Q: My hair salon offers eyelash tinting and perming. I'd love to try it because my mascara tends to run, but is it safe?
A: Having your eyelashes tinted may seem like a good idea, but it's definitely something you should think twice about. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has repeatedly warned consumers never to dye their eyelashes or eyebrows -- a fact that many people, including the salons that offer this service, may not be aware of, says Marguerite McDonald, M.D., a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. "There is nothing -- neither natural nor synthetic -- that has been FDA-approved for tinting or perming eyelashes," she adds.
The dyes and chemical solutions that salons use to tint and perm are often only slightly modified versions of the products used on your hair, but these, says McDonald, have never been proven safe for use on the lashes or brows. In fact, such chemicals can cause severe allergic reactions around the eyes, especially for people with sensitive skin and contact lens wearers. Instead, try these safe eye-enhancing tips from Eliza Petrescu of Eliza's Eyes at the Avon Salon & Spa in New York City.
To get darker lashes, use a skinny eyeliner brush (like Stila #4 Precision Eyeliner Brush, $18; gloss.com) and a dark powder shadow or liner to line as close as possible to your upper lashes. Then, apply mascara (waterproof is best to avoid under-eye circles), such as Almay's new Bright Eyes Waterproof Mascara ($7.50; at drugstores), to top lashes only. Immediately afterward, use a lash brush like Tarte's Lash & Mascara Comb ($16; tartecosmetics.com) to comb through and separate the hairs.
To get lashes with more curl, use an eyelash curler like Tweezerman Deluxe Metal Eyelash Curler ($9; tweezerman.com). For lasting power, try the Talika Heated Eyelash Curler ($30; sephora.com), which gently and safely heats and curls lashes. Curling mascaras, like Maybelline New York Sky High Curves Waterproof Mascara ($7.25; at drugstores) and Estée Lauder Illusionist Waterproof Maximum Curling Mascara ($21; esteelauder.com), have special brushes that help the curl hold its shape. A mascara with a curved brush, like Rimmel Extra Super Lash Curved Brush Mascara ($2; at Wal-Mart stores), can help too.