In the summer months, women want to look their best even right after swimming, exercising and outdoor activities. Eyelash tinting colors the eyelashes with dye from root to tip, resulting in darker, more noticeable lashes without mascara. The effect is even greater on women with naturally pale eyelashes. While tinting is safe when done correctly, there are potential side effects — particularly when the incorrect dye is used. The best way to avoid any potential complications is to have the service performed by a licensed cosmetologist or esthetician. It is not a service to perform on yourself at home.

Eye Irritation

The most common side effect of lash tinting is irritation. Even the safest dyes contain ingredients that can irritate when they enter the eye. It is easy for dye to get into the eye during tinting if the client opens her eye, even slightly. During the removal process, while the technician manipulates the eyelid, sometimes the eye can open slightly and tint can enter the eye. This can cause slight burning and stinging that often goes away once the eye begins tearing in response to the irritation. If the sensation continues after the technician removes the dye, the client can flush her eyes with water to complete removal of the irritant.

Allergic Skin Reactions

The skin around the eye is delicate and easily irritated. Even dyes designed for eyelash tinting contain ingredients that have the potential to cause an allergic reaction, such as plant-based substances and pH adjusters. Others contain nut-based compounds, such as walnut extract, that may cause a reaction in women who have nut allergies. While dye should not touch skin in a proper eyelash tint application, dyes can cause redness, itching and flaking when they come into contact with the tissues surrounding the eye. Technicians can prevent accidental contact through the application of a barrier product, such as petroleum jelly or other similar product, by conducting a patch test on any client with allergies or sensitive skin. Women who experience an allergic reaction should see a doctor or dermatologist for treatment.

Chemical Burns

The use of dyes designed for the hair in eyelash tinting can cause severe damage to the eye. Hair dye often contains ingredients such as coal, tar, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and anilines like p-Phenylenediamine (PPD). These substances can cause allergic reactions on the skin and chemical burns in the eye. This was a common occurrence among women in the 1930s, and occurs as recently as the 1990s and 2000s. Use of the proper dye designed for eyelashes can prevent this side effect, but even hair dyes that claim to be all-natural can contain coal or tar. Concerned clients should ask to see the product’s Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) before having the service performed, and should never let a technician use hair dye to tint eyebrows or eyelashes.


The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn that the use of hair dyes and dyes containing aniline substances to tint eyelashes can cause blindness. This warning is on the side of every package of professional and over-the-counter hair dye. There are products specifically for dyeing the eyebrows and eyelashes that do not contain this warning, which means they are safer for use on the lashes.