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Lash Artist Corner: What IS cyanoacrylate?

  • 2 min read

We are getting technical here for all our lashing nerds! We constantly hear about cyanoacrylate as the base of lash extension adhesives, but truly what is it? And how exactly do lash artists go about purchasing the right adhesive for their studio environment?

Cyanoacrylates make up almost all of the strong glues that you see on the market, including Super Glue and all industrial adhesives.  

So are we using Super Glue on people's eyes?

No! There are many types of adhesives within the cyanoacrylate family, including: ethyl, methyl, butyl, octyl and more. Different types of cyanoacrylates are designed for bonding to different surfaces.

Overall, this family of adhesives provide stronger bonding strength than other liquid adhesives (think Elmer's Glue, Latex Glue, etc).  

Cyanoacrylates is an "acrylate resin". In its liquid form, the chemical is very irritating and tends to have a strong odor. However, once polymerized, the product is less reactive and becomes almost non-irritating and non-allergenic.

When it is solidified, your client should have NO discomfort! In fact, they should barely be able to feel the lashes. If a new client expresses any concern about adhesives, make sure to reassure them of this during the consultation — gaining trust is key to building client relationships!

Medical grade cyanoacrylate adhesives are used for quality lash extension adhesives because this type is non-toxic when cured. (The official scientific reason for that: The degradation of long-chain cyanoacrylate monomers such as 2-octyl cyanoacrylate and n-butyl cyanoacrylate is slower and the polymer films of long chain cyanoacrylates sloughed off before any significant degradation occurred.)  

In English? "Medical grade" simply indicates a type of cyanoacrylate that has a longer polymer chain. Since the chain is longer, it is less reactive, and has minimal toxicity when bonding to lashes. (This means that allergic reactions to adhesives are extremely rare, and very unlikely to cause severe injury or damage if they do happen.)

Phew! That is a lot of science but in short:

  • Cyanoacrylates are a family of adhesives, used for all sorts of purposes!
  • Quality lash adhesives are medical grade, meaning they are lower toxicity and safe to use around the eye.
  • The adhesive becomes stable when it goes from liquid to solid form. Quality lash adhesives also have longer "chains" so their reaction is less "reactive" and they have less toxicity overall.

Additionally, different lash adhesives are formulated with slightly different versions of cyanoacrylates to work best in various environments and with different dry times. There are adhesives for low humidity and high humidity. There are also flexible adhesives with slower dry times (perfect for new lash artists!) and advanced adhesives with faster dry times, perfect for lash stylists who have been in the game longer. Artists can use tools such as nanomisters and bond-boosters to adjust their adhesive's curing to their studio's humidity levels.

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