The Things We Do For Beauty & Eyelash Extensions

By: Callie Peterson

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The things we do for beauty- a term that is often muttered as a joke when you pay a ridiculous amount for a product or spend hours having your hair done. Beauty is constantly evolving to match current trends, but as beauty techniques evolve, shouldn’t the risk that comes with them become less?

In my previous article I dove into the complete breakdown of artificial eyelash extensions. After better understanding them, I hope to steer you into the direction of healthier product options to opt in for next time you find yourself looking for longer, fuller eyelashes.

To re-cap, let’s look at what artificial eyelashes are and how they affect our eyes in a harmful way. Eyelash makeup has been used since ancient Egypt, where women and men used kohl and ointments to enhance their looks (History of mascara, 2018). Although this technique was used for the purpose of makeup, it also helped men and women shield their eyes from harmful UV rays (Valenti, 2018). Modern day makeup has evolved a lot from ancient Egypt, but as we find longer-lasting ways to enhance our looks, the more harmful products we’re begun to introduce to our own bodies. When getting artificial eyelashes, you have handful of options to pick from to get your ideal eyelash look. There is silk, mink, and poly nylon synthetic lashes and you have the option to use any amount of these categories together. These lashes typically range from 6–17mm in length. Once you pick your ideal lash, you are able to pick your curl size. Ranging from a “J” shape for a more natural look, to a “C” option for a more dramatic outcome. An eyelash technician will take up to four artificial eyelashes and stack them on top of one natural eyelash. These eyelashes are meant to last through a full growth cycle of your natural eyelashes, which typically ranges from 6–8 weeks.

Beauty has a large price tag, and that also applies to artificial eyelashe extensions. After you pay a hefty first-time fee ranging from $130-$400, the spending doesn’t stop there. Touchups are recommended every 3 weeks, which are called refills and typically range anywhere from $60-$100 depending on where you go and the type you are getting. Hypothetically if you were going to have eyelash extensions for a full year, getting one refill between sessions, you would be paying around $3,010 per year (roughly). If the price tag doesn’t have you running for the hills, maybe the adverse health effects will change your mind.

Artificial eyelashes are located directly next to your eyes in your “lash line”, a well-known beauty term. Typically, you would think the problem lays within the artificial lashes, but it is actually within the adhesive. Lash technicians will use an ethyl cyanoacrylate-based glue on each lash. Ethyl cyanoacrylate is a clear, colorless liquid that reacts readily with water to form solid polymers, meaning that when combined with water, it becomes more solid. This type of glue is also categorized as an industrial strength adhesive. Industrial adhesives, also known as cyanoacrylate adhesives are also known as super glues and are solvent free and have a quick set time (Cyberbond, 1996). This makes this adhesive really strong and quick to dry. Industrial adhesives are used in the manufacture of plastics, electronics, shoes, and sports equipment. So why are we allowing this strong of an adhesive so close to our eyes and where we breathe? Cyanoacrylate adhesives contain up to 10% stabilizers, plasticizers, and or thickeners (Cary, 2001). Plasticizers are colorless and odorless esters, mainly phthalates, that increase the elasticity of material (Koester, 2015). Plasticizers are also considered to be endocrine disrupters. Meaning harmful chemicals can make their way to the endocrine system and cause tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Plasticizers have been found in the blood of unborn babies who went on to develop neurological and developmental disorders.

Some of the adverse health effects that come from ethyl cyanoacrylate glues include asthma, skin irritation, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, allergic blepharitis, and karatoconjunctivitis. In one study it was found that five patients had asthma provoked by cyanoacrylates due to the development of a specific hypersensitivity response (Lozewicz, 1985). Meaning, the inhalation of the fumes from the glue is also harmful to our health, not just the adhesive on our skin. A study done on a 34-year old nail and eyelash technician at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) regarding her hand eczema was believed to be using an ethyl cyanoacrylate adhesive. It was found that each lash adhesive she used contained ethyl cyanoacrylate ad polyalkyl methacrylate. Poly methacrylate is known as acrylic, or acrylic glass. Lacrimation and rhinorrhea also occurred with participants using ethyl cyanoacrylate glue. Lacrimation is the abnormal or excessive secretion of tears due to local systematic disease (Webster’s Dictionary, 2018). Rhinorrhea is also known as nasal congestion and runny nose. In another study, among 107 subjects who were seeking medical help because of eye complaints associated with eyelash extensions, 42 were cases of blepharitis (Pesonen, 2012). Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelid that effects the eyelashes or the production of tears. It is believed that the formaldehyde found in the adhesive can lead to allergic reactions like allergic blepharitis (Burkat, 2018).

Potential adverse effects on eyelash extensions include ocular hyperemia, karatoconjunctivitis, allergic blepharitis, and allergic dermatitis in the patients (Wesley, 2016).”

Karatoconjunctivitis, which is the inflammation of the cornea, can be presented with itchiness and irritation. Karatoconjunctivitis from eyelash extensions can be caused by 3 mechanisms. The glue containing formaldehyde entering the eye during the procedure, after the procedure when the glue dissolves or when the glue is vaporized by body temperature or humidity (Burkat, 2018).

Almost all of the adverse health effects that come from ethyl cyanoacrylate glues are due to the inclusion of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that is known to cause irritation of the eyes, skin and nose but at high levels may cause some types of cancer. Formaldehyde is an active ingredient in the formation of cyanoacrylate, which is used in all lash adhesives. Luckily, there are better options for eyelash extension adhesive and eyelash extensions.

Product selection:

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Cost is no issue: The first product I would recommend is Borboleta Adhesives. Borboleta is on the more expensive side, but definitely worth it if you’re worried about formaldehyde within your adhesive. This glue has gone through a process known as chromatography, to get rid of excess reactant, which is formaldehyde.

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Midrange product: The second product I would like to recommend is the True Glue Adhesives. This is a completely natural glue, which is marketed as “bye-bye formaldehyde”. I personally, love this product as it is cost-efficient, and they use all-natural ingredients to help promote the healthy-wear of long-lasting makeup. This product is marketed at $15.

Cost friendly: The last product I would recommend is semi-permanent eyelashes. These are typically for daily-use only and are not long term, but they take away the harmful side effects of eyelash extensions. Also cost efficient at $10 for a pack of 3. When you pair these with an all-natural-eyelash adhesive, you’re not only improving your current health, but your future health by cutting out the chance of asthma, irritation and Karatoconjunctivitis.

Although eyelash extensions are fairly new to the beauty market, there are still healthier-products you can use in substitution for products that contain a known human carcinogen, formaldehyde. Often, beauty salons offering eyelash extensions will allow you to ask for formaldehyde free glue or sensitive free glue. Some offer a different glue for no extra cost, while some may have you pay a small fee. It’s refreshing to know that with a little investigation, you can find better products for your health. I believe everyone should at least be aware of what they are doing to their body before they do follow through on a procedure. And knowing that not all the products you are using are completely safe, is very important. The beauty industry needs to start pushing for better ingredients that aren’t so harmful to our bodies and health. At least for now, there are some products we can use in substitution without completely ditching our beloved eyelash extensions.

Work Cited:

Burkat, N. (2018, October 02). Eyelash Extensions. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

Cary, R. (2001). World Health Organization, Methyl Cyanoacrylate and Ethyl Cyanoacrylate. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from

Cyberbond, (1968, January 01). Cyberbond L. L. C. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from

History of Mascara — Invention of the Mascara. (2018). Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

Koester, V. (2015, May 5). Plasticizers — Benefits, Trends, Health, and Environmental Issues. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from

Lacrimation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2018, from

Lozewicz, S., Davidson, A., Hopkins, A., Burge, P. (1985, November 1). Occupational asthma due to methyl methacrylate and cyanoacrylates. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

Pesonen, M., Kuuliala, O., Henricks-Eckerman, M-L., & Aalto-Korte, k. (2012). Occupational allergic contact dermatitis caused by eyelash extension glues. Contact Dermatitis (01051873), 67(5), 307–308.

Wesley, N. O., $ Talakoub, L. (2016, April). Eyelash extensions. Dermatology News, 47(4), 35. Retrieved from http://link/

Valenti, L. (2018, March 29). The History of Women and Their Eyelashes. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from