3.3 Contraindications and contra-actions

You’ve now got a firm grasp on the golden ratio, brow shaping, colour theory, colouring methods, and product ingredients. Well done! While this level of knowledge is a prerequisite for your progression within this course, it is worth mentioning that (unfortunately!) many brow artists will lack this critical knowledge due to sub-standard training courses and programs, and so you are likely already better educated than many of your soon-to-be competitors.

The final important component of your foundational biological knowledge is to gain an appreciation for the more common adverse conditions, irritations and reactions associated with the eyes and eye region.

Contra what?

If you have ever received a beauty or cosmetic treatment, or visited the website of a responsible provider of these, you may have heard or seen the words contraindications and contra-actions before. But what do these actually mean? We’re glad you asked!


The term contraindication originated in the medical field. When broken down into its components, it is defined as:

  • contra – against, opposite to;
  • indication – a symptom that suggests a certain medical treatment is necessary.

When combined, the term contraindication is thus defined as a condition or factor that serves as a reason to refuse treatment due to the potential harm that treatment may cause to you or your client.

Key phrase | Contraindication: a condition or factor that serves as a reason to refuse treatment due to the potential harm that treatment may cause to you or your client.

While the term contraindication originated in medicine, it is now widely used across many facets of beauty, health, and personal services industries. In simple terms, it is any condition under which you should either refuse treatment to someone altogether or only proceed with treatment after additional safety measures are carried out.

The best way to get your head around contraindications is to learn what they are, and why they prevent treatment. Common contraindications that you will encounter as an MUA include, but are not limited to:

  • Alopecia
  • Claustrophobia
  • Cuts or open wounds
  • Dry skin
  • Eczema and psoriasis
  • Evidence of inflammation or infection, including bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral infections
  • Hypersensitive skin
  • Oily or acne-prone skin
  • Pregnant
  • Recent treatments in the past 2 weeks
  • Previous reaction or allergies
  • Sunburn
  • Trichotillomania

As you can see, there is a vast range of contraindications to be aware of, and there are many more that we haven’t covered! To read more about each contraindication, download the resource provided:

You are not expected to know and remember all of them, nor is it your role to diagnose any conditions. Most contraindications will be identified by the client during the client consultation, and for some, you will be able to identify them upon visual inspection. If you are ever unsure, always consider the potential risks. If proceeding with the service could harm your client, then refuse service. It is too big of a risk for your business to proceed if contraindications are present, and not only will you harm your client, but it will also harm your reputation.

Further to this, you need to stress the importance and consequence of not stating contraindications to your clients. This is generally discussed with your client during the consultation process but must also be documented. A good tip to remember is ‘ if it isn’t written down, it never happened’. If for any reason legal action was taken as a consequence of a reaction to a service you have provided, you will want to ensure that you have documented evidence that a client did not indicate any contraindications and that they were fully aware of any contra-actions.


A contra-action is an undesirable reaction that can occur during or after a lash extension service.

Key phrase | Contra-action: an undesirable reaction that can occur during or after a lash extension service.

The best way to remember the difference between contraindications and contra-actions is to think about contraindications being the ‘indicator’ of a potential issue and contra-actions being a reaction. 99.9% of the time, clients will have no reaction to eyelash extensions, but on rare occasions, clients will show some type of reaction that can range in severity. This is something that is out of your control, and despite your best efforts to prevent contra-actions, they may occur from time to time and symptoms to look out for will include, but will not be limited to:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Sensitivity
  • Burning or stinging
  • Inflammation
  • Spotting on skin
  • Hivelike reactions
  • Ingrown hair
  • Infection of a hair follicle

If any of the above occur during the treatment, stop immediately and assess the situation. Depending on the severity, you may need to remove all products, use an eye bath to flush the eye area or apply a cold flannel. Normal sorts of reactions to eyebrow hair removal include:

  • Redness or bumps caused by the body reacting to hair follicles being pulled
  • Mild burning
  • Spot bleeding due to the mild trauma of hair removal

Using an after wax oil or other serum can be useful to calm down redness which is common after hair removal. For serious reactions, such as significant skin lifting, seek medical attention straight away. Continuing the service where contra-actions are present may cause serious damage, so it is recommended that you stop the service and see if the symptoms persist.

If you would like to learn more about allergic reactions and sensitivities caused by brow treatments, read the following articles:

If a client develops any sort of severe reaction in the days following the treatment, ensure that you do not offer any medical advice and suggest that they visit their doctor (GP). If a person has had an allergic reaction previously but is wanting to try a brow service again, unfortunately, refusal of future appointments is the most appropriate option. Usually, allergic reactions will worsen in severity rather than getting better, so it is not worth the risk! Alternatively, you can do a patch test if your client persists in wanting to try again with different products.

If in the unfortunate event, a product like a tint, henna or brow product enters a client’s eyes, the client might experience sensitivity or a burning sensation. All products will usually have a safety data sheet (SDS) which will outline the actions to be taken in such circumstances. We will cover SDS in more detail in a later module, but if in doubt, seek emergency medical attention – it is better to be safe than sorry! To prevent any reactions, it is so important to take notice of the product quality and ingredients (as you learned about earlier) and ensure you know as much as possible about your products, including how they are made and where the ingredients are sourced (if possible). Always have SDS to prove any supplier claims and to have on hand in the event of an emergency.

Patch tests

One of the best ways to pre-empt and prevent contra-actions related to allergies is to conduct a patch test. You may decide to conduct patch tests on all clients prior to applications, but you must definitely do so if a client advises you they have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies. The purpose of the patch test is to test products to ensure there are no reactions to any of the ingredients. Even natural ingredients can cause sensitivity, so patch testing is a way of ensuring a client won’t have issues with your recommended products. To perform a patch test, follow these steps:

  1. Apply a small amount of the intended products you wish to use with a cotton bud to the inner crease of the elbow, behind the ear, inside of the wrist, or inside the leg (not as obvious location!).
  2. Leave for 24 to 48 hours
  3. If any contra-actions occur such as redness, swelling, inflammation or itching, avoid using the product, as this is a positive reaction for sensitivity.
  4. If no reaction occurs with either product, then it is fine to proceed with the full-body application.

If no reaction occurs with any of the products you plan on using, then it is fine to proceed with brow services. It will also help for your own peace of mind if you document your patch tests in your client files or on your client consultation cards. You should always ensure that you record the date the client was tested, which products were used and where you conducted the patch test/s. Always ensure you include the date and a client signature on this paperwork to ensure you are covered. When using hot wax, you should always patch test on your own arm first before applying it on your client to ensure the wax is safe to use.

To learn more about patch tests, access the resources linked:

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