What is Formaldehyde & should you be worried?

Written by Derik - the Lash Nerd 

What is Formaldehyde?

I just got off the phone with a lash tech who had questions about formaldehyde. Her concern was mostly about a client of hers. This client was pregnant and was told by someone else that the glue could potentially be harmful - especially formaldehyde.

Because I like torturing you, and I’m trying to normalise nerdy being the new rizz, let’s talk science. (I’m trying to use more gen z slang)

It’s a chemical that’s very widely used in manufacturing. It might be one of the most used chemicals in the world. It used in everything, like: paper, glue, clothes, plastics and a whole bunch of other things. It can cause negative health effects at high concentrations. Most safety guidelines talk about “parts per million” (ppm). That means for every 1 million molecules of air, that’s how many molecules of the chemical are there. Here’s an example: If you were in a large bedroom and sprayed your perfume in the air once, that would be roughly 3 parts of perfume to 1 million bits of air. Get the idea?

Certain chemicals are considered dangerous at certain parts per million (ppm).

What does have to do with a lash tech?

Ugh…more science…

All glue is made with formaldehyde. Take a bunch of chemicals (Eg Cyanoacrylate), stir in some formaldehyde and boom, glue. Add some other stuff to it to make it work better, have longer shelf-life etc and boom, Holy Grail.

The annoying part about lash glue (cyanoacrylate) is that formaldehyde is produced when the glue ages, and when it cures. It’s unavoidable, and will happen with literally any glue that has cyanoacrylate in it. The amount of formaldehyde produced will change from glue to glue.

Which glues make more formaldehyde?

How much formaldehyde being produced depends on the type of glue, how pure it is, some of the other ingredients, how much is being used, and how quick it cures. Cheap glues can produce formaldehyde up to 1 ppm. At 1 ppm, you will notice it. It can cause irritation to the lungs, nose and mouth. It has a harsh, stinging, bad chemical feeling and “taste”. Health guidelines state that you should stay under 1 ppm over 8 hours, anything over that can be bad for you.

Cheap glues are cheap for a reason. They aren’t pure and they use cheaper chemicals for all the manufacturing. Cyanoacrylate works best once it is distilled and purified. Sometimes, manufacturers will distil and purify more than once. Every time they do this, they lose a large amount of the glue. This cheap stuff will produce more fumes, and more formaldehyde.

What about high quality glues?

High quality glues like Holy Grail, Holy Flex, Locks Lash Pro Glue are distilled multiple times, purified and use high quality ingredients. The amount of formaldehyde produced is hard to determine exactly, but current estimates is roughly 0.2-0.3 ppm. That’s not a lot, and you’ll probably not notice any formaldehyde, and it won’t likely cause any health concerns.

What about low quality glues?

Low quality glues, especially those made with a different type of cyanoacrylate (methyl cyanoacrylate - the only glue us old-timers used to use) will produce more formaldehyde. The way it cured produced slightly more formaldehyde. So choose the glue that has ethyl 2 cyanoacrylate

What should I do?

A good rule of thumb is if you can’t smell the glue, you’ll be fine. If you can smell the glue, you might consider moving the glue somewhere else while working so you can’t smell the glue. Having good circulation in your room is also key. Not only will it keep formaldehyde from staying around you and your client, it will help with retention as well - to keep the humidity consistent in your room.

What about the pregnant client? Should I be more concerned?

Pregnancy and formaldehyde have a toxic relationship. High concentrations of formaldehyde can cause complications. Some things are premature birth, trouble getting knocked up, even still births. However, don’t let that scare you! We’re talking about those same high levels over a long period of time. At 0.2-0.3 ppm for an hour and a half, she’ll be fine in my opinion. If you or her are concerned about it, consult her midwife, OB/GYN, or GP and get some good advice. Also wearing a mask will prevent some of the fumes from getting into the lungs.

Final thoughts. 

Don’t stress about it. We’ve been doing lashes with this glue for a long time, and we haven’t seen a whole bunch of cancer or still births flare up. It’s totally fine to keep using your glue, with the usual precautions and how you normally use it.