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Eyelash extensions: Are they safe?

Hey Alice!

Do you know anything about the safety of eyelash extensions?

Lulu

Dear Lulu, 

Great question—it’s smart to approach cosmetic opportunities such as these with your eyes wide open! Eyelash extensions are semi-permanent, typically lasting anywhere from two to six weeks, and are safest when applied by a trained professional in sanitary conditions. As with any procedure, cosmetic or otherwise, eyelash extensions may carry risks. If you're considering getting extensions, some precautions to consider are checking online reviews of the salon prior to making an appointment, asking the technician or esthetician to see their certification, checking lash glue to make sure that it’s not expired, and conducting a spot test of the eyelash glue on the skin. Experts also recommend avoiding extensions if you have skin hypersensitivity reactions like contact dermatitis or health conditions relating to the front of the eye. To help the extensions last longer, try avoiding swimming, eye rubbing, and applying moisture near the eyes. If the extensions require removal, the safest bet is to get them removed by a trained professional to avoid eye damage. 

Though it’s a relatively simple process, there are still some risks involved with applying lash extensions, such as: 

  • Glue fumes: Reputable salons use medical or pharmaceutical grade glue. This glue is labeled as such on the bottle, is either black (to make it look more like mascara) or clear and is ideally free of formaldehyde (which could lead to conjunctivitis or keratitis).  As glue typically takes five to six hours to dry, it may also get into the eye or release irritating vapors before setting. 
  • Hair loss: The weight of the extensions or using too much glue may stress eyelash follicles to the point of gradual hair loss. Rubbing or tugging at the eyelashes during application or removal of extensions can also lead the hair to break. Once lashes break or fall out, they might not grow back. 
  • Infections: There have been some cases of eyelid and cornea infections due to eyelash extensions. If applied or maintained in unsanitary conditions, extensions may lead to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Infections may also occur if a technician uses improper technique and scratches the eye’s surface with lashes or tweezers. 
  • Use of allergenic materials: Some lash hair material (such as nylon, silk, mink hair, and horsehair) may cause allergies and dermatitis. These reactions—particularly contact dermatitis—may be delayed and occur days after lash application. If this is a concern, be sure to ask your technician for synthetic lashes. Some people may also have an allergic reaction to the glue itself or the adhesive remover. 

It’s best to seek care from a health care professional if any swelling, redness, or eyelid irritation occurs at any point while wearing extensions. In addition, it may be helpful to ask the salon what materials were used, including asking about the ingredients in the glue or adhesive remover, to help identify the source of the allergic reaction. For more information, you may want to check out the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s webpage on eye cosmetic safety

For those seeking an alternative to eyelash extensions, there are several options on the market: 

  • Bimatoprost (commercially known as Latisse) is a prescription medication approved by the FDA to help eyelashes grow longer and thicker. It’s applied as a topical solution to the upper lash line with results typically showing up after two months of daily use. This isn't a permanent solution as lashes typically revert to their original form if use is discontinued. Some side effects may include eye and eyelid irritation, eyelid discoloration, increased brown pigmentation of the iris, and unintended hair growth near the eyes. 
  • False eyelashes, often confused with eyelash extensions, are a set of removable synthetic lashes that adhere to the eyelid with glue or with magnets. 
  • Magnetic eyelashes come in two different types. While one sandwiches your natural eyelashes between two magnetic strips of extensions, the other attaches a magnetic strip of extensions to magnetic eyeliner that you apply to the upper eyelid. While you don’t need to use glue with these extensions, the weight of the lashes may cause your eyelids to droop, which could cause chronic lash loss. 
  • Lash lifts are essentially a perm for straight lashes to give them a longer, curled look. However, once your lashes shed, the process will need to be repeated. It’s possible for lash lifts to cause your eyelashes to become over-curled or dried out and the chemicals involved may lead to lash breakage or negative reactions with the eye and surrounding skin. 

People opt for eyelash extensions and serums for a variety of reasons, including fuller looking lashes and shorter makeup routines. However, it’s good to note that these enhancements often come at a high price.  No matter the price, it’s helpful to look into the safety concerns before deciding on any cosmetic enhancement. 

Hope this helps! 

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Last updated Jun 02, 2023
Originally published May 04, 2012