Adhesive Series- Part 2: Adhesive Safety

Formaldehyde is not an added ingredient in adhesive, but rather a byproduct released as the cyanoacrylate cures and degrades over time.

By AnneMarie Lorenzini

Welcome back to my 3-part adhesive series.

In this post, I pour my adhesive heart out to you by providing all my tips and product recommendations for safe adhesive usage. I know some may feel this is a lot of information to provide to the masses. But I believe safety information should be readily available. Let’s work together to aim for a high standard in this industry. The goal of this 3-post series is to start the conversation. Thank you to each of you for reading this. As always, share your thoughts in the comments.

I took a poll recently asking if the words ‘formaldehyde’ and ‘adhesive’ were scary together. 37% of stylists that voted said yes whereas the other 63% said they understand the connection. Let’s discuss this.

Formaldehyde is not an added ingredient in adhesive, but rather a byproduct released as the cyanoacrylate cures and degrades over time. According to the ATSDR.CDC, when formaldehyde is inhaled, most of it is quickly broken down, converted to carbon dioxide, and exhaled. The CDC says the most common health problems include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat when exposed to high concentrations. The formaldehyde count for quality lash adhesives is relatively low (measured in parts per million) and is even undetectable for some adhesives. Formaldehyde sounds scary but is recognized within many items around us such as paper towels, mattresses, clothing, and fruits.

Recall from my last post, that adhesives are made up of cyanoacrylates along with other bonding agents. Currently, there are no regulations on lash extension adhesives. We place our trust in companies to do their own quality testing and provide us with safe products. It is up to us to do our part by taking the proper safety precautions throughout the application when using these products. This minimizes any chance of irritation to our client or ourselves. (If you’re wondering how to select a safe, quality adhesive- stay tuned for PART 3: SELECTING AN ADHESIVE).

My recommended tips:

· Request the Safety Data Sheet (SDS, MSDS, PSDS) for all chemical-based products you use on your clients. These documents provide much more information than what’s on the label, including safety and health information. I recommend reading through and keeping these within a binder at your business.

· Adequate ventilation. Airflow is key within your workspace. Do not work in a stale room without airflow.

· Fume extractor. Fume extractors are best utilized close to the dispensed adhesive. They help remove fumes from the air.

· Set your environment. Science tells us that the ideal humidity range for adhesives is 50-55% as this allows the monomers to bond and fall. Working in very low humidity can increase the chance of irritation and provide additional respiratory symptoms. I recommend doing your best to get your humidity above 40% while lashing for an optimal bond and more importantly, to protect yourself long term. Use a humidifier or dehumidifier, as needed.

· Keep cotton and cotton-based products away from your application station. Cyanoacrylate and cotton do not mix. If adhesive gets on the cotton, it creates an aggressive chemical reaction. The cotton may even get hot enough to catch fire or smoke.

· Complete a thorough consultation. This is better suited for another blog post, but I will say this… Not everyone is a candidate for eyelash extensions. Those who are prone to allergies or have had issues with other beauty treatments should proceed with caution. Do not apply to anyone while they are sick nor when they are experiencing allergies, even seasonal. Simply put, the body doesn’t know the difference and may think the adhesive is the intruder when really, it’s the high pollen count.

· Lashline prep. Cleanse and rinse the eyelashes prior to every application (even if the client “cleaned” their lashes when they arrived). Consider using a Primer on oily clients. Never apply to wet lashes.

· Properly position the under-eye covering. Improper placement of the under-eye covering is one of the top causes of irritation. In fact, these reactions can look so severe that they are often mistaken as adhesive reactions. 

· Properly apply the extensions. This includes adhesive control, proper isolation, and seamless attachments. Extensions should not touch the skin.

· Fan throughout the application to move fumes away from your client and yourself. Do not aim the fan towards the client’s eyes.

· Do not use adhesive rings. This moves the adhesive significantly close to your client’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Think of how close you are to the adhesive as you are applying. I often see stylists with their nose only inches away from their adhesive ring. IF you love your adhesive ring, due to the ergonomic positioning, then remember to keep the adhesive fresh. Do not place a new drop on an old drop of adhesive and consider you and your client both wearing a mask.

· Change your adhesive drop every 20 minutes, or as needed. You may notice the adhesive gets stringy, or tacky when it’s time to change the drop. If you’re noticing large strings, then you are way past the change. Keep a flashing timer nearby to help keep track. If you use tape as your adhesive surface, discard the previous drop/tape. If you use an adhesive tray, cover the previous drop with a sticker. In addition, ensure the adhesive’s surface is clean and dry before dispensing a drop.

· Nanomisting, nebulizing, sealing and cleaning the lash line after the application are all techniques to instantly cure the adhesive and reduce the chance of irritation. Keep in mind, this does not replace the need for moisture in the air throughout the lash application- if you lash in 20% humidity… I’m talking to you.

· Masks. You can take the precaution of wearing a mask but do your research on what masks are approved for adhesive fumes. Many masks only protect us from germs and dust. The N95 approved masks are great for tiny particles, but state they are not made to protect from vapors. You may be surprised at the intensity of masks rated to accommodate vapors. I found a less-bulky mask option that claims to provide vapor relief. Linked below.

· Replace your adhesive at least every month. Busy stylists may go through a bottle in as little as 2 weeks. Some companies say their adhesives are good for 2-3 months after opening. Use your best judgment and remember, the company knows what ingredients are in their adhesives and how they work best.

· Properly store the adhesive bottle with a desiccant pack and maintain the bottle properly by keeping the inducer clean

If your client experiences any itching, stinging, watering, or uncomfortable sensations throughout the application process, then immediately determine the culprit. Fan both eyes, ensure you’re using a fresh drop of adhesive, check the positioning of the under-eye covering, and make sure that the eyes are properly closed before proceeding. If the sensation does not go away, discontinue the application.

And remember, it is NOT normal for a client’s eyes to be red or watery after application. This can happen for many reasons, but the top two most common reasons are: adhesive fumes entering the eyes and improper undereye covering. By following the recommended safety precautions above, along with using high-quality products and proper application techniques, we can minimize adverse reactions.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Are there any new steps you look forward to implementing? What safe practices do you have in place?

Stay on the lookout for PART 3: SELECTING AN ADHESIVE.