Most eyelash adhesives are cyanoacrylate-based. Essentially, cyanoacrylate is just a generic term for a group of fast-acting adhesives that have a wide variety of uses, from household products to medical and industrial applications.
Cyanoacrylate adhesives are ideal for lashes because they’re quick drying and long lasting—the chemical is the same one found in super glue—but it’s important to understand that long-term exposure to the fumes can be harmful to your health.
For your clients, the risks are minimal. They’re exposed to the fumes for only about an hour every few weeks. However, you, as the lash artist, are exposed to the fumes all day, every day. Long-term exposure has been linked to conditions such as occupational asthma (OA) and occupational rhinitis (OR), an inflammatory condition of the nose, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Further risks are still unknown. Because lash extensions have exploded in popularity in recent years, scientific research into the dangers of cyanoacrylate fumes is relatively new.
Despite that, scientists from the Oxford Journal who have studied the risks stress the importance of proper ventilation and respiratory protective equipment. As a good first step, experts recommend installing a ventilation system with a high-powered fan. You can find them at local home improvement stores or on Amazon for $100 to $200.
Other products that have proved effective in blocking fumes include:
Charcoal Filter Masks
Charcoal filter masks, also known as carbon-activated masks, trap a large portion of chemicals, fumes, and vapors before they are inhaled. These filters are the most common solution for blocking harsh fumes and chemicals in a variety of occupations, including hazardous jobs like welding, where exposure risks are high. Charcoal, which is made of carbon, is an effective absorbent because it has such a large surface area. The fumes attach to the surface of the charcoal and cannot be inhaled.
Some charcoal masks are disposable, while others are permanent and washable with replaceable filters. The washable masks come in prints, colors and designs that make them a little less intimidating to clients. Disposables can be found for less than 50 cents each, while washable versions cost about $20-$30, not including refills. Refills are about $5 each and last 60 to 80 hours. No matter which option you choose, expect that some clients will ask why you’re wearing the mask. It’s always best to be honest and explain the risks of long-term exposure while emphasizing that the client is safe.
One very important thing to note is that typical doctor’s masks are not a suitable replacement for charcoal masks. Doctor’s masks might prevent you from catching a cold, but they do nothing to block fumes.
VOC purifiers remove large amounts of volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) from the air. VOCs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are gases that are emitted from certain liquids or solids, including adhesives like cyanoacrylate. These are widely found in all sorts of household products, but they can be harmful at high levels, particularly in salon environments. Because VOCs all contain carbon, VOC purifiers use what’s known as an active carbon filter to trap fumes. Make sure you purchase a purifier specifically designed for VOCs, not just airborne particles.
Crystals and Gels
Anti-allergy gels and crystals provide a third line of defense against harsh cyanoacrylate fumes. Both work to clear the air of fumes and harmful vapors, reducing irritation for the lash artist and the client. With the gels, simply open the container when you’re applying the lashes and place it close to the adhesive. Most of these products last two or three months. Fume-reducing crystals work much in the same way, but they’re usually placed in a breathable bag that is hung near the adhesive.
Keep in mind that while all the above products—masks, purifiers, and gels/crystals—are effective, no one product prevents all fume inhalation. The safest approach is a combination of all three, along with ventilation system. When your long-term health is at stake, taking extra steps to reduce the risks is worth the time and investment.