The Health Risks of Eyelash Extensions

3 min read  |  July 05, 2022  | 

Eyelash extensions, synthetic “eyelashes” applied to the natural lashes with adhesive, are a growing trend in the beauty and fashion world. These extensions are typically intended to make the wearer look glamorous or fashionable. 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eyelash extensions can be safe for the user if the correct products are used and applied properly. However, people should be aware of the risks to prevent complications to their eye health. 

What to know before adding extensions

Sara Tullis Wester, M.D., an ophthalmologist and oculoplastic surgeon with the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, says it’s essential for people to weigh the benefits and risks of eyelash extensions and consider their own personal eye health before having them applied.

“Eyelash extensions may use a cyanoacrylate-based glue that contains latex and ammonia and can emit formaldehyde,” she says. “In some patients, those products can cause adverse reactions, including dry eyes, ocular irritation, lid swelling, pain, redness, and itching. In rare cases, ocular complications such as contact dermatitis, toxic conjunctivitis, or allergic blepharitis have occurred. In very rare cases, corneal abrasion or bacterial keratitis have also been reported.” 

Beyond the potential concerns with the adhesives used, Dr. Wester adds that the extra length can also cause mechanical issues when opening and closing your eyes. 

“Eyelash extensions can cause mechanical disruption to eyelid function and eyelid closure, leading to lagophthalmos during sleep (the inability of the eye to close normally), which increases dryness,” she says.

“The extensions can also lead to the collection of bacteria under the natural lashes or extensions due to the physical limitation of cleansing the lids and the foreign body.”

Using eyelash extensions safely

Despite these potential risks, Dr. Wester says it’s not all gloom and doom when it comes to eyelash extensions, and many people can use them safely. “For the majority of people, if the proper precautions are used, eyelash extensions are safe, and many people are very happy with them,” says Dr. Wester.

The key is to be aware of your own personal history of eye health issues, as people who have had certain eye problems in the past may be more likely to have problems with extensions.

“Patients with a history of corneal issues or chronic blepharitis or dermatitis should see their eye health professional first to discuss if eyelash extensions make sense for them,” says Dr. Wester. 

The other ways to stay safe when using eyelash extensions are to use the best quality products possible, have a trusted professional help with their application and removal, and practice good hygiene regarding your lashes and eyes. 

“As with anything, it is best to ensure you are in a center where they are familiar with the application and use appropriate eye protection and lash application techniques,” says Dr. Wester.

“I recommend that patients thoroughly clean their eyelashes prior to the application of eyelash extensions. If patients have any ocular signs or symptoms after the application of eyelash extensions, they should see their ophthalmologist right away.” 

Wyatt Myers is a contributor to UHealth’s news service.

Tags: applying false eyelashes, Dr. Sara Wester, eye care in Miami, eye health, lash strips

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