Eyelash Extensions? Watch Out for Formaldehyde

+ CV Skinlabs Team

Have you noticed the latest trend in beauty? It’s all about the eyelashes. The longer, the better. For many women, that means eyelash extensions. But just what are these extensions, how are they applied, and most importantly, are they safe?

What are Eyelash Extensions?

Eyelash extensions are single, semi-permanent hairs that are glued on your own eyelashes to make them look longer and thicker. Most are made from synthetic fibers. How long they last depends on the type of adhesives used and the rate of your own eyelash growth-from a couple weeks to a couple months with touch-ups.

How Are They Applied?

Eyelash extensions are applied one-by-one to your real eyelashes using a waterproof, black adhesive. There are clear glues available also, but black is the most popular because it gives the illusion that you’ve used mascara.

The adhesives used in eyelash extensions vary from medical or pharmaceutical grade (non-irritating and fume-free) to glues that dry faster and last longer, but may be more irritating.

Formaldehyde in Most Adhesives

If you’re considering eyelash extensions, it’s important to check with the salon (or with the manufacturer) to find out what type of adhesive is used. Medical or pharmaceutical grade is highly recommended, which is the same type of adhesive used in surgical procedures.

Unfortunately, studies have found that many of the current adhesives used for extensions-including those that come with at-home kits-have formaldehyde in them. This can cause dermatitis in sensitive people, and the fumes can cause eye irritation. In fact, you’ll find that may people who have gotten extensions complain about the discomfort of the glue fumes.

A brand called “NovaLash” advertises their adhesive as the first formaldehyde-free option. They explain, however, that though their testing confirms the lack of the chemical, once the adhesive is opened for use, tiny amounts of formaldehyde are produced.

Other Chemicals Used

Other chemicals used in adhesives may include ethyl-2 cyanoacrylate, which is rated a “5” on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database as a moderate hazard because it can be toxic to the immune system and may cause allergic reactions.

Adhesives may also contain fragrances, which are made up of undisclosed chemicals. Cheaper adhesives made in China may contain other unknown hazardous toxins. These are industrial quality adhesives that may not be approved for cosmetic procedures.

What to Look For

Considering that any eyelash adhesive may contain traces of some potentially harmful chemicals, if you’re still sold on pumping up your lashes, take the following precautions:

  • Read labels. If you’re going to a salon, ask to see the product they’re using. It should be medical quality surgical glue safe for use on the eye area. (Should say “pharmaceutical grade.”)
  • If the extensions are offered at a bargain price, think twice. Most likely this means the products used cost less, and therefore may be made up of potentially toxic chemicals. Again, ask to see the adhesive.
  • Go to a quality salon. These are your eyes we’re talking about. Don’t skimp on price and put yourself at risk. Find a reputable, healthy salon that ensures safety. Realize that extensions can be expensive-about $200 for the initial procedure and more for touch-ups every month.
  • Make sure the person putting on your extensions has the proper hands-on training. Ask for proof of the training.

Have you found a safer eyelash extension alternative? Please share your tips.



“Consumer Protection Board Discovers Formaldehyde in Eyelash Adhesive,” Eyelash Extension, Adhesive and Glue Information, July 13, 2005.

Flirtatioius Lash, NovaLash.

“The Soaring Popularity and Dangers of Eyelash Extensions,” Evoke Elegance, March 14, 2011.

“Health and Safety of Eyelash Extensions,” Luxury Lash Lounge.

Photo courtesy HonoluluEyelashStudio via