Irritation or allergic reactions to the lash adhesives

How to recognise if client has an eye irritation or an allergy?

It is very hard to tell the difference between eye irritation and an allergy because symptoms may look the same: red puffy eyes, itchiness, tightness, watering, burning sensation. The difference between the two is that irritants do not cause the immune system to react and, in most cases, irritation will go away after 24 hours and should get better as time passes. Allergic reaction may not appear until several hours or even days after exposure to the allergen, making it difficult to work out the cause of the problem.

What is an irritation and its cause?

Irritation may be the result of the fumes emitted while adhesives cure and solidify. Delicate areas of the body where the skin is naturally thinner, particularly the eyelids are most vulnerable to irritant reactions.

Good ventilation is imperative. Ideally fans and air conditioners should be directed away from the treatment bed and windows should be open all the times to allow free air circulation.

Also irritation might not be related to the adhesive. The client could react to the eye pads components or placement, friction from the tweezers or brush, reaction to the foam cleanser used…

Eyelash allergic reaction

What is an allergy and its cause?

An allergy is the response of the body’s immune system to normally harmless substances known as allergens. The human body produces antibodies (or immunoglobin) to fight these allergens. The more your body is exposed to the allergen, the more severe the allergic reaction might be. Symptoms can affect the eyes, nose, throat, skin…

In order to develop an allergy, you have to be exposed to the allergen more than once and repeatedly. This means that clients, that have never had an allergic reaction when exposed to cyanoacrylate (main ingredient of the lash adhesives) before, may develop the allergy after sometime and have to stop getting eyelash extensions. While a small percentage of clients develop an allergic reaction, this allergy is not especially dangerous, and the symptoms will disappear once the lash extensions are removed.

Allergy might manifest itself again if the body is exposed to the same allergen (e.g. if eyelash extensions are applied). The body keeps a memory of the allergy once developed therefore the immune system will overreact in contact with the allergen again.

What is cyanoacrylate?

The main ingredient of lash adhesives is a cyanoacrylate which provides the glue with adhesive quality. Without cyanoacrylate, the extensions wouldn’t stick to the natural lashes. This ingredient is used in all eyelash adhesives, even those formulated for sensitive or allergic eyes. Eyelash adhesives containing cyanoacrylates are generally safe when used as instructed.

How does lash adhesive work?

Cyanoacrylates cure when it comes in contact with water. This is where the room humidity plays a major part. Adhesive will cure faster in high humidity and vice versa. Once it is cured, it is harmless as unable to act as an irritant. Cured adhesive is waterproof to a reasonable extent too and can be washed with water to calm irritated skin.

In dryer season, the adhesive will take longer to cure therefore exposure to fumes and irritants is higher. So if regular clients returns to you with allergic reaction even though treatment safety were carefully followed; you need to take into account the customer’s health but also the environment and the time of the year.

How should I know if client may be allergic to cyanoacrylate?

Most clients won’t have a reaction to cyanoacrylate as long as the extensions are applied carefully and the adhesive doesn’t get in their eye or on their skin. However, in rare cases clients develop an allergy to this ingredient as explained earlier.

If there is any redness or itching after patch test, the client is considered high risk and lash extensions are not recommended. But as the amount of the adhesive is very small, patch test doesn’t guarantee that the client may develop an allergic reaction therefore, it is important to inform your client of any possible contraindications and allergies before the patch test.

What I as a lash technician should do to reduce potential risks of irritation and allergies?

  • Know your environment. Every lash treatment room should have a thermometer, hydrometer and good ventilation system.
  • Know your products and their ingredients. You can request lash adhesive MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) from your retailer. Always work with the adhesives as instructed in “how to use” guide. 
  • Understand your clients. Ask them to fill out “client intake form”. More you know about the client and inform them about possible risks, less misunderstanding you will have should anything go wrong. 
  • Safety! Perform treatment in a clean and tidy environment with no obstructions and distractions. Make sure the client is resting comfortably and do not encourage or start a conversation. There is nothing worse than a stressed or very chatty client. You will not be able to work safely if the client’s muscles and eyelids are twitching. Adhesive vapours may get into the eye. Play calm music and ask them to relax or meditate and under no circumstances allow to open their eyes without asking you first. If they do have to open their eyes, cure adhesive using a mist first. 
  • Remember that curing adhesive is still producing vapours. Use a damp sponge applicator at the end of the treatment to clean the lash line and around the eye as vapours may set on the skin and act as irritant. Always use Nano mister, regardless of the humidity, to ensure that the adhesive cures well. 
  • Place eye pads correctly and not too close to the eye as gel or lint may irritate eye during the treatment or even cause of an allergic reaction. 
  • Don’t forget your own safety:
    • Do wear special face mask which cover tightly your nose and mouth during treatment.
    • Don’t use glue rings, as they get close to your nose and mouth causing you to constantly inhale vapours. 
    • Before squeezing new drop of adhesive, make sure that you put a drop of water on the old drop of adhesive in order to stop diffusing vapours. 
    • Wash your hands with soap before and after treatment. 
    • Never wipe residue of adhesive on the eye pads, as this may cause a chemical reaction and produce even stronger vapours.

What should I write in client intake form?

Q-1: Do you experience seasonal allergy symptoms?

A-1: A client suffering from hay fever could easily mix up the symptoms such as red eyes and itchiness for being a reaction to the adhesive. Also as previously explained, a body which is already fighting an allergy might be more sensitive to the allergens contained in the adhesive. It is important to remind the customer to refrain from rubbing their eyes as this could make the symptoms worse and also damage their extensions.

Q-2: Do you schedule other beauty treatment for the same client on the same or following day?

A-2: Clients that attend more than one treatments are exposed to other irritants. For example, having hair coloured or nails done. Exposure to several irritants in a short period of time may trigger the body to have a higher sensitivity.

Q-3: Are you taking any prescription drugs?

A-3: Certain prescription drugs, when built up in the body, can create sensitivity to some harmful substances. Clients may want to refer to their drugs leaflets for contraindications.

Q-4: Have you recently had a cold or a flu?

A-4: A recent cold or a flu is a sign of a low immune system. As explained above, the body doesn’t produce enough antibodies to fight the allergens. Clients that have never had a reaction to cyanoacrylate before may have an increased sensitivity.

What to do when client reports irritation or an allergy?

Ask how long the sensitivity has been lasting and what are the symptoms? Ask the client if they have been exposed to additional irritants. Ask about seasonal allergies if not done prior treatment. Advise to resist the urge to rub eyes or pick at lashes. Ask client to come in to remove the lash extension asap. In case of severe symptoms, advise the client to contact their doctor immediately.


  • Kimberly Jimenez Canchola

    I am a Lash tech with this problem… I’m so upset because I love doing lashes and now it seems like I won’t be able to because every hue has Cyanoacrylate in it, I hope one day their is a different ingredient based glue :(
    Im allergic to the fumes and get a stuffy nose, sneezing, runny nose ! So upset there isn’t ANY alternatives

  • Tanya

    I loved my lashes so much! I’m so sad when I developed an allergic reaction to them. It happened maybe the second or third fill. I developed a sudden cough, then my eye lids would itch for days and my nose was stuffy, but yet my nose would run at the same time. I wonder if would develop an allergy to the adhesive if I were to buy eyelashes and put them on myself?

  • Jeanne

    I started getting extensions the past 6 months every 3 weeks or so. I recently realized every time I get them done within about 24 hours I start getting post nasal drip, completely stuffed nose, and then the sneezing starts. I would run out and get tested for Covid . I didn’t give it any thought cause my eyes feel fine. I realized this the last time 2 weeks ago and thought to pay attention for the next time and today at about 7 hours after it all started. This really stinks. I love having these lashes.

  • Lisa

    I’ve been having my lashes done for quite some time now. And all of a sudden my eyes started to swell whilst I was asleep. Itch, sore, swollen eye lids, looks and feels horrendous. This has only started to happen after I had the COVID vaccine. (Coincidence maybe?) the only I am not allergic to is the duo glue but it’s not very strong and doesn’t stick for long. Surely there must be something out there for us ladies who are suffering ?

  • Dannielle Dunbar

    So this is my second time having lashes. My first time around I was good for about two months. Then the “allergy” or “irritation” started. I feel a burning in the corners of my eyes. And I start tearing up. It got soooo bad I thought my eyes were on fire. Water made it worse. I noticed it started when I would wake up and any time I closed and then opened my eyes again. So I had them removed. Figured months later I would try a new lash artist. So I’ve been going to her for over 6 months. Same symptoms. But I can manage them now but it stilll sucks. I have to use antihistamine eye drops every night. But I can’t get them wet without them burning. And when I wash them with shampoo they feel great for about a day or two then burn again. I told my lash artist about it finally yesterday (I was scared she would make me take them off). She switched me to
    Clear glue for sensitive people and gave me a sealant to put on at night morning and after washing but they are still burning. Sooooo can anyone tell me what I have?! :) what’s wrong with
    me and why can’t my body stand extensions?

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