History of Eyelash Extensions
It’s not an understatement to say that false eyelashes are an international obsession. In 2023 the global false eyelashes market was worth close to 1.4 billion and is projected to rise to over 2 billion by 2030. Of that market, the fastest growing segment is eyelash extensions. Due to high demand, there were nearly 275,000 establishments offering eyelash extension in the US alone last year. Multiply those businesses by the number of lash technicians employed at each one, and you have a lot of people at risk for health problems stemming from toxic fume exposure while at work.
False eyelashes have come a long way since their US introduction in 1911. At that time, the patented “faux lash” was merely a band of fabric with human hair attached to it. Eventually, the standard glue-on strip-lash made the scene and has been sold for decades in drugstores and supermarkets. Magnetic lashes eventually made their debut, but it was the recent popularity of professional extensions that has turned the industry on its head.
The difference between lash extensions and the traditional strip-lash model is that with extensions, one individual lash is applied with an adhesive to a natural one to create a thicker, longer set of eyelashes. There are multiple lengths, curls, and thicknesses from which to choose, but the application method is the same for all.
This process can take anywhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours. For a customer having their lashes done, there may be some temporary discomfort from the fumes emitted during the application process. But for a technician, the exposure is ongoing – customer after customer, day after day.
How Adhesive Fumes Affect Worker Health
Eyelash extension glues can emit vapors into a worker’s breathing space that cause illness. Many adhesives contain VOCs, chemicals that can vaporize into the air at room temperature. The specific formulation can vary between different brands, but common ingredients found in eyelash extension glue include cyanoacrylate and sometimes hydroquinone.
Cyanoacrylate: The basic compound found in most eyelash extension glues. It is a fast-drying and strong adhesive that forms a bond between the natural lash and the extension. Adhesives using cyanoacrylates ensure that faux lashes adhere to natural lashes securely.
However, these compounds are known to cause health complications. Short-term effects include nasal and respiratory problems (1), skin and eye irritation, headache, cough, and difficulty breathing (2). Some studies show that prolonged use may cause cancer.
Hydroquinone: This compound is sometimes used as a stabilizer in eyelash extension adhesives to prevent discoloration.
Inhalation of hydroquinone gas can cause headache and dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and muscle cramping and twitching (3). Physical contact can produce rash, burning, skin discoloration, and allergic reaction. Long-term exposure may affect the liver and kidneys, cause eyes to cloud and discolor and create vision problems.
How to Reduce Occupational Risk for Eyelash Extension Techs
To combat toxic emissions produced during the application of eyelash extensions, salons and technicians should consider adopting the following measures:
- The use of personal protective equipment. PPE such as masks and gloves can reduce exposure.
- The use of low-toxicity adhesives.
- Ensuring proper ventilation. Insufficient air flow in and around a workstation will contribute to the accumulation of gas and particulate emissions.
- The installation of engineering controls such as air cleaning equipment.
Air cleaners, such as fume extractors, remove toxic fumes before they have a chance to enter a worker’s breathing space.
Our Salon Pure Air model SPA1 is a favorite with our customers in the beauty industry due to its efficiency, low profile, and extraction capabilities.
At AIRSInc, we help our customers in the eyelash extension business by identifying areas of potential risk and supplying premium products to ensure worker safety. Contact us today for a free estimate from one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.