Anyone in the eyelash buiz will understand the difficulty between spotting a simple irritation of the eyes or an allergic reaction. Symptoms can be very similar at times, usually consisting of itchiness, watering and redness around the eyes, puffiness, a burning sensation and sometimes a feeling of tightness. As a lash stylist, it’s extremely important to learn the difference between irritation and allergies so you can best treat your client with appropriate care and provide them with a comfortable experience when they visit. Here’s a little extra information on how to differentiate the two:
How To Spot The Difference: Irritants
Eyelids can be particularly susceptible to irritants as the skin is significantly thinner than other parts of the body, meaning there is less protection for the area and a higher risk of a reaction occurring. In terms of eyelash procedures, eye irritation may occur due to the fumes produced in the process of using adhesives, particularly as they cure and set. This is why it is vital to have adequate ventilation in your workspace, to ensure these fumes do not become overwhelming for your client and cause any type of reaction. Where possible, open any windows and position fans and air conditioning away from the treatment area to avoid the risk of spreading contaminants. Clients may also experience irritation from tools or products used, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any of those symptoms mentioned above!
How To Spot The Difference: Allergy
Allergies, on the other hand, are much more serious than irritants and will cause the immune system to react in defence mode to fix the problem. Reactions may not flare up for several hours (sometimes even days!) after contact with the allergen, generally making it quite difficult to determine the underlying cause to begin with. Allergy symptoms can range from merely uncomfortable (sneezing, itchy, water eyes) to anaphylactic shock and a sudden drop in blood pressure. Allergic reactions become more severe when the exposure to the allergen increases. However, in order to develop an allergy to begin with, you must first be exposed to the allergen in a repetitive manner. This means that a client who gets eyelash extensions for the first time may experience an allergic reaction quite some time after their appointment due to the repeated exposure to cyanoacrylate (the main ingredient of lash adhesives).
Cyanoacrylate is an ingredient that provides the glue with a strong adhesive quality to ensure durability of the lash extension process. This ingredient is universally used in eyelash adhesives, unfortunately even those developed for sensitive eyes. Cyanoacrylates will cure when they come into contact with water. For this reason, adhesives will quickly set in rooms with high humidity. Once cured, cyanoacrylate is completely harmless and should be free of any irritants. If irritation does occur, you can gently wash the area with water as adhesives become quite water-resistant when cured.
Cyanoacrylate allergies are quite uncommon and can be easily treated by removing the eyelash extensions and adhesive. However, the allergy is likely to present itself again if eyelash extensions were applied in future, as the body’s immune system will keep a “memory” of the allergies it has encountered. If you notice any redness, itching or swelling following your patch test, your client should be considered “high-risk” to a potential reaction.
As a lash technician, it is SO important to reduce any potential risks of irritation or allergy. Here are some tips I use to ensure I’m working to the highest possible standard of care:
Take care of your environment. As mentioned earlier, make sure you have good ventilation and always keep a hydrometer and thermometer handy. Make sure your work space is clean and tidy with no obstructions or hazards. Ensure you have a great understanding of your products and ingredients. Always follow your “how to” guides when working with adhesives and feel free to request extra information about your materials from your retailers. You don’t want to be underprepared if a client asks you these questions – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
When working with new clients, ALWAYS provide an initial form. An intake form is your best way to gain an understanding of any past allergies, reactions, sensitivities and medical conditions. It’s important to be able to differentiate seasonal allergies and permanent allergies (hay fever is one example). It’s always good to check in with your client to see if they have scheduled any other beauty treatments for the previous, same or following day as exposure to other irritants (from hair colouring, acrylic nails, waxing etc.) will increase their risk of experiencing a reaction. You should also ask about any prescription medicine the client is currently taking, and whether they have recently been sick with a cold or flu. If so, the client is likely to be suffering from a lowered immune system and may have a higher susceptibility to developing any kind of reaction. Never be afraid to ask what you don’t know! The better understanding you have of your client, the less risk you will both be faced with.
Ensure your client is settled. Make sure your client is comfortable throughout their treatment and able to lay still for the duration of their procedure as any movement will increase the risk of transferring adhesives and contaminants into the eye. If a client urgently needs to open their eyes at any point, make sure you cure the adhesive with a mist before allowing them to get up.
When your procedure is complete, you can lightly cleanse the lashes if you feel it is necessary. Protect yourself as a technician. Whilst we know you will do everything to ensure your client’s safety, don’t forget your own, too! Always wear your mask, look out for any potential risks and hazards and always wash your hands thoroughly with each spare chance that you get. By following these steps and practicing safe techniques, it would be unlikely for a client to experience any kind of reaction – whether it’s irritation or an allergy.
If in the event that your client does suffer from an allergic reaction, always assess whether they have been exposed to any additional irritants and ask about any activities they have done over the past day or two. Determine whether their reaction may be seasonal or related to any medication, and always advise the client to avoid any contact with their eyes where possible. You should ask the client to return to your studio in order to remove their lashes and in the case of severe symptoms, always refer your client to their general practitioner.