Are Eyelash Extensions, Eyelash Growth Serum Safe?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on September 01, 2023
3 min read

Do you sometimes wish your eyelashes were longer? Many people use eyelash extensions and serums to get the look they want, but you may wonder if they’re a safe choice. The products can cause side effects, but there are ways to lower your risk. The key is to do your homework and know what to do if your body doesn’t respond well.

The beauty industry got a boost when the prescription drug bimatoprost (Lumigan), used to treat glaucoma, showed a surprising side effect. Many users said their eyelashes were growing. Drugmakers took the active ingredient in the medicine causing the growth, prostaglandin analog, and made a prescription-only serum specifically for eyelash growth, called Latisse. Bimatoprost is also the generic version of this drug.

You use a special applicator to draw bimatoprost along your upper eyelash line. This way, only a small amount gets close to your eye, which lowers the chance of a bad reaction. Some people still have side effects, though, including:

  • Red, dry, or itchy eyes
  • Eye and eyelid swelling or irritation
  • Darkening of eyelid skin
  • Brown pigment in the iris of the eye
  • Allergic reactions

These issues go away once you stop using the gel, except for brown pigment in the iris of the eye.

If you’re thinking about trying eyelash growth serum:

  • Check with your doctor if you’re already getting treatment for glaucoma. The medicines you’re using may sharpen bimatoprost’s side effects.
  • Don’t use it if you have eye issues like conjunctivitis, macular edema, or uveitis.
  • Don’t use an applicator more than once. And don’t let the tip of the bottle touch your eyeball or any other surface like a counter or sink.
  • Take out your contact lenses before you use it, and wait 15 minutes before putting them back in. They can absorb the solution.

If there are any changes in your eyes, see an eye doctor right away.

You can get eyelash extensions at a beauty salon or spa. Artificial, mink, and silk lashes are the three types, and they come in different shapes and sizes. An aesthetician will put them on one by one with a special glue and tweezers. It can take up to 2 hours.

Though you can easily get extensions, there are risks. You might get an infection if the salon or spa isn’t cleaned well. Or your eyes could be damaged by the tools if the aesthetician isn’t careful. You could also lose your natural lashes. This can be temporary or permanent.

Keep in mind that eyelash extensions and glue aren’t regulated by the FDA the way makeup and other cosmetics are. Ingredients in the glue can cause an allergic reaction, with symptoms including pain, itching, redness, swelling, and vision problems.

If you get eyelash extensions:

  • Make sure your aesthetician is experienced, certified, and works in a sanitary environment with chemicals that are safe for your skin.
  • Try not to rub or pull your new extensions. This can tear your real lashes and damage your eyelash follicles. In rare cases, extension fibers have gotten stuck under eye tissue and had to be taken out with surgery.
  • Ask about the ingredients in the glue, and make sure it’s not past its expiration date. Also, ask the aesthetician to dab the glue on the inside of your wrist before using it near your eyes. It’s an easy way to check for a reaction.
  • If you have an allergic reaction to extensions, don’t try to take them out or treat yourself. See an eye doctor ASAP.