Are Eyelash Extensions Safe?

Longing for long, lush lashes? Eyelash extensions may be just the ticket, but it’s important to consider eyelash extension risks and overall eye safety before making an appointment.

Lash extensions are popular, especially among certain age groups. According to the 2016 Professional Lash & Brow Artists Industry Survey, 50 percent of eyelash extension clients are between 18 and 34 years old, and 98 percent of those clients are women. And most lash and brow artists charge between $61 and $180 for a full set.

If You Dash for Lashes

Lash extensions aren’t the same as the lashes that you apply at home and peel off later. Your technician will use semipermanent glue to apply a new lash onto one of your real lashes, one lash at a time. Expect to spend an hour and a half to two hours during your initial appointment. According to Today, most people will need 80 to 150 lash extensions per eye.

The extensions may be made from an assortment of materials, such as silk, mink and synthetic fibers. So if you get lash extensions, you’ll want to avoid humidity and conditions that encourage moisture. Sweating is also discouraged, and you’ll need to clean your lashes fastidiously every day, usually with a spoolie brush. Avoid oily products. And don’t rub your eyes.

While you’re setting yourself free from mascara, you’re also setting yourself up for return fill-in appointments every couple of weeks. These visits typically take an hour, and you’ll be committing to this routine for as long as you keep the extensions. Lash extensions recycle every six to eight weeks, and your natural lashes shed along with them.

Be Informed About Lash Extensions

Eyelash extensions aren’t currently regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. So to keep eyelash extension risks at a minimum, experts recommend using a certified stylist, or even better, a licensed professional. (Not every state requires stylists to carry licenses; Massachusetts does, as does New Hampshire.)

Salons should sterilize their tweezers and change pillow cases after each customer. And your lash pro should wash their hands and wear a mask.

Ophthalmologist Naveen K. Rao, MD, of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, says that there are five common health risks associated with wearing eyelash extensions — most of which have to do with wearing makeup.

1. Extensions Could Irritate Your Eyes

“Individual eyelash extensions are attached by tweezers using a synthetic glue,” Dr. Rao said. “This may be made with a derivative of the chemical formaldehyde and can cause irritation that in turn causes chemical conjunctivitis (pink eye). Exposure to an irritant can occur within hours or days of having lash extensions applied.”

Dr. Rao added that allergic conjunctivitis could occur if other types of animal hair — such as cat hair — are used for lash extensions. Truthfully, no one can be completely sure where hair for lash extensions really comes from, adding this to the list of eyelash extension risks.

2. Improper Lash Length Can Be Problematic

In a recent study, the Journal of Optometry reiterates that eyelashes are meant “to protect and maintain the health of the lid margin,” which is positioned at the edge of your eyelid. It’s where the conjunctiva — the clear tissue over your eyeball and on the inside of your eyelid — meets the skin.

“Every species has an ideal eyelash-to-eyelid length,” Dr. Rao said. “If you compromise the length — if lashes are either too short or too long — eyelashes can’t deflect natural debris the way they’re supposed to. It creates a wind-tunnel effect, making it even more likely for the wind to blow debris right into the eye.”

3. Mascara and Foundation Can Creep Into Your Eyes

Dr. Rao also cautions that wearing eye makeup can ultimately lead to irritation if you wear eyelash extensions.

He has seen patients with brown spots in their conjunctival fornix — the pink pocket between the eyelid, especially the lower lid, and the eyeball. Dr. Rao also emphasized the risks of wearing mascara.

“Granules of mascara fall off of the lashes and end up in the fornix, where they cause chronic irritation,” he said.

Dr. Rao says that newer mascaras that contain fibers to lengthen lashes are particularly problematic.

“If you think tiny fibers may be falling into your eye,” he said, “they probably are.”

Applying foundation and flesh-colored concealer at the inner corner of your eye is a popular thing to do, but Dr. Rao says that can pose some risks for your eyes as well.

“Waterproof products get picked up by the eye’s tear film, wash over the eye, and stick to whatever they can find, even the cornea — the eye’s outermost layer,” he said. “This can make your vision blurry and cause a filmy quality to your vision.”

4. Eyeliner Pencils Can Do More Than Color

Frequent use of waxy eyeliner pencil at the edge of your eyelid can cause a buildup and block the Meibomian glands that line the eyelid edges, Dr. Rao says. These glands produce a natural oil that gets secreted into tears and lubricates your eye’s surface. If those glands get blocked up, a sty or chalazion can occur — and with it comes pain, redness and a lump at the edge of the eyelid, he says.

5. Eye Shadow Is Easily Transferable

Swipe your brush or foam applicator across your eye shadow palette, apply to your eyelid with broad strokes — and teeny particles inevitably fall into your eye. And, like those stray mascara clumps, they eventually end up in your fornix. Dr. Rao says that glittery shadow is especially troublesome and can lead to eye irritation.

A good thing to remember when it comes to eye safety and eyelash extensions — what goes on an eyelid can easily go into an eye. And be sure to speak with your Lahey Health provider if you have any additional questions about eyelash extensions.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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