Lilian Min
Updated Jul 24, 2016 @ 11:03 am
Credit: Lilian Min /

The eyes are the window to the soul, which perhaps explains why there’s an entire section of the cosmetics industry just devoted to your eye area, from eyeshadow to mascara to eyeliner to brow gel to brow powder to eyelid primer to fake lashes to — we could go on. But now, one popular eye cosmetic treatment is the subject of an FDA crackdown: Eyelash and brow tinting.

The tricky thing about the eyelash and brow tinting ban is that, at least in California, the practice has actually been illegal to offer and even teach for years, but the FDA only started enforcing the ban earlier this month. In a statement to Refinery29, which was contacted by salon professionals after the enforcements started coming in, the FDA states:

What exactly is in eyelash and brow tints, which are meant to darken and highlight the color for both parts, that has the FDA so worked up? The culprit might be coal tar, which the FDA calls out for “[representing] an acute, severe hazard to health with the possibility of permanent injury; i.e., impaired sight, including blindness.” However, according to professionals Refinery29 spoke to, it’s just about impossible to create a cosmetic tint like that without that product, and both in and outside of the beauty industry, there haven’t been any cases of eye damage related to tinting.

The most curious thing about the FDA enforcement is perhaps this: No at-home procedures, which are arguably more dangerous/hazardous, have been banned. However, the crackdown’s caused a lot of California salons to surreptitiously take the services off of their formal menus. Meanwhile, eyelash and brow tinting continue to enjoy healthy popularity within the professional and amateur industry — there are over 46,000 posts on the #browtint Instagram hashtag alone, and that number doesn’t seem to be going down any time soon.