Lash Tints Are the Semi-Permanent Alternative to Mascara

Experts reveal all about this buzzy procedure.

Person with lush eyelashes looking down
Photo: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

While eyelash extensions and lash lifts get all the love, few services can make a difference quite like lash tints. An eyelash tint is one of the fastest ways to get darker lashes for an extended period of time, helping to define the eyes and lending the appearance of even more length.

But a lash tint isn't as straightforward as booking an appointment at your go-to salon. For one, lash tints are ideal for certain candidates, and there are some considerations to keep in mind (like whether they're even legal in your state). With that in mind, we reached out to experts to break down the benefits, risks, and what to know before you go. Read ahead for your complete guide.

What Is an Eyelash Tint?

"A lash tint is a 15-minute procedure where semi-permanent dye is painted onto the eyelashes to make them appear thicker, darker, and fuller," says Karen Nipper, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist at ReFocus Eye Health in Connecticut.

It can especially boost the appearance and noticeability of lighter-colored lashes. "This treatment is great for anyone with red to light brown lashes," adds Sai Demirovic, an esthetician and founder of Glo Spa in New York City. "It also helps to make lashes look thicker because of the intensity of the color." Another perk? Lash tints can modify your makeup routine by cutting down on the time spent repeatedly coating lashes with mascara, adds Nipper.

What to Consider Before Your Appointment

There are a few other things to keep in mind before having your lashes tinted. For starters, if you have sensitive eyes or even have an allergy to dye (including hair dye and henna), Demirovic recommends holding off on the tinting. She also stresses that finding a reputable salon with a well-trained staff who is experienced in eyelash tinting and takes the necessary safety precautions. (However, note that not every salon will do a lash tint.)

Plus, Demirovic says, tinting is illegal in some states because the dyes are not FDA-approved. Some salons will only tint your lashes in addition to a lift because during this process, the lashes are lifted higher off your face and away from your skin.

What to Expect During an Eyelash Tint Appointment

If you want eyelashes that pop but are short on time, good news: An eyelash tint is a relatively quick procedure. In fact, you could even run out to a salon over your lunch break. "The process is quite quick and easy," says Demirovic. "Usually a plastic shield is used so when we paint the lashes the dye does not come into contact with the skin."

After the dye is applied, it will need to remain on the lashes for about 10 minutes before your lash technician will wash it off, she adds. You should experience the full effect of the dye for about six to eight weeks, says Demirovic.

Risks and Side Effects

When assessing the safety of eyelash tints, there are a few points worth noting. First, "the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any color additives for permanent dyeing or tinting of eyelashes," says Dr. Nipper. While that doesn't necessarily mean that the procedure is harmful, it is recommended to consult your doctor for guidance prior to tinting your lashes. Also, side effects may occur. According to Dr. Nipper, they can include irritation or even dry eye syndrome.

"Dry eye is defined by a lack of basal tears — tears made up of water, fatty oils, and mucus with the purpose of lubricating the eye," she explains. Typically the period of avoiding water is what causes the condition (more on that below). "When we don't naturally produce enough basal tears or the composition of these tears changes, the result can be dry eye syndrome."

You may also experience burning, itching, aching, heavy or fatigued eyes, soreness, dryness, redness, light sensitivity, and blurred vision, notes Dr. Nipper. If any of these symptoms or dry eye syndrome occur, she strongly urges that you call your eye doctor to receive a comprehensive exam and a treatment plan. Demirovic adds, "If you get a lash [tint] and are itchy the next day, you should immediately seek medical attention to reduce future swelling and irritation," as this may be a sign of an allergic reaction. However, in general, as long as you're not allergic to dye, a lash tint should be safe, she says.

Lash Tint Aftercare

Post-lash tint, some techs may ask you to avoid water around your eyes, including sweat, for up to 48 hours after your initial appointment, Dr. Nipper tells us. But even after this period, some may advise that you continue to steer clear of excessive contact between your lashes and water. This is to keep the tint intact for as long as possible.

Lash Tint Alternatives

In case have sensitive eyes or an allergy to dye, Demirovic suggests trying a lash lift as opposed to a tint. Although it won't make your eyelashes appear darker, it will still make them look longer, fuller, and more voluminous. Another option? Demirovic also recommends false lashes. Magnetic lashes are easy to apply and will provide you with natural-looking longer and fuller lashes without any safety risks.

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