Nail Polish-painted False Lashes – a Not So Safe Trend from Korea?

Some of my readers may be familiar with the Korean TV Show Get It Beauty. It is a South Korea based weekly program showing newest beauty trends in make-up, skin/hair/health care and celebrity beauty tips interviews. In episode 6, which I watched while taking a break from studying, they showed a tip, which is in my opinion quite unsafe. The invited make up artist advised girls to paint false eyelashes with nail polish to create colorful eyelashes. The result looks very pretty, but should you really put a nail polish anywhere near your eyes?

For reference, I took a composition of an O.P.I. nailpolish from 2013.

It contains two solvents at the very beginning of the list which are described as eye irritants on ChemSpider and for which rabbit eye irritation tests are available – Butyl Acetate (I’m assuming n-Butyl Acetate) and Ethyl Acetate. ChemSpider claims they are irritating for eyes and rabbit irritation eye test (0.1 ml of 99% pure chemicals in direct contact with the eye) resulted in score 7.5/110 for n-Butyl acetate and 15.0/110 for Ethyl Acetate. I am actually not very sure about how the rabbit test is supposed to be interpreted, but looking at the grading score, if nothing happens to the eye after a defined amount of time, the score would be 0. So even though the overall score is not that high, it still does something. Now, since both of these are solvents, they should evaporate as the nail polish dries. So I suppose that as long as the nail polish has dried completely, no significant amount of these should be left.

Nitrocellulose was not found to be an eye irritant.

However, tosylamide, a resin (something that stays in the nail polish even after it hardens and solvents evaporate), was found to be an allergen causing dermatitis on eyelids. They claimed it was air-borne contamination, but I suppose nobody thought about testing putting nail polish per se to close proximity of eyelids. So, at least some people might get a reaction to nail polish on false lashes, I presume.

Acetyl tributyl citrate caused minor eye irritation in rabbits but was considered safe enough to be used even in eye cosmetics (I did not study the details, but the reason for this might have been either occurrence of the effect only in some rabbits, the fact that the effect was small, it cleared up fast or the difference in concentrations between studied amount and actually used amounts). It did not irritate human skin, but of course it was not applied to eyes. 

Isopropanol scored 30.5/110 in the rabbit eye irritation test, however it can be reasonably expected to evaporate during drying.

I didn’t find any data on Stearalkonium bentonite and silica and trimethylpentanediyl dibenzoate and tin oxide within a reasonable time frame.

Not much information about Mica either, but based on one article I would expect it to be non-irritating.

Benzophenone-1, in concentrations used in cosmetics, should not be irritating, however it is suspected to accumulate inside body and act as a endocrine disruptor (interfering with hormonal regulation).


The solvents should not pose a risk to eyes as they should evaporate before you use the lashes. Tosylamide could be potentially irritating to allergic people. Other ingredients are either non-irritating or lack sufficient data for me to know. The amount of nail polish used to paint individual false lashes is very small and the part in direct contact with the eye lid is even smaller.

Overall, using nail polish to paint falsies is not likely to cause you blindness or any less severe eye damage, especially if you try to apply it only on the tips of the lashes and not where the lashes are glued to the eyelid. Also, apparently none of the make-up artist’s customers ever complained about it. But is it really worth the risk (even if it's pretty small)? Just buy colored eyelashes or mascara (and pray the ingredients used are safe ;P).

(BTW, I tried painting my fake lashes wih eye make-up - cream eyeshadow and eye liner and I have to admit it does not stay well, so I understand why nail polish is tempting. The thing is, nail polish is tested to be safe when put on nails and for the chemicals potentially travelling through air from nails. Nobody assesses it for eye safety when put on eyelids the same way eye make up is scrutinized.)

 Sorry, I have issues with my new endnote >.<

Lee, C. C., Dilley, J. V., Hodgson, J. R., Helton, D. O., Wiegand, W. J., Roberts, D. N., ... & West, N. (1975). Mammalian Toxicity of Munition Compounds. Phase 1. Acute Oral Toxicity Primary Skin and Eye Irritation, Dermal Sensitization, and Disposition and Metabolism. MIDWEST RESEARCH INST KANSAS CITY MO.

Johnson Jr, W. (2002). Final report on the safety assessment of acetyl triethyl citrate, acetyl tributyl citrate, acetyl trihexyl citrate, and acetyl trioctyl citrate. International journal of toxicology, 21, 1.

Carretero, M. I., & Pozo, M. (2010). Clay and non-clay minerals in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries Part II. Active ingredients. Applied Clay Science, 47(3), 171-181.

Bagley, D. M., Gardner, J. R., Holland, G., Lewis, R. W., Vrijhof, H., & Walker, A. P. (1999). Eye irritation: updated reference chemicals data bank. Toxicology in vitro, 13(3), 505-510.

Park, M. A., K. A. Hwang, H. R. Lee, B. R. Yi, E. B. Jeung, and K. C. Choi, 2013, Benzophenone-1 stimulated the growth of BG-1 ovarian cancer cells by cell cycle regulation via an estrogen receptor alpha-mediated signaling pathway in cellular and xenograft mouse models: Toxicology, v. 305, p. 41-48.

 Yours truly


  1. Musela jsem si při čtení článku vzpomenout, jak jsem si včera nalakovala nehty a pak je v záchvatu učení na státnice ožužlávala.. :D
    Jinak článek je skvěle sepsaný a přemýšlím, jestli bych do něčeho takového šla.. Normálně bych to nenosila, ale možná na nějaké focení by to bylo fajn.. Navíc se mi tak strašně teď nechce učit, že asi půjdu z(ne)hodnotit jedny ze svých umělých řas. :P

    1. Podle mě jsou barevný řasy celkem nositelný i na normální dny, ale to lakování už moc ne...

  2. i definitely won't try this as it isn't worth the risk of potential eye irritation. i read that some people developed dermatitis around the eye area because they had their nails done too frequently at the nail salons!


    1. I suppose the dermatitis was mainly a result of all the vapours there, but I agree that even so, it's not worth the risk as one never knows about all of her sensitivities and allergies...

  3. As someone who constantly pokes her eye out when trying to put on false eyelashes, this is definitely not a trend that I'd try. Didn't know this was a thing. Thanks for the information!


    1. Happy you found the article interesting! I don't think it will become some sort of mainstream trend, but Get It Beauty is pretty cool in Korea, so I guess a good number of girls might want to give it a try...

  4. thanks for the clarification! I immediately thought this was going to be dangerous or at least be irritating to the eyes- but I suppose not. still tentative to try though! xD

    Metallic Paws

    1. I would think it's likely to be safe once the volatile compounds are gone, but the tosylamide test doesn't really make me wanna try...

  5. Oh very interesting I saw this episode yesterday I was very~ WtH??? Well I don´t like this trend first I think is stupid becuase on markets sells very cheaps colored eyelashes~ But thanks for te informative post about the contents of the nail polishes! For this reason I don´t use weird stuff on my eyes!


    1. I agree, though the question is, what sort of chemicals is used in manufacturing the cheap lashes. =D

  6. Replies
    1. It is, though not sure if in this case it's worth potentially suffering for beauty...