apply a bonder. This will help by not leaving the adhesive bonding points porous. If the bonds are left porous the chemical fumes from the adhesive will continue to escape. I use our bonder, Insurance, for this. My lash allergy is one of the reasons I created this product. After applying Insurance bonder you will let the lashes dry for 3 minutes.
After Insurance bonder is completely dry you will cleanse the lashes again. Use Pregame no rinse cleanser to wipe lashes and eyelid area thoroughly. Don’t worry, lashes can get wet 3 minutes after applying Insurance.
Instruct your clients to use their prescription as soon as they get home. They can even bring it with them to apply in their car. Tell them wash their lashes with a lash shampoo or warm water before bed. After washing lashes they will apply their prescription to the lid area as before. They will need to continue this process of washing and applying cream a couple times a day for 2-3 days. The key to this is to keep lashes clean and medicated for the first 2 days to prevent the symptoms from appearing. I did not have one bit of swelling when I followed this and my eyes would usually swell shut and I would have uncontrollable itching. I had zero symptoms following this advice.
Things to ask yourself and your clients. Are they willing to take these extra steps before and after their lash appointment. Make sure they know they may need to get fills more often as well. Are you willing to work with them? You obviously aren’t obligated. Do you fell comfortable taking these steps with your clients? Is it moral to do so?
I personally believe that it is up to our clients. It’s their decision. Their body. Their time. Their money. If they are willing to take the steps then I am willing to take extra steps on my end to help them be able to continue enjoying lash extensions. I feel like I am educating them on what their options are and they will make an informed decision.
Disclaimer: we are not able to diagnose clients! This is why we send them to a Dr. we can only give our professional OPINION. We can not apply any prescription medication to our clients!!!!!! They will have to apply the medication themselves. You can only recommend the use of what has already been prescribed by a doctor. Stay in your lane!
Now you can beat the lash allergy and keep your clients ❤️