Allergic Reaction To Lash Extensions: What To Do In An Emergency
Hello there everyone!
Most of you don’t know me but my name is Sam and I’m an SEO Specialist – working behind the scenes here at PLA, behind a computer screen most of the time. I’ve only worked here for a few months, but I already love it! I get to do what I’m interested in every day, for an awesome company and bosses that care, and our education center is top-notch. That being said, I had an unfortunate experience happen to me recently, that I’d like to share for educational purposes.
TL;DR: I had an allergic reaction to eyelash extension glue!
Long story short, I consented to giving lash extensions a second try. The first time I had them, my last three fills ended in a reaction. I had my lashes on for about six months before this developed, and I started coming home with red, itchy, crusty eyelids despite being a religious cleaner. So, I decided to give my eyes a break, and six months after that, I had a chance to try them again at PLA.
Let me just preface this with – I don’t mean to scare anyone away from lashing and my case is fairly rare, but it could have happened to anybody. My boss and lash tech knew the assignment, and everyone was informed of my previous history with the reaction. We decided to use Halo, our clear adhesive, just in case I was sensitive to carbon black (which is what most people with reactions are actually allergic to. It’s in most mascaras and eyeliners). I consented to it anyway, being the thick-headed dumb dumb I am, and we moved forward with a game plan to remove them at the first sign of trouble.
First of all, the set I got was absolutely beautiful. We used Camellia fans (they have multiple length lashes included in the fan, so you get a more textured yet natural look) – super full, Doll eye map. It was gorgeous, and we got plenty of pictures out of it. We made sure to do a lash bath before the end of the appointment, just in case. I was sent home with cleanser, a brush and some spoolies and I expected everything to be fine. I felt confident and pretty again.
Spoilers – it was not, in fact, pretty.
Day One / Night One
The Drama Begins: Signs Of An Allergic Reaction
That night, I started feeling a little irritation creeping into my lower lids. Writing it off as paranoia, I made sure to clean my lashes thoroughly before heading to sleep. I kept asking my boyfriend if my eyes were swelling, to which he answered “nope you’re fine.” We turned in and I did a Hail Mary, hoping for the best.
I woke up to the worst on Day Two – to very puffy, swollen eyelids.
My lower lids were worse than the top, but my stomach sank when I looked in the mirror Saturday morning to clean my lashes. I frantically started icing my eyelids and walked to the store across the street for some Benadryl. When the swelling appeared to lessen a little, I made the text to set up a removal for Monday morning at the earliest.
Day Two – Irritation & Swelling Appears
When To Make The Call For An Emergency Lash Removal
But, then Day Three rolled in, and the swelling had gotten worse. Despite my efforts, I woke up on Sunday morning looking like I had been punched in the face by Jack Dempsey. Not only were both eyelids puffy now, but my entire eye socket had blown up. It wasn’t to the point where my eyes were swollen shut… but we were getting there.
And the best part? I had a Christmas party to attend in just a few hours! I knew I had to get the lashes removed as soon as humanly possible, so I started making calls.
Day Three – Significant Swelling, Emergency Removal Done Right After Taking These Photos
12 salons later, one place 20 minutes away got me in, and I have to tell ya: getting a removal while you’re in the middle of a reaction was not fun. My lash tech was a trooper, dealing with me flinching and squinting and my eyes watering like Niagra Falls, but in about an hour the lashes were gone, and the swelling immediately started to subside. I instantly felt better, and that was more than enough confirmation for me that I was allergic to something – most likely, it was an allergic reaction to lash glue, or cyanoacrylate.
I went to the Christmas party and was merry despite my face. There were plenty of “you should see the other guy,” jokes passed around.
The Aftermath: The Impacts Of An Allergic Reaction
While I did what I did, I want to use my experience as a lesson for all of our PLA students coming in. We get a lot of questions about allergies and reactions, but while what happened to me is rare, it obviously can happen. What I did was downright stupid, and my poor skin around my eyeballs paid for it for days after the removal. I know for sure now though, and while I still love lash extensions, it’s going to be a permanent pass for me.
Day Four - 24 Hours After Emergency Removal
Let me stress this again so the lesson sticks: usually, if you have a cyanoacrylate allergy, you figure it out pretty quickly. There is no amount of Benadryl, ice packs, weird workarounds or God forbid, Flonase, that you can do to keep getting lash extensions. There is no such thing as a "sensitive" version of lash adhesives, and if anyone tells you that, what they’re talking about is the one without carbon black. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic lash adhesive for extensions yet, at least not a single one that works well, to my knowledge. Cyanoacrylate is the ingredient that makes the lashes adhere to your natural ones, so there’s really no way to get them without it.
If you expose yourself to something you’re allergic to, mark my words your reaction will get worse every time you are exposed. As lash artists, it’s imperative for you to discontinue services if someone develops an allergic reaction, and to refuse services if they pressure you to do it anyway.
Basically, don’t do what I did.
Having A Lash Business Plan: Protect Yourself & Your Clients
Day Five – Recovering
Again, this is not to scare anyone away from lashing – but if you encounter anyone with symptoms like mine and everything else looks fine, always play it safe rather than sorry. What happened to me could have happened to anyone, I just got the luck of the draw. Also keep in mind, anyone can develop an allergy to cyanoacrylate at any time, so you could get lashes for years and suddenly boom – no more lashes for you. It’s the risk we take for beauty, but there is plenty of education we can provide as lash professionals to prevent it from occurring, and conduct proper patch tests on every new client.
Please remember too that as a lash artist, you cannot give medical advice to clients. You are not a doctor, and if you ever encounter a client with an allergic reaction, you must remove their lashes right away and refer them to a clinic. If you do offer them medical advice and it goes wrong (like putting Flonase on your eyes -- STOP doing this/recommending this!), you could lose your insurance, or get sued.
Be wary of companies claiming to have a "cyano-free" glue or a "hypoallergenic" adhesive too. If you’ve been tested by a doctor and know your allergy is specific to cyanoacrylate, it’s very likely you’ll be allergic to other acrylates. Be sure to work with your physician to figure out exactly what you’re allergic to, and how to proceed via proper medical advice. In most cases, it’s easiest not to play Russian Roulette and simply avoid further exposure, and the chances that you'll react.
The Takeaways From A Lash Extension Allergy
While I’m super sad about my lashes, I’m very grateful to my team at PLA for the education they provide current and future lash techs. Without their help, I probably would have panicked and wouldn’t know what to do. I’m very thankful to have such a great team of experienced staff who had a plan, and thanks to them equipping me with the proper knowledge, I was able to safely and quickly address the problem so my eyes could heal.
I still adore lash extensions, and will heartily advocate for getting them if you have the ability. They made me feel so confident for the short time I could wear them, and they make your beauty routine so much easier (believe it or not).
For now though, I’m sticking to nails.
Take Your Career To The Next Level With Lash Extension Classes
Want to learn more about becoming a lash artist? Check out our online course where we go over allergic reactions like this, cleaning protocols and how to lash properly and safely in a fun, interactive way! Our education center gives back to the community as well, with all our proceeds from the course going into a fund for lash artists in need. Sign up for our online course or attend our in-person training coming up in the New Year here.