In recent years, eyelash extensions have grown in popularity. If you do a quick search online, you will find countless salon ads promoting it and countless articles about it. However, you won’t find many sources giving real information on health risks and potential issues of this service.
The truth is we tend to automatically associate this procedure with any other service offered by beauty salons or spas; however, it is particularly important to be cautious when it comes to applying eyelash extensions and we will explain why.
What are eyelash extensions?
Eyelash extensions are individual fibers made of nylon, silk, mink or human hair that are glued (one by one or in small groups) to one’s natural eyelashes by using different types of professional glue. The fibers vary in length and volume and it is possible to choose from natural to a more dramatic style.
How are eyelash extensions applied?
Generally, the aesthetician applies the extensions using two pairs of tweezers, the first one being used to separate the natural lashes and the second one to hold the hairs, which are dipped in semi-permanent glue and placed on top of the natural lashes, making them bond together a few seconds later. During a session (that usually takes around two to three hours), about 40 to 100 eyelash extensions are applied. They are obviously temporary and last about four to six weeks.
What are the associated risks?
Like some other beauty routines, applying eyelash extensions carries some inherent risks especially because you will be touching the skin around the eyes, which is a highly sensitive area.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has released reports cautioning consumers about the risks of applying cosmetic eyelash extension.
Here is a list of some of the top side effects on the skin and eyes:
- Allergic reactions caused mainly by the glue that is used to bond the synthetic extension to the natural lash, as these often contain chemicals such as formaldehyde which is also a carcinogen. It is also believed that extensions may increase the risk of dry eyes. These allergic reactions may cause irritation, pain, itching, redness, burning, inflammation and swelling of the eyelids (which can be severe).
- Infection of the eyelids and other infections such as pink eye due to the accumulation of dirt and bacteria.
- Infection of the cornea.
- Temporary or permanent loss of eyelashes—as ironic as it may seem, some people can end up with bald eyes while trying to make them look fuller. This happens because the glue can pull out your natural lashes or because the frequent application of extensions can end up damaging the hair follicle responsible for growing and maintaining your eyelashes thus slowing down and even ceasing the production of hair.
How can you avoid complications?
To state the obvious, the best way to prevent the risks posed by eyelash extensions is to simply not have them applied. However, if you decide to use extensions, try not to turn it into a habit—treat it as a sporadic beauty session and, most importantly, make sure you follow these safety tips provided by the American College of Ophthalmology:
- Make sure to have the procedure performed at a reputable establishment
- Make sure the aesthetician has valid certification
- Check the eyelash adhesive ingredients that will be used as well as potential allergens (such as formaldehyde)
- Make sure your aesthetician practices good hygiene, that is, washes his or her hands properly and wears gloves
- Finally, at any sign of infection or allergy, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.
We also suggest choose lashes that are not too heavy or long. And remember: If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then eyelashes are the gatekeepers. Take good care of yours!
Rodrigue and Associates Eyecare is the leading eye care specialty practice in Augusta, Maine. For over 38 years, we have focused on providing our patients with the highest quality optometric and medical eyecare.