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Eyelash Extensions: Are They Safe?

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on July 07, 2020

You might be curious about enjoying long, lush lashes, if only temporarily. Eyelash extensions can help make that happen. But whether you do them yourself or use a professional, artificial lashes sometimes may lead to side effects, for your eyes as well as your natural lashes.

How to Use Lash Extensions

Products sold in stores use glue or magnets to hold the lashes in place. You place a strip of magnetized lashes over your real ones and then snap it in place with a strip that goes beneath your real lashes.

Professionals use semi-permanent glue that’s specially made to be applied near your eyes. The procedure can take up to a couple of hours. The extensions usually stay on for a few weeks and then fall out as your real lashes shed. That means you will need to reapply the extensions regularly.

Possible Problems

The FDA does not regulate lash glue or the extensions. Any side effects usually go away on their own. But sometimes the products may pose serious harm.

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Allergic reactions. Extensions can be made with synthetic material, like nylon, or silk or mink fibers. Many people are allergic to mink. That’s one of the most common reasons that might send you to an eye doctor. You also can react to the glue. If you have allergies, ask about the ingredients in the glue and the type of fiber material. Test the product on your wrist or forearm. It can take up to 24 hours for any reaction to appear.

Infection. This commonly happens from dirty eyelashes. They get coated in oil just like our hair. Without regular washing, the lashes also can trap pollen, dust, or dead skin cells. Your eyelid may turn red or swollen. You might get dandruff or a stye, a pimple-like growth on your eyelid. You can help prevent problems by washing your eyelids twice a day when you clean your face. Use a mild soap, and gently scrub your closed lids and lashes.

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Droopy eyelids. Over time, magnets can drag your eyelid down permanently. The glue also can work its way into your eyes. It likely won’t damage your vision. But it may hurt and take time to heal.

Eye inflammation. It’s rare, but rubbing your eyes a lot can lodge the fibers from the eyelash extensions on or underneath your eye membrane. Severe cases can require surgery to remove.

Safety Tips

  • Find an expert. If you can, work with an aesthetician or another professional with experience with lash extensions. Check out reviews, and ask about their sanitation guidelines.
  • Keep your eyes shut. Doing so during the entire procedure will help prevent glue from getting into your eyes.
  • Pick the right length. Some extensions, well, extend so far out that they can bump against your eyeglass lenses. Keep the lashes short enough that you don’t have to wear your glasses farther out than normal.

If you notice any itching, irritation, or dandruff-like flakes around your eyes, see your ophthalmologist right away. Don’t try to remove the extensions on your own.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Eyelash Extensions Facts and Safety.”

Michelle Andreoli, MD, clinical spokesperson, American Academy of Ophthalmology.

MedlinePlus: “Allergic Reactions.”

JAMA Ophthalmology: “Ocular Inflammation Associated With Fibers From Eyelash Extensions.”

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