Do Lash Lifts Damage Your Lashes? – Ultimate Guide to Lash & Brow Artistry | Ruthie Belle
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Do Lash Lifts Damage Your Lashes?

by Ruthie Belle

Since lash lifting has become as popular as eyelash extensions in the past two years, we find customers wanting to know more about its long-term impact on natural lashes. So it’s essential for us, lash artists, to know what actually happens inside lashes during the treatment for ourselves and for us to be able to explain this to customers. If you cater to high-end customers who value quality over price, this is especially important to explain!

The part of the treatment that determines how damaging it is for lashes is the composition of the range’s lifting lotion. All curling lotions have the same working mechanism – the lotion penetrates the hair, breaks down the disulfide bonds and is then neutralized by the fixing lotion. It doesn’t matter if you take the most gentle or the most aggressive lifting lotion; the working mechanism is always the same.

The most significant difference comes from which ingredient is used to break the bonds. The two main components that achieve this are – ammonium thioglycolate and cysteamine, so let’s have a closer look at these ingredients.

Origin & safety

Ammonium thioglycolate is made from thioglycolic acid and ammonia – the chemical that’s used to clean toilets, car rims, etc. Thioglycolic acid and ammonia are such strong chemicals that they have to have the following warning symbols on it:

POISONOUS/DEADLY. This means that you can die in case you swallow it. 

CAUSTIC. This means that this chemical can not touch the skin because it can burn or corrode organic tissue. 

Cysteamine is made from cysteamine hydrochloride and although it’s synthetically made, its chemical composition is identical to the cysteamine found naturally in human bodies.

Chemical formula of synthetic cysteamine
Cysteamine biosynthesized in humans

Pure cysteamine has only one warning symbol on it:

This symbol means that this product can cause skin irritation.

Impact on lashes

Ammonium thioglycolate is an alkaline salt, and just like all salts, it can dehydrate lashes. There is a HUGE difference in the state of lashes after the curling stage though, depending on how harsh or gentle its composition is. More thorough information about this here.

Click here if you don’t know if the lash lift system you work with is aggressive or not to find out the answer.

With cysteamine-based lifting solutions, the question of how damaging they are becomes obsolete as they are nourishing for lashes instead! This means that they not only pamper regular lashes but also restore the structure of VERY damaged (over-processed) lashes! When you work with cysteamine-based lifting solutions, you not only have a guarantee of not to over process customers’ lashes, but you can safely rescue lashes that have been over-processed with harsh lifting lotions! How cool is that 😏

Impact on nature

Ammonium thioglycolate does not break down in nature and can harm marine fauna & flora when it reaches the groundwater.

Cysteamine breaks down entirely in nature and does not cause any harm to it.

So switching from thioglycolate-based lash lift products to cysteamine-based is beneficial to your customers’ lashes and a more eco-friendly option. So, to sum up, the response to the question if a lash lift is damaging to your lashes is this:

PRO TIP: There is a big difference between cysteamine-based lifting solutions and solutions that have cysteamine simply added to the ammonium or ethanolamine base. A cysteamine-based lifting lotion does not contain ANY of these harsh chemicals and is called an “organic” or “plant-based” lash lift system.

Since using gentle products is becoming more and more popular, multiple brands try to benefit from the trend by making their solutions appear more gentle without actually changing much of their actual composition. Simply replacing one ingredient with cysteamine and keeping other harsh chemicals does not give the benefits of cysteamine-based lifting lotion ☝️

PRO TIP: Another marketing trick is saying that a particular lash lift system nourishes eyelashes since its steps after the lifting lotion include nourishing ingredients. If the lifting solution itself is still damaging, then adding nourishing ingredients to the following stages does not make the whole treatment pampering for natural lashes – it just reduces its damaging effect ☝️

The key differences between cysteamine-based and thioglycolate-based lash lift products are summed up in the following table: