Irritation vs. Allergy

As most of my clients know, I'm allergic to adhesive.  Crazy right? I'm so sensitive that just the fumes cause to me react.  Don't be surprised if you come to your appointment and see me decked out in a full face mask.  Nothing to see here.  Just a girl trying to do what she loves without her face swelling up.  It has definitely been a frustrating experience but it has better prepared me to educate my clients.  You have to look on the bright side right?  Here's how the initial conversation goes:

Client: OMG your lashes are so pretty!! Who does yours?

Me: Thank you! But they're just strips!! I can't have extensions because I'm allergic to the glue.

Client: Oh... my.... well........ allergic?? Am I allergic????? Last time my right eye was itchy when I left and a few times before that my eyes were red right after I got them done!!!!!

Allergies definitely happen.  But more often than not, what you're suffering from is an irritation.  A lot of the symptoms are almost identical at first but there are a few ways to differentiate the two.  Let's start with the basics.  

al·ler·gy (noun)

  • a damaging immune response by the body to a substance, especially pollen, fur, a particular food, or dust, to which it has become hypersensitive.
  • synonyms: hypersensitivity, sensitivity, allergic reaction; anaphylaxis

ir·ri·ta·tion (noun)

  • the production of inflammation or other discomfort in a bodily part or organ.


An allergy is a condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to a foreign substance.  You can be allergic to just about anything- food, pets, chemicals, you name it.  As far as lash adhesives, the cyanoacrylate base is usually the culprit (and it's in every glue).  As with any chemical or substance, you can become allergic at any time. You can see a reaction after the first application or even years down the road.  An allergy to adhesive typically presents as red, puffy eyes and itchiness.  These symptoms will usually present within 48 hours of application and last until the adhesive is removed.  They can worsen with time and exposure.   I have had some allergic clients who have asked me "can I just take a benadryl and still get them???"  I don't recommend it.  My sister has a tree nut allergy and every time she is exposed her reaction is quicker and more severe- same idea.  The problem is that in the early stages, irritations can present almost identically to allergies.  Irritations are caused by the fumes given off during application or the eye pad sliding up into the eye.  This is why I always stress that it's super important to keep your eyes closed and still during your appointment.  I'm a professional text reader at this point, and they created talk to text for a reason. 

**The main way to distinguish an allergy from an irritation is that the symptoms from an irritation usually don't last longer than 24 hours and should get better as time passes. Another tell tale sign that you're suffering from irritation is that only one eye is affected.**

So, what am I getting at here? If you leave your appointment and your eyes feel itchy or look red, DON'T PANIC.  Give it a little time for the symptoms to subside and they most likely will.  If they aren't improving after the initial 24 hours and you believe you are having an allergic reaction to the adhesive, you should contact me (or your preferred lash tech) to remove your extensions.  Don't try to remove them at home as that can cause further irritation and discomfort. I always recommend scheduling an appointment with your doctor so they can also assess your reaction and determine if further medical attention is necessary.


I hope this helps answer some of your allergy related questions but if you have anything else on your mind, I'm here for you! Head over to contact page, shoot me message, and I'll get back to you asap!

xx Devin


Devin Tanzer