Ask an Optometrist: Are eyelash extensions harmful to my eyes?

Dr. Melissa Ah-Seng discusses the possible implications of eyelash extensions on ocular health. 

Beauty trends come and go, but the search for a fuller lash line has endured the test of time. The latest installment of the longer lash craze is eyelash extensions! If you haven’t had them yourself, you probably know someone who has. They adorn the faces of celebrities and social media influencers, with dedicated salons popping up on every street corner. Beautiful lashes – right when you wake up! Sounds pretty tempting, right? In this busy world, where every minute is precious, why wouldn’t we embrace a way to reduce the amount of time it takes us to get ready? While eyelash extensions are an attractive option to achieve more luscious lashes, there are some less glamorous risks to consider. Eyelash extensions may be pretty, but they also need to be used with care to prevent damage to your eyes. Common risks of eyelash extensions are;

  • Allergic reactions
  • Infections
  • Loss of natural eyelashes
  • Inflammation of the eyelids and ocular surface

Allergic Reactions
The glue used to bond eyelash extensions to your natural lash line can cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms include swelling, itching, redness, irritation and discharge. Symptoms typically arise within the first 48 hours after application and will not resolve on their own. Should you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, have your aesthetician remove your lash extensions right away and visit your friendly neighbourhood optometrist to have your eyes examined. 

allergic reaction

Infections
Infection is another post-extension possibility. Not only can an eye infection leave you with red goopy eyes, but you can also end up with a potentially vision-threatening corneal ulcer.  Infections are usually caused by poor hygiene protocols. Yuck! Protect yourself from infections by going to a certified lash technician. Ensure that the technician disinfects their tools after every visit and follows good hygiene practices, such as washing their hands and using disposable gloves. If you do think you have an infection from your extensions, this is your cue to once again pay a visit to your friendly neighbourhood optometrist.

Loss of Natural Eyelashes
Yes, this does happen! We know, long and thick lashes are in; however, false lashes do weigh down your natural lash line.  Too much weight can cause traction alopecia, which causes your natural lashes to prematurely fall-out due to damaged follicles. The longer and fuller the extension, the higher the risk of lash fallout.

Alopecia

Inflammation of the Eyelids and Ocular Surface
Lastly, extensions can cause inflammation of the eyelids and ocular surface.  Longer lashes have a fan effect which increases the amount of air flow to the ocular surface with every blink. This causes your eyes to dry out faster, leading to irritation and possible damage to the ocular surface.  In addition, a lot of users are under the impression that you don’t need to clean your extensions. We are here to tell you that is FALSE!  Eyelash extensions trap debris and bacteria close to your lash line.  This causes an inflammatory reaction of the lid margin also known as blepharitis.  Symptoms include itchy eyelids, gritty sensation of the eyes, burning, redness, sensitivity to light, sticky eyes and possible blurred vision.  If left untreated this can increase your risk of developing styes, infections and dry eyes. Clean your lashes with a proper eyelid and eyelash cleanser on a regular basis to prevent bacterial overgrowth. 

While eyelash extensions have become a commonplace cosmetic procedure – there are still short and long-term risks to consider. If you have, or are considering, eyelash extensions, make sure to; 

  • Always make sure that your aesthetician is certified and follows hygienic practices
  • Keep your lashes clean
  • Avoid getting extensions that are too long or too thick
  • Do not hesitate to contact your optometrist if you are experiencing eye discomfort!  
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