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  • Know the Risks of Eyebrow and Eyelash Enhancement

    Reviewed By Rebecca J Taylor, MD
    Edited By Beatrice Shelton
    Published Dec. 11, 2019

    Having your eyebrows and eyelashes treated in a salon may seem like an easy way to enhance your look. But experts have long warned that dyes and other treatments are not safe. With salons now offering a variety of procedures – microblading, eyebrow lamination, eyelash lifts and tints – it's more important than ever to understand the risks.

    Common Eyebrow and Eyelash Enhancements

    • Tinting: During this 15-minute procedure, semi-permanent dye is painted onto the eyebrows or eyelashes to make them appear thicker, darker and fuller. The color lasts for about three to six weeks.
    • Eyebrow microblading: Microblading is also known as eyebrow tattooing, microfeathering or microshading. Permanent pigment is tattooed into the skin using a needle mounted on a small handheld tool. The procedure takes one to two hours and costs several hundred dollars. The effects last for years.
    • Eyebrow lamination: This chemical treatment takes less than 1 hour and does not involve needles or semi-permanent dye. Instead, a perming cream is brushed into the eyebrows to allow the hair to be sculpted into a more desirable shape. The procedure costs less than $100 and the effects last for several weeks.
    • Eyelash perm: During an eyelash perm the lashes are coated with an adhesive and curled around rollers. Chemical solutions are then applied to the lashes to create a long-lasting curl. The procedure costs less than $100, takes about 45 minutes and the effects last one to two months.
    • Eyelash lift: An eyelash lift, often combined with an eyelash tint, involves combing eyelashes to a silicone shield and holding them there with adhesive while a chemical lotion is applied to break down the protein in each eyelash and encourage it to grow upward instead of outward. The results last about six to eight weeks and can cost around $100 per session.

    What Are the Risks?

    According to Academy spokesperson Purnima Patel, MD, eyebrow and eyelash enhancements pose health dangers because they are so close to the eye. These treatments could cause problems with the eyes and affect vision. “People can develop sensitivities with repeated exposure,” Dr. Patel said. “In addition, formulations may change over time. It is possible to have a reaction even if you have tolerated a treatment without issue in the past.”

    The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any color additives for permanent dyeing or tinting of eyelashes and eyebrows. The agency says permanent eyelash and eyebrow tints and dyes have been known to cause serious eye injuries, including blindness. Despite issuing warnings, the FDA cannot regulate salons. That job falls to state and local governments, which can have different rules. California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which regulates the state’s beauty salons, has warned the state's salon owners that they can be cited and fined for using tinting products. But eyebrow and eyelash dyes are legal in New York as long as they are not permanent.

    Woman getting her eyebrows tinted by someone wearing gloves and holding a pot of coloring.

    Jessica Krant, MD, MPH, a New York board-certified dermatologist with the American Academy of Dermatology, told Today Style that because there are no set standards for eyelash and eyebrow tinting, it can be hard to judge how safe it is. She added, “Even if the FDA were to approve dyes for tinting, it would still be possible to get infections and allergic reactions, so FDA approval alone does not automatically make the procedure guaranteed totally safe.”

    What to Do When an Eyebrow Enhancement Goes Wrong

    If you have a reaction to any type of hair dye or cosmetic, you should contact your health care provider, Dr. Patel advises. Then contact the FDA to report your reaction. “The law doesn’t require cosmetic companies to share their safety data or consumer complaints with the FDA,” she notes. “So, the information you report is very important to help the FDA monitor the safety of cosmetics on the market.”

    Get more eye makeup safety tips from EyeSmart.