Women Are Risking Their Sight With At-Home Lash Lift Kits Bought Online

Artwork by Anna Jay.
From lash tints to Russian extensions, lash care is one of the most popular beauty treatments at salons in the UK, but the lash perm or lash lift scoops the top spot. On Google Trends, search for the treatment has increased by an enormous 200% in the last 12 months. Salon app Treatwell also pinpointed the LVL lash lift as the fastest-growing lash treatment in the UK, as more of us do away with the faff of mascara and painful, vicelike curlers for a wide-eyed, I-woke-up-like-this look without any effort at all.
If you're a lash lift regular, you'll know just how transformative it can be. Using a professional perming solution (which breaks the hair's bonds and reshapes lashes), a professional lash lift defines, curls and appears to lengthen even the stubbiest of hairs sans the fall-out of lash extensions or the fiddly nature of false lashes. But with beauty salons and clinics closed following government advice due to coronavirus, all lash lift appointments have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Lately, though, DIY lash lift kits have gained traction among those who want to maintain their lashes at home, and the internet is bursting with them.
In theory, DIY lash lift kits sound great. A quick online search uncovers kits as cheap as £10 (a fraction of the price of professional lash lifts, which can cost anything from £50 upwards excluding a tint). From lash solution and glue to lash pads and even lash cleanser, almost all of the kits found online contain everything you'd need to do the treatment in your own bedroom. Scrolling through social media you can't miss the adverts, five-star reviews and countless posts from influencers extolling the virtues of these DIY kits. The before and after photos are incredibly convincing. But the risks are enormous.

Blindness is highly possible if chemicals seep into eyes.

"At-home lash lift kits are dangerous and there is a high probability you will harm your eye or the structures around it with toxic ingredients that include ammonia, formaldehyde and lead," says Dhruvin Patel, leading optometrist and founder of Ocushield. The list of side effects is endless, says optometrist Rachael De Carteret. "The strong chemicals used in eyelash perming can cause irritation, redness and discomfort if they come into contact with the surface of the eye, and in some cases can even cause burns and painful corneal ulcers."
What concerns both Rachael and lash expert Camilla Kirk-Reynolds is that wince-inducing video tutorials show people applying these products with their eyes open. In salon, both eyes must be closed as a technician usually does the treatment, which prevents the solution making its way inside the eye, says Camilla. Rachael adds: "If the eyelids are not properly prepared before application, including cleaning the area, removing all makeup and any contact lenses, this is where infections can arise. These can be mild and affect vision temporarily, or more serious and can even cause long-term damage to your sight through scarring." Dhruvin seconds this, adding that blindness is highly possible if chemicals seep into eyes.
After buying a lash lift kit online, Jasmine* discovered just how risky it can be when she feared she had damaged her sight permanently. "My kit came with a step-by-step process that was really informative but it was a big mess from start to finish," she told R29. What followed nearly landed Jasmine in A&E. "I got the glue and perm solution in my eye as the lash pads kept moving and it was so painful. All I could see were white splotches. I didn’t know what to do, so I instantly washed my eyes with warm water but the glue had dried, which stuck my eyes and lashes together."

All I could see were white splotches. I thought I'd have to go to the doctor's immediately.

"I couldn't get the lash glue off and my eyes were so irritated and sore, I thought I would have to go to the doctor's," Jasmine continued. "It took two whole weeks for them to settle." Hers isn't an isolated incident. "Quite a few people have messaged me since, telling me that their experience was just the same as mine," she added.
Acting fast is key should you accidentally get lash perming solution in your eyes. "Flush your eyes out for about 15-20 minutes with cold water," advises Camilla. "Use your fingers to hold your eyes open while doing so and move your eye around during the flushing to ensure the most efficient coverage possible. Make sure you have removed your contact lenses if you haven't already, as they may trap the solution in your eye. In case of severe burns, go straight to A&E and try to continue to flush your eyes out en route to the hospital. Make sure you know which products came into contact with your eye so you can tell your doctor, too. Any alkali or acid burns in the eye will need to be evaluated as both have the potential to cause vision loss."
Getting chemicals in your eye is one thing but a nasty skin reaction is possible, too. In salon, a patch test is mandatory 24 hours before treatment to rule out any potentially dangerous allergies to chemicals used. One kit we bought online instructed that a patch test is only recommended if the consumer has sensitive skin or is prone to allergies, while we found that most people skip patch tests altogether when using DIY kits.

Not all DIY products are monitored for quality control. You don't know the cocktail of chemicals inside.

Camilla Kirk-Reynolds
"This is really terrifying and so dangerous," says Camilla. "People are not considering the consequences of using such products on or around their eyes, nor are they being alerted to it by the suppliers themselves." While the kit we purchased advises consumers to stop using the product immediately if skin becomes irritated, by that point the harm has already been done. "Not all DIY products are monitored for quality control either," says Camilla. "You don’t know the exact amount or cocktail of chemicals that have been used for each solution."
It isn't just skin that is prone to damage. Using harsh chemicals like these on any type of body hair will weaken and damage the hair, says Camilla. Ethanolamine, which has a strong ammonia smell, is a popular ingredient in many DIY lash lift kits advertised online. Research suggests it is more damaging to hair than ammonia. "There is a strong chance of chemically burning through your lashes, leaving them looking singed or broken," says Camilla. "This then creates brittle lashes in the future. Sometimes the lashes can even fall out directly from the follicle if the solution manages to penetrate that far."
Expert consensus rules at-home lash perming kits bought online a real hazard. Rachael advises always visiting a professional who has undertaken the relevant training and has experience in performing the treatment, to help keep your eyes and your sight safe. Camilla continues: "I strongly advise people against DIY lash perms and ask them to not even think about doing them at home. The risks of self-harm are far too high. Instead, opt for the temporary use of a lash curler, either the traditional type or the heated type, both of which work well to curl lashes with mascara. Also try using a lash growth serum and then a lash curler for added effect."
Dhruvin sums it up well. "With salons closed, it's understandable why people are looking to use DIY lash kits easily found online and quickly delivered to your door. But you only get one pair of eyes and in most cases I've seen, the damage is irreversible." It simply is not worth the risk.
*Name has been changed

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