Understanding Allergic Reactions to Eyelash Adhesives

Understanding Allergic Reactions to Eyelash Adhesives

Published by Lorri Axelsen on Dec 31st 2019

Over the years, Lash Savvy has received numerous calls from Lash Tech’s about “glue allergies.” It always strikes me odd when lash techs are stumped or confused as to why their client had an allergic reaction to the adhesive. Whether it was a first-time client or a regular client that has been wearing lashes for years, I always wonder why there are not more allergic reactions. How can I think this way? I’m sure you are wondering. Well, I’m going to proceed with a long but informative article on cyanoacrylates. I will try to keep it as simple and broken down as possible because I know this subject can seem confusing and that's because allergies to your lash adhesive AKA Cyanoacrylate is complicated. But, I'm really hoping to give you the information that will make sense to you and answer all of your long awaited questions.

Let’s start with the word CYANOACRYLATE. Cyanoacrylates are quick bonding “super glues or crazy glue.” It has a short shelf life – most are 30 days after opening. It is Super Glue or model glue. Yes, you are reading correctly! For the use on eyelashes, there are additives and different formulations to make it with fewer fumes. However, all cyanoacrylates are irritants, and the reason I’m never surprised when a person has an allergic reaction. The eyes are the most sensitive mucus membrane in the human body. We are using “super glue” to attach a foreign object (lash extensions) to a hair that is growing out from our client’s eyelids.

So, what is going on in the body when a person has an allergic reaction to cyanoacrylate?

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance known as an allergen, and in the case of eyelash extensions, think of your glue as the allergen. Pollen, dust, pet dander, and insect stings are also types of allergens.

The immune system protects the body from infections, viruses, and diseases. In some people, substances such as cyanoacrylate, trigger the production of antibodies called Immunoglobulin. These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing symptoms of swelling, itching, and a gooey discharge to the area that has been exposed to the allergen (the eyes).

The first time a person with an allergy is exposed to the allergen (cyanoacrylate), it may not cause a reaction. However, the person is then sensitized to the allergen and, in this case, the “cyanoacrylate”. Then, even minor future exposures to cyanoacrylate will produce an allergic reaction. Ever had a client have an allergic reaction on the 2nd visit?

The unfortunate reality is – if a person is allergic to cyanoacrylate, they just are. It is no different than being allergic to bees, pollen, peanuts, or dust. So, why is it that when one of our clients has an allergic reaction, it seems like such a complicated issue? We wonder why this is happening, and can we try another adhesive? When in reality, if that same client told you she was allergic to peanuts, the reaction would be to understand it completely, and you would instinctively know that your client can never eat peanuts. You wouldn’t try to find different brands of peanuts for her to eat. We need to understand as lash techs, that this is the same thing. An allergen is an allergen. The more exposure to the lash glue the worse the allergy will become.

Okay, your client reacts, but is it really the cyanoacrylate that is causing the reaction?

Most likely, it is the cyanoacrylate. In some cases, it may be the other additives in the lash adhesives that you are using. This commonly explains why if someone has an allergic reaction and then tries another glue and doesn’t have a response to the new adhesive. Some of the additives are PMMA, black pigment, and other unknown proprietary stabilizers. The only way to figure this out is a lengthy and sometimes painful experience for your client. The first thing you can try is a clear adhesive to rule out the black pigment. If your client still reacts, you know it’s not the black pigment. Then, if your client still wants to proceed, you could try an adhesive that doesn’t have whatever additives listed on the adhesive she reacted to. Most likely, the results will be that she’s allergic to cyanoacrylate. Remember, there is no need to apply a full set of lashes to test the new adhesive. Eight extensions to one eye should do.

But, you know... sometimes a girl needs to do what she needs to do if it means being able to wear extensions!

Let’s talk long-time clients that have an allergic reaction all of a sudden!

I assure you that in most cases, you think it came out of the blue. However, there could have been signs that you missed before your client had a full-blown allergic reaction.

SIGNS AN ALLERGIC REACTION IS COMING:

  • Sudden complaints of itchy eyelids when your client comes in for her fill. She might say to you that she has allergies and that she lost a lot of lashes this time because she’s been a little itchy.
  • Swollen lid line, but goes away after a day or two, but your client tells you about it when she comes in for her fill. She’ll explain that last time for a day or two it was weird, but her lid line was a little red and swollen, but it went away after a day or two. Now, you think to yourself that’s weird, but she looks okay now, so you proceed with her fill.
  • If you haven’t switched adhesives yet, your client asks you – “hey, did you happen to use something different on me last time”? Whether you did or not, this is a sign that something felt off to her. Please don’t ignore it or be annoyed. Dig deeper into why she asked you that.
  • If she’s had any of the above issues happen to her and you know that she’s had a tragic or life-altering event in her life such as; loss of job, divorce, death, taking care of a loved one or custody battle. These events cause stress, and stress causes our cortisol levels to skyrocket. Cortisol wreaks havoc on our immune system, which causes our immune system to overreact more often to harmless substances such as cyanoacrylate, which causes the body to have an allergic reaction to something that generally was never an allergen!
  • Was your client recently sick or did she have a cold at the time of her appointment? Both weaken the immune system and up the chances of an allergic reaction.

Think about your past clients that seemingly had an allergic reaction all of a sudden. We tend to know what is going on in our clients lives, so think back to how many of them you know were going through a significantly stressful time in their life at the time they had the allergic reaction. Probably 100 percent of them! People under significant stress can develop all sorts of “new allergies” out of the no where.. Cyanoacrylate is only one of them.

How should I handle sensitive clients? What is a sensitive client anyway? What’s the difference between a sensitive client and a client that is allergic to cyanoacrylate?

These are all very common questions that many of you may struggle to understand.A sensitive client is a client that tears a lot when you are confident that your tape, eye pads, or lash prep isn’t the cause of the tearing. She usually leaves with red sore eyes, but it never develops into swelling. She may have some itchiness and complain about asthma-like symptoms. The fumes seem to bother her a lot, and you need to fan her more often than your other clients. Try using an adhesive like our Lash Savvy BioBond that is specifically made for sensitive eyes. Sensitive adhesives are either fume-free or have very low fumes. These should help tremendously, but the downside is sometimes they are not as long-lasting as the stronger adhesives. They also take a little practice to use. Lash Savvy’s BioBond is a gel-like grayish adhesive but dries black. Its consistency is more of a gel. You can’t use too much, or it will run or take too long to dry. Once learning how to use it properly, its retention is the same as any other adhesive. We’ve had a lot of great reviews for use on sensitive clients! Remember, most of the time, if your client doesn’t have swelling or a gooey discharge, its more likely a sensitivity to the fumes and not an allergic reaction. When a client gets stuffed up or exhibits asthma-like symptoms, its typically the fumes irritating, thus your client is sensitive to the adhesive you are using. A client can be too sensitive yet not allergic to cyanoacrylate that she cannot tolerate lash extensions. Those are the tough ones!

If you have a client that is only sensitive during regular allergy seasons such as spring and fall, depending on how bad their allergies are, I would highly recommend a removal until the season passes. The body can’t always tell the difference between the glue on the extensions and the pollen or other allergens sitting on top of them and can react. Once the body produces antibodies, your client will forever be allergic. So, better safe than sorry. The same goes for clients under a lot of stress and having minor itching and or swelling. If you remove their extensions until the stresses in their life are gone you may avoid a full-blown allergic reaction.

It can be devastating to become allergic to lash extensions after happily wearing them for years. Hopefully this article will help you better understand what can cause and what you can do to reduce the odds of an allergic reaction. Screening new clients more thoroughly and monitoring your regular clients may help to avoid reactions.

Happy lashing!

Photo credit: Frankie Widdows

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