The full brow and lash trend is nothing new, beginning in early 2010 models Lily Collins and Cara Delevingne helped the trend gain traction. Now, celebrities and social media influencers, like Kim Kardashian, are often showing off their thick brow and lashes on Instagram.
In search for beautiful and bushy brows from Instagram, many spa-goers have started to turn to brow experts and estheticians for help. Tinting is often suggested as a low-maintenance way to make brows and lashes look fuller longer. Brow and lash tinting services are becoming more popular and have been consistently growing since 2012. Tinting provides consumers an alternative to microblading and other more permanent coloring options.
“A lot of people will play a thousand dollars to get their brows microbladed but have never tried tinting their brows which is a lot less of a commitment and can give you beautiful thick brows that you never knew you had,” says Joey Healy, celebrity eyebrow specialist and owner of Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio.
Brow tinting dyes each hair, including the fine-grade “baby hair” or “peach fuzz,” not the skin underneath, meaning the treatment cannot cover gaps or scars in the brow. The convenient, non-intrusive method is said to last for approximately four to six weeks, depending on the person, while looking much more natural than even your favorite eyebrow pencil or mascara. It is most valuable for those who are looking to darken their brows or lashes, particularly those with blonde or grey hairs. But like most other things, the convenience comes at a cost.
Eyebrow and eyelash tinting has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to concern for the safety of the client’s eyes. The eyelid is the thinnest, and therefore most sensitive, skin on the body, making it more susceptible to an allergic reaction or irritation which can become permanent.
Several different eye injury cases resulting from tinting “influenced the decision by Congress to include in the FD&C Act provisions specifically addressing this safety concern,” according to an FDA spokesperson. For example, a groom sued Benefit Cosmetics Brows-A-Go-Go (NYC) after his first eyelash tinting service went wrong, impacting his big day and causing months of treatment, according to a 2016 New York Post article.
California has banned the practice all together while other states, such as New York, find it legal only if the dye is not permanent. Similarly, you can find the service in states such as Texas, Illinois, and Florida. Massachusetts used to have a similar law to California, but it was overturned in 2016, saying it is only legal if the product is made specifically for brows or lashes.
“Personally, I believe they need to re-evaluate and there are a lot more dangerous things out there,” says Umbreen Sheikh, CEO and founder of Wink Brow Bar. “Anything done incorrectly and without expertise is dangerous - for example, we have plastic surgeons in NYC that are performing botched up procedures every day that are a lot more dangerous but it’s not banned. I believe the FDA should allow lashing tinting at properly certified salons.”
The preservatives and unapproved ingredients found in many tinting dyes pose the biggest risk, though there is no standard to what is used for tinting. In fact, an import alert was placed on certain products containing coal-tar dye, a common hair dye ingredient originally named for the burnt coal it was made from. While still found in hair dye, if the ingredient is found in lash and brow tinting dyes, the product is subject to detainment at the border by the FDA.
Using natural, organic, and vegan ingredients in products such as vegetable-based dye is the solution for many salons to ensure safety of the service, including Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio. Additionally, Healy sticks solely to eyebrow tinting, not only because that is his specialty, but also to add another layer of safety.
“Your brow is more resilient because even though it is in the eye area, it is on that super orbital brow bone and the skin up there is taut. It’s not your eyelid or undereye. It is so different,” says Healy. “It’s like with skincare products, you can get them around the eye but not in that socket of the eye.”
By not offering the service, he also lowers his insurance premium costs. “If you offer a service like that in your salon, your insurance premium goes up very quickly because there is more of a chance that you can create bodily harm or injury,” says Healy. “I also don’t want the headache of anything that is at all risky. We also don’t use electricity in our service. We don’t use hot wax in our service. It makes things go along a little more smoothly not to offer things that can potentially be hazardous or controversial.”
Others think that as long as it isn’t DIY as some clients are attempting at home now, and it is done by a licensed trained professional, such as an esthetician or cosmetologist, then the risk is much lower.
“What prevents individuals from having negative reactions to any service is…making sure you know what products are being used, how the ingredients work together, and who are ideal candidates for such services and to follow correct procedures with expertise,” says Sheikh.
It is important for salons and spas to offer consultations prior to the treatment. Waiting to see the results of a simple swatch test behind the ear helps the client see if they are reactive to the product.
The team at Wink Brow Bar (NYC) does a consultation with each person who goes to Wink and a patch test is required before such treatments. “By consulting beforehand, we know what types of products can be used, what products to stay away from, and how we can ensure they get the results they desire,” says Sheikh.
Tinted brow gels are the best alternative for eyebrow tinting for those who are hesitant to tint their brows, don’t want to commit to the treatment or need a slight touch up between appointments.