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Is eye lash lift safe and effective? episode 209


It’s a solo Beauty Brains podcast.

Chemical Free Rant
Since I’m going solo, there are a few topics I’d like to rant about. Let’s start with chemical free.

Can someone tell me something, what do people mean when they claim “chemical free”?

I look at the world from the standpoint of a scientist but you don’t have to be a scientist to know that everything is a chemical right?  I mean, that was the kind of thing we learned in grade school. Right? I know a lot of people don’t like science in school but everyone knows about atoms and molecules and chemicals right? Am I mistaken here?  

So, I have to think that when people claim “chemical free” they must not actually mean chemical free in the sense that I take it. I mean, everything is a chemical except stuff like gravity and UV rays and that kind of thing. But anything you might touch or hold or put on your body as a cosmetic is just made of chemicals. So what do people mean. What do marketers who say “chemical free” sunscreens mean? Zinc oxide is a chemical. 

I guess they probably mean natural? Or safe? Or…I don’t know. Maybe you can help me. I put up a post on our Instagram about this (we’re thebeautybrains2018). Maybe you could weigh in. When you say or some marketer says or someone says “chemical free”, what does that mean?  I’m really curious to see what people have to say. 

Active Ingredients

On my Chemists Corner website which is frequented by cosmetic formulators, someone posted that they thought most ingredients (active) are overrated.  They further went on to say over 99% of active skincare ingredients are overrated marketing hype. They simply do not have any visible effect on the skin. The industry is built on lies.

It was a bit harsh to tell you the truth. I think this is a bit of a cynical take on the cosmetic industry. I’m not saying it’s actually wrong, but maybe too cynical.

First, skin care products work. We can make great cleansers, excellent moisturizers. Hair removal depilatories and exfoliation products all work. And of course, color cosmetics are effective at making people feel better about how they look. Cosmetics work! And cosmetic/drugs work too. Sunscreens, antiperspirants, skin lighteners, and anti acne products work.

But there are 2 significant problems with the cosmetic industry that lead to what seems like lies.  Incidentally, I don’t think the cosmetic industry really lies. It’s actually illegal to outright lie, except in political ads. Then you can say what you want I guess.  Anyway, the two problems in the cosmetic industry are…

One, there haven’t been any consumer perceivable technological improvements in the last 20 to 30 years. The stuff you use now, is really pretty much the same as the stuff you used decades ago. Shampoos aren’t different. Skin lotions aren’t different. If anything, they don’t work as good. That’s mostly because of regulations but it’s also because we’re using all the same chemicals that we’ve used before. 

The other problem is that There is no consumer perceivable, proprietary technology that makes one company’s products better than another’s. That is to say, every company can make products that work just as well as every other company. L’Oreal, P&G, Unilever, can make products that work the same as every other product on the market. Now, there might be some exceptions where companies have patents but these aren’t really significant performance differences if you ask me. At least, nothing that consumers notice. 

Of course, in the cosmetic industry consumers always want something new. The products they have might actually work but you get bored with them. Consumers want to look better and switching to a new product gives them hope that this time, they might look better.

And it requires stories to give people that hope. Stories in the form of “active ingredients.” Marketers need a hero ingredient. They don’t want to talk about glycerin, or petrolatum or mineral oil (the old ingredients that actually work). No, they’d much rather make stories about Hyaluronic acid, or Bakuchiol or Argan oil. I don’t know, what’s the hot ingredient now…CBD.  Even though you can demonstrate that these ingredients probably don’t work as well as the old technology. But new stories sell new products.

So, yeah there is a lot of misleading and exaggeration going on in the cosmetic industry. It’s understandable and on some level, it’s what consumers want.

Question 1  – Audio

Stephanie – Eye lash lift. Is eyelash lift safe?  Can this procedure affect the growth of your eyelash? 

Oh boy. Let’s talk about eye lash lifts. To tell you the truth, I had not heard of this before your question. I’m sure Valerie probably had but you might be surprised to learn that I don’t give much thought to my eyelashes. I mean, I have eyelashes and I guess they work. They annoy me when I’ll occasionally get one in my eye. But mostly I don’t think about them. 

But based on being in the beauty industry and the questions which spark interest on the Beauty Brains, lot’s of people give great thought to their eyelashes.  

Whenever I am introduced to a new topic I like to go to Google Trends to see what kind of interest there is in the topic. And according to that tool, interest in eye lash lifts really took off somewhere around 2017. And that only seems to be growing. Yikes!

Anyway, so what are eye lash lifts?  From what I could tell, an eye lash lift is essentially a perm for you eyelashes. It’s a way to permanently (in temporary sort of way) curl your eyelashes. After you get this done, you don’t have to use those eyelash curlers any more. Which, quite frankly, do look like a pain. I see my wife using them every so often. 

You see, eye lash curlers rely on moisture and hydrogen bonding to give the eyelash some shape. It’s more or less effective but certainly not long lasting. Maybe one evening if you’re lucky.  Eye lash lifts use a chemical that breaks down some bonds in your hair, and then reforms them so the eye lashes maintain a curled state. This is exactly how a perm works. In fact, eye lash lifts use the same chemistry. Which makes sense because eyelashes are made up of the same stuff that the hair on you head is made up of. Keratin protein.

The active ingredient Thioglycolic acid breaks down the Sulfur-Sulfur bonds in your hair. Then, you reshape the hair. Next you reform some of those Sulfur Sulfur bonds and the hair more or less will keep the new shape. Permanently. Well, at least until it grows out. Like a perm, new growth will revert to your natural state. There’s some other ingredients in there 

Now, you had two questions.  First, is it safe?

God no! This seems like a terrible idea to me. Thioglycolic acid is not something you want in or around your eyes. It can cause severe burns and chemical injuries on your skin, your eyes, your respiratory tract. It is corrosive and can even induce a systemic toxicity. This isn’t a safe ingredient. Now, when put on your head for doing perms, there’s just less risk of it getting in your eyes but getting a chemical burn on your scalp is still a risk when you get a perm. Ideally, your stylist is well practiced and none of it gets on your skin but it’s still a risk.

However, around the eyes, that’s just not a good idea! You could go blind! Or burn your cornea or some other not insignificant eye injury. This does not seem safe.  But maybe I’m just being overly cautious. You have to say to yourself, well salons all over the country are offering this service. How bad could it really be? I don’t know. I don’t have the stats to tell you how many people have eye injuries as a result of this. I just know what could happen. And then you have to decide, is risking your eyesight really worth this treatment?  I would say no, but you know, I don’t think much about my eyelashes anyway. Some people think the risk is worth it.

Ok, your other question was can the procedure affect the growth of future eyelashes?

Well, the ingredient is cytotoxic which means that it can kill cells. If the liquid gets into your hair follicle, travels down and gets in the bulb where cells are growing. It will kill those. And your hair in that follicle will stop growing. So, yeah it could affect that.  Now, whether it will, I’m not sure. If it is being applied correctly there’s no reason it should get that far down into the hair follicle. But geez, it certainly could. So, yeah it can affect the future growth of eyelashes. Also, it will make your current eyelash hairs weaker. That’s because you break down bonds and when you reform them, that’s not a perfect system.

I will note that the FDA does not specifically say tho avoid doing eye lash lifts.  Perhaps they haven’t heard about it or haven’t come out with a position on it. They are slow like that. They do say don’t use hair colorants on your eye lashes or brows. It’s different chemistry but both are reactive and dangerous. 

So, the bottom line is that this treatment does work. It will give you permanently (mostly) curled eyelashes. But I don’t think it’s safe. 

Link to dangers of thioglycolic acid 

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