Around the world, humans consider long, dark eyelashes an attractive and desirable trait. Like the hair on our heads, we perceive lush lashes as indicators of physical health (some medical conditions can make eyelashes fall out). Thus, eyelash extensions are a fashion and beauty trend on the rise.
On a purely visual level, these extensions also make our eyes appear larger and brighter. Both are characteristics that evoke feelings of warmth and trust from admirers.
For millennia, human beings have attempted to make their natural eyelashes appear longer, thicker, and darker. We have tried curling them, lengthening them with mascara, and applying adhesive “falsies.”
However, we’ve most recently moved on to eyelash extensions. Some salons charge hundreds of dollars or more for each application of these realistic-looking temporary lashes.
Though eyelash extensions can lend you a little extra touch of glamour, there are some drawbacks and risks. Indeed, you should be aware of these possible complications before investing in a set of your own. Being informed ahead of time can make the difference between having healthy eyes or unpleasant eye health problems.
Hidden Eyelash Extension Dangers to Watch Out For
1. Irritation of the Eyelids
Wearing the occasional set of eyelash extensions probably won’t cause any harm to your eyes, but frequent use can irritate your eyelids. Not only can the adhesive used to attach the lashes be harsh on the tissues surrounding the eye, over time, the extensions can cause blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelid that can also hinder tear production.
Tears aren’t just a visible expression of strong emotions; they’re also an essential component of eye health. Your tears help keep your eyes moisturized and also flush debris and irritants away from your corneas. Blepharitis can be acute or chronic, and unfortunately, it cannot be cured.
2. Eye Infections
Your eyelashes help keep airborne debris from getting into your eye. If your natural lashes can protect your eye against infection, can’t eyelash extensions do the same?
Unfortunately not. In fact, lash extensions and false eyelashes can trap harmful bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), causing a range of harmful infections.
These infections can include a sty – a white bump on the eyelid, causing itching, swelling, pain, and discharge – and bacterial conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. Pink eye can cause redness of the eye, tearing, pain, and discharge.
If you choose to wear lash extensions, it’s important that you take care to keep them sanitary by washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching your eyes.
3. Bloodshot Sclera
One of the side effects of irritation to the eye can include a bloodshot appearance to the sclera (the white part of the eye), which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve by wearing eyelash extensions in the first place. False lashes are supposed to be a beautifying tool, and the last thing you want is for them to call extra attention to red, inflamed, watery eyes.
If you find that eyelash extensions cause visible irritation and redness in your eyes, consider switching to mascara instead.
4. Allergic Reactions
Before purchasing eyelash extensions, or any other kind of false lashes, you should do your research and find out exactly what ingredients are found in the adhesive. Many consumers will be shocked to learn that some eyelash adhesives contain formaldehyde, a respiratory irritant, and a known carcinogen.
Commonly used as a chemical preservative in medical laboratories and morgues, this caustic chemical can be incredibly harsh on the delicate skin surrounding your eyes, and it can even cause allergic reactions. Avoiding products containing formaldehyde is simple to safeguard your eye health and overall health.
If you have your heart set on lash extensions or self-adhesive false lashes, we recommend using only formaldehyde-free adhesives.
5. Loss of Eyelashes
Eyelashes don’t exist just to make your eyes look prettier. In fact, your eyelashes are one of your body’s natural defenses against injuries to your eye, and the frequent use of lash extensions can put this important defense mechanism in jeopardy.
One of the risks of lash extensions is a condition known as traction alopecia, a form of hair loss that occurs when excessive tension is placed on your hair shaft for a prolonged period of time. Additionally, because the lash extensions are bonded directly to your natural lashes, removal can sometimes pull the lashes out altogether.
Not only is eyelash baldness visually unappealing, it actually leaves your eyes more vulnerable to injury and infection. In the same way that our skin acts as a barrier against pathogens entering our bodies, our eyelashes help filter out dust, debris, and microbes that can cause injury to the cornea, bacterial infection, and more.
An allergic reaction is the most severe response to the irritation lash extensions can cause, but there are other, milder reactions that can be equally bothersome. If the chemicals in your lash adhesive irritate your skin, you may experience an itchy, uncomfortable breakout in the eye area.
Rashes around the eye can be especially bothersome because they’re in such a delicate location, and the scratching and rubbing people commonly do to achieve some relief can further injure the already delicate, inflamed skin of the eyelids and under-eyes.
Most of us can manage to keep our hands away from our eyes when we’re awake, but sleep is a different matter. You can actually tear your lash extensions away while you’re sleeping, either by rubbing your eyes or simply rolling over and trapping them between your cheek and your pillow.
Often, when lash extensions are torn out, they take your natural lashes with them. In addition to the lash loss discussed above, this can cause pain and discomfort.
8. Your Eyelids Can Stick Together
If you pay a spa professional to perform your lash extension installation, odds are you won’t experience this problem. But if you go the budget-friendly route and attempt to apply them yourself, you might end up with a sticky situation on your hands.
If the glue used to stick the extensions to your natural lashes is applied too heavily, you run the risk that your upper and lower lashes will get stuck together, sealing your eyes shut in the process. If this occurs, it can be very difficult to remove the glue without causing yourself pain as well as permanent damage to your lashes.
9. Breakage of Eyelashes
In addition to the hair loss caused by your extensions pulling your natural eyelashes out, extensions can also cause lash breakage. This can leave your natural lashes with an uneven appearance that’s hard to disguise with mascara. To cover it up, some people will simply apply more extensions, thus perpetuating the cycle of hair breakage and loss.
In addition to their undesirable appearance, broken lashes can leave your eyes more vulnerable to irritation from your environment and infection.
10. Possible Long-Term Consequences
Most of the side effects we’ve discussed here have been short-term and finite in nature. However, because no long-range studies have been conducted into the risks of lash extensions, it’s possible that there may be more lasting effects we just don’t know about yet.
One important consideration is the cancer risk associated with the ingredients in the lash adhesive. Consistent use of any cosmetic products containing carcinogens can increase your total cancer risk over your lifetime.
How to Safeguard Your Eye Health
Your eyes are some of your most delicate bodily organs, and your sense of sight is irreplaceable. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to help preserve the health of your eyes.
- Be conscientious about how you use lash extensions and false lashes. You should pay a professional to apply them inside a salon. In addition, check the label to avoid any ingredients that contain irritants and cancer-causing chemicals.
- Be extremely careful about their removal. Tearing or breaking your lashes can put you at an increased risk of infection, which can negatively impact your eye health.
- If you suspect you’re having an allergic reaction or you’re exhibiting signs of an infection, don’t delay: see your doctor right away. The importance of eye health should never be underestimated, as even a seemingly minor infection can intensify and potentially cause irreversible damage to your eyes.
- If you want your eyelashes to look thicker, longer, and darker, consider using mascara instead of false lashes or extensions. Nowadays, there’s a huge range of affordable mascaras available that won’t cause dry, clumpy-looking lashes. And, that route doesn’t come with the risks associated with false lashes.
- If you’re experiencing symptoms of irritation or infection, you can find relief by applying warm, moist, sanitary compresses to your eyes. You should always take care to wash your hands and to avoid touching your eyes if possible.
- Consider sleeping with a satin eye mask over your eyes to protect against tearing in the middle of the night.
Final Thoughts on Taking Care When Deciding to Get Eyelash Extensions
When we look at our best, we feel our best, and it’s understandable that many of us want longer, more luxurious lashes. But when it comes to the health of our eyes, cosmetics should always be secondary to self-care. If possible, we recommend choosing an alternative to lash extensions that bring fewer risks to your eye health.