Eyelash Dye Dangers

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Lots of women with blond or light-colored eyelashes are tempted to dye their lashes so they look defined and noticeable. Perhaps you're considering it as well, thinking that you'll be able to forgo the mascara…nope, you'll still need to apply mascara. Or, maybe you love the idea of waking up with dark, defined lashes. Given those possibilities, it may sound like a good idea to dye your lashes, but for the sake of your eyes, Don't Do It!
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Why Eyelash Dyes Are a "Don't"!

OK, we've dampened your enthusiasm a bit, but we have good reasons! Here's why you should avoid eyelash dyes, even those advertised at upscale salons or spas, or for at-home use:

  • The biggest concern about using eyelash dyes is that they can cause blindness! Yes, blindness! Now that's suffering for beauty! It won't matter how dark or noticeable your lashes are if you're not able to see them!
  • Along with the possibility of blindness, eyelash dyes can cause swelling, inflammation of the eye itself, and eye infections that may land you in the hospital.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) absolutely prohibits the use of hair dyes for eyelash (and eyebrow) tinting or dyeing, even in beauty salons and other establishments.
  • Despite what you may have heard at your salon, there are no color additives or coloring agents, synthetic or natural, approved by the FDA for dyeing or tinting eyelashes—either by professionals or by consumers at home.
  • There are no "natural" or "organic" eyelash dyes. If it changes the color of your lashes, then it means the exact same dyes that you find in permanent hair dyes (for the hair on your head) are being used. And only synthetic dyes (which are not approved either) can change blond or red hair to dark brown or black.
  • United States law requires all hair-dye products (1) to include instructions telling users to perform patch tests before they use them so they can determine if they may have an allergic reaction, and (2) to carry warnings about the dangers of applying these products to eyebrows and eyelashes. We know, we know…who takes the time to do those tests before covering their gray roots, right? But, the warning about dyeing your eyebrows and eyelashes is there because it is so dangerous!

Can I Still Dye My Lashes If I'm Really Careful?

Short answer: You can, but you should not! You've likely noticed that many beauty salons offer eyelash dyeing (or tinting) as one of their services. Salon staff are quick to explain how careful they are; they may even list all the precautions they take to keep your eyes safe—but it's still incredibly risky. Even if you and the salon professional have every intention of being extremely careful, mistakes can happen, and they do! Please, please…don't risk your eye health and good vision for a temporary cosmetic enhancement that's easily (and safely) outdone by using mascara.

The Safe Way to Darker, Longer Lashes

The only safe way to accent your eyelashes is with mascara. Yes, you have to apply it daily and, yes, you have to remove it at night. (Don't go to sleep without removing your mascara; it can cause mild irritation and puffiness if it gets in your eyes.) Check out our top-rated mascara options on Beautypedia.

Don't forget, eyelash dyeing isn't a one-time, take-your-chances process and then it's over; just like dyeing your hair, if you dye your lashes, you'll need to do it every 2–6 weeks to maintain the results. And sooner or later, you'll run into serious complications. We know you're doing it for your appearance, but with the right eye makeup, you can achieve a variety of looks to suit your mood or the occasion. Dyeing your eyelashes only makes your natural lashes darker,… it doesn't make them longer, thicker, or more curled. Also, as an aside, watch out for advertised eyelash perms; they present the same risks as eyelash dyes.

If you're looking for a way to make your lashes darker, longer, and fuller without makeup, the best option is proven lash-growth products such as prescription-only Latisse. Learn more about how Latisse and other lash growth products work.

Sources for the information above: Contact Dermatitis, August 2006, pages 92–94; Tropical Doctor, October 2004, pages 235–236; www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_128.html; http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm137241.htm; and www.thebeautybrains.com.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you sort through the myths and half-truths of the cosmetic industry. With their expert advice, you’ll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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