When it comes to eyelash treatments, it’s important to research the ingredients to ensure you’re not allergic. So what are the ingredients in lash lift solutions?
Lash lift products have different ingredient lists depending on the manufacturer, and they are not strictly regulated. Even with the most skilled technician, lash lift solutions can irritate the eye, especially if you have a history of dry eye, eye allergies, or general skin sensitivities.
Find out more below.
What Type Of Solution Is Used For A Lash Lift?
A lash lift is basically a perm for your eyelashes.
The process requires chemically breaking down disulfide bonds in each hair shaft and resetting them in an attractive, curled shape.
There are two perming solutions used in lash lifts; the first penetrates the shaft and the second is a setting or neutralizing solution.
A water-soluble glue is also used to temporarily secure the lashes to a silicone rod, and a lash cleanser is used as a final step to remove any residue left from the perming solutions.
What Are The Ingredients Used In A Lash Lift?
Lash lift products aren’t regulated as strictly as medical products, so the manufacturers don’t have to say which ingredients and how much of any particular ingredient is in their solutions.
You may notice this when shopping online for DIY lash lift products – there are often no specific ingredient lists.
Here are the typical ingredients used in a lash lift:
Lash Glue Ingredients
The glue used to affix lashes to the silicone rod is water-soluble and generally includes distilled water, butyl acrylate, propylene glycol, dextrin, copolymers, and ethyl alcohol.
The main (and harshest) ingredient in the perming solution is ammonium.
This can take the form of ammonium thioglycolate, ethanolamine, thioglycolic acid or anything with the word ammonium in its name.
Then there will be a number of added ingredients: polyacrylamide, propylene glycol, parabens, and purified water among others.
Setting or Fixing Solution
The second solution serves to neutralize the effects of the first, fix the new shape of the lash, and re-seal the cuticle of the lashes.
These solutions usually contain either sodium bromate or hydrogen peroxide.
What Ingredients Are In A Lash Lift Cleanser?
Depending on the technician doing the lash lift, they may use a nourishing lotion, a lash lift cleanser, or just water on a damp cotton pad.
There are a wide variety of ingredients in nourishing lotions such as water, keratin, propylene glycol, and peptides.
Lash Lift Cleanser
There can be a wide variety of ingredients in lash cleansers such as water, copolymers, glycerides, and/or glycerin, propanediol, prolines, citric acid, and natural extracts.
What is Important to Know About Lash Lift Ingredients?
Many ingredients in lash lift products are beneficial and are added to provide nourishment, repair, and hydrate lashes.
Parabens are common in cosmetics as a preservative.
Peptides are amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Biotin is Vitamin B7. Glycerol is a humectant that hydrates lashes.
However, some chemical ingredients are worth being aware of for not-so-good reasons:
As mentioned earlier, the harshest ingredient used in lash lifts is ammonium.
The ammonium in the perm solution may go by different names (ammonium thioglycolate, ethanolamine, thioglycolic acid or similar), but it does the same thing to your lashes: it is an alkaline salt that penetrates the hair and breaks down disulfide bonds.
This softens the lash and prepares it to be “fixed” in a curled state.
Some ingredients used in lash lifts are restricted for use in certain countries.
For example, thioglycolic acid is restricted for use in Canada. Polyacrylamide is regulated in Canada and the E.U. Sodium bromate is banned for use in Canada.
Some ingredients also raise concerns due to being potential carcinogens such as acrylamide and ethylene oxide (an ingredient used to create polysorbates).
Also, parabens have lately been in the news because of their ability to mimic estrogen and potentially increase breast tumor cell division.
However, this has not been proven with long-term studies.
Are There Alternatives to Using Ammonium-Based Solutions?
Yes, there are two types of lash lifts developed to address the chemical harshness of ammonium-based solutions. These are Keratin lash lifts and organic lash lifts.
What is a Keratin Lash Lift?
With a Keratin lash lift, a keratin solution is used instead of the perming solutions to shape eyelashes over the silicone rod.
Keratin is a strengthening protein found naturally in hair, skin, and nails.
The solution in a keratin lash lift will always contain the keratin protein and will often have additives such as silk peptides, vitamins, and botanicals.
Is a Keratin Lash Lift better than a regular Lash Lift?
Both are similar in that a pad is placed underneath the eye to protect the skin, a silicone rod is placed over the top eyelid, and glue is applied to fix the lashes to the rod.
Both have similar results and last the same amount of time.
A Keratin lash lift avoids the harsh chemical treatment of a regular perm lash lift by using a keratin solution instead.
It is important to note that just because keratin is used instead of a harsh ammonium alkaline solution, doesn’t mean there aren’t similar risks.
Even with a protective pad in place, either solution can still get on the delicate skin surrounding the eye, the eye glands, or the eye itself, creating irritation or a potential reaction.
What is an Organic Lash Lift?
An organic lash lift is similar to a Keratin Lash Lift in that it avoids the use of harsh chemicals to curl and fix the eyelashes.
The ammonium chemical (ammonium thioglycolate, ethanolamine, thioglycolic acid or similarly named) in the perm solution of a regular lash lift is replaced with organic cysteamine and plant-based amino acids.
As with other lash lift procedures, do your research before choosing an organic lash lift.
Determine if the products are truly organic (remember, these products are not regulated by the FDA), find a reputable technician, and use the same precautions against potential irritation.
After all, you can be allergic to natural, organic products just as much as artificial ones.
What Ingredients Are In Lash Serum?
Lash serums promote the look of natural growth in eyelashes.
The only lash serum that is proven to promote actual growth of eyelashes is Latisse, which is available by prescription only.
Typical Lash Serum Ingredients:
Lash serums generally contain vitamins, proteins, and oils to condition and nourish the lashes. Most will contain biotin (Vitamin B7) and some combination of peptides, vitamins, minerals, oils, and proteins.
Some serums contain the prostaglandin latanoprost, which is not as strong as the prostaglandin found in Latisse and therefore available without a prescription.
The active ingredient in Latisse that stimulates lash growth is called bimatoprost.
This is FDA-approved and requires a prescription.
Other ingredients include benzalkonium chloride 0.05 mg/mL, sodium chloride; sodium phosphate, dibasic, citric acid, and purified water. These are preservatives and inactive ingredients.
Who Should Not Get A Lash Lift?
Although the lash lift solution doesn’t stay on for more than 5-10 minutes, even the most “gentle” lash lift kit contains some sort of chemical. These will break down the disulfide bonds inside lashes and so lash lifts aren’t for everyone.
You should not have a lash lift if you have:
- History of eye allergies
- Eye infection
- Watery eyes
- Sensitive eyes
- Chronic dry eye
- Recent (within 6-12 months) ocular surgery, eyelid lift surgery, or LASIK surgery
If you aren’t sure how you may react to the products, get spot tested on your arm 48 hours before your scheduled lash lift.
Most reputable technicians will do this for you, and some even require it.
If you have no allergic reaction after the 48 hours are up, you have less risk of having an adverse reaction to the lash lift itself.
Another requirement for a lash lift is that you must have natural lashes that are at least 4mm long. If your lashes are shorter than 4mm, consider lash extensions or growth serums.
If you are a contact lens wearer, you must remove them prior to getting the lash lift. You also must remove all make-up before getting the lash lift.
Potential Risks Of Getting A Lash Lift
Lash lifts involve applying chemicals in close proximity to the eye and eye glands.
The skin surrounding the eye is also very thin and can become irritated very quickly.
Many states require technicians (usually aestheticians, dermatologists, and barbers) to be licensed to perform lash lifts due to the risks involved.
These risks are:
- Allergic reaction (dermatitis) to the skin surrounding the eye
- Allergic reaction (watery, red, itching) in the eye
- Exacerbation of dry eye
- Loss of lashes (over long-term use)
Due to the risks involved, it is important to have a reputable, licensed technician perform your lash lift.
Ask to see a “look book” of before-and-after lash lift procedures.
Make sure you get a spot test (usually on your inner elbow) before your first lash lift (but remember that the eye area is more sensitive than other parts of the body, so a spot test is not foolproof).
A reputable technician will ask you questions beforehand about your history regarding eye allergies, eye diseases, or other issues that could pose a risk.
Note that there is currently no minimum age requirement to get a lash lift in the US or the UK, and this makes it even more important to choose a reputable salon.
Do Lash Lifts Damage Your Eyelashes?
Lash lifts are relatively new cosmetic procedures and are not subject to the same scrutiny as medical procedures.
Therefore, many of the reports of damage to eyelashes from lash lifts are anecdotal.
There are no scientific studies of the long-term effects of lifts on natural eyelashes.
However, the process of chemically altering and changing the internal structure of each eyelash will, over time, weaken the integrity of the eyelash.
Many of the chemicals are alcohol-based, which dries out the eyelash, leaving it brittle and weak.
The pH balance in the eyelashes is also altered by the solutions during a lash lift.
Using products that are as gentle as possible, rehydrating the lashes, and restoring neutral pH to the lashes are recommended to avoid damage.
Also, consider avoiding constant use of lash lifts to define and curl your lashes.
I am Allergic or Sensitive to the Ingredients in Lash Lifts. Is There an Alternative?
Even using “gentle” lash lift products such as Keratin or organic lifts can cause allergic reactions or sensitivities in some people.
Alternatives to lash lifts are lash extensions or false lashes (glued or magnetic), lash serums and tints, lash extending mascara, and lash curlers.
When using serums and tints it is still important to consider the ingredients in them, especially if you have known allergies.