Let’s talk lash. Everyone knows the eyes are the window to the soul. And the fastest way to draw attention to your beautiful, unique eyes? Eyelashes that pop. Whether it’s expensive eyelash extensions, the trendy lash lift, or dying and tinting your lashes, it seems like there’s nothing we won’t try to make our lashes look beautiful, bold, dark, and long. But are all these procedures on the delicate eye area creating more harm than good? Here’s the truth: in many cases, these short-term solutions can cause more long-term problems than you’d think. Below, we’ll cover what these specific treatments are, the risks involved, and how you can nourish and protect your lashes first. So, before diving into some serious cosmetic procedures… let’s talk lash.
What Are Eyelash Extensions?
“Eyelash extensions are individual lashes that are placed onto your natural lashes,” explains CEO of Lash Factor, Angelina Salacinski. “They are added strand by strand onto the eyelashes with the help of a specifically-formulated, semi-permanent glue,” adds laparoscopic surgeon Dr. Madathupalayam Madhankumar. It can take as long as two hours for a lash tech to meticulously apply a full set of eyelash extensions — adding around 160 individual lashes! If you can handle keeping your eyes closed the entire duration of the procedure, it’s easy to see the appeal. Hundreds of extra lashes around your eyes are bound to make them pop. But it’s not just about volume, Angelina Salacinski points out. “It makes your lashes appear longer and thicker, but many different looks can be achieved depending on which type of extensions are used. You can get different lengths, different curls and different diameters of extensions.” These bespoke eyelash extensions can have you waking up with the full, voluminous, dark lashes of your dreams without a single stitch of makeup. Each set only lasts 2-4 weeks depending on how quickly your natural lashes shed, and each application can cost $150-$500 depending on the quality of materials and salon. And when calculating the cost of eyelash extensions, you don’t want to cut corners on the quality of materials or salon.
What Are the Dangers of Eyelash Extensions?
“The dangers are going to unqualified lash techs or lash techs that are not using products that have been tested for safety purposes,” warns Salacinski. A lot of things can go wrong during this 2-hour-long cosmetic procedure. “Some people can be allergic to the adhesive used in lash extensions…They could also be allergic to the under-eye pads used, or tape. This is why it’s very important to make sure that you go to a qualified technician as they will make sure to carry out a patch test a couple of days before your appointment,” Salacinski reiterates. Clinical dermatologist and researcher Dr. Enrizza Factor wants everyone to be informed before they walk into an appointment for eyelash extensions, explaining, “The procedure does come with risks, namely: trauma to or infection of the eyelid or cornea; allergic reaction to the glue; and permanent or temporary loss of eyelashes.” That’s right, in some cases, eyelash extensions can cause permanent or temporary loss of eyelashes by drying them out, pulling them out, or causing damage to the follicle. We all crave full, lush lashes, but not if it means losing the natural lashes we have. “Rubbing, tugging or pulling can fracture your natural lashes, and even cause permanent damage to the eyelash follicle,” warns Dr. Factor. And that’s not all. Even a minor allergic reaction to the glue “can trigger pain, itching, redness and swelling. It may even temporarily interfere with vision.” Dr. Factor has one last reminder: “Remember that a sharp object is being used very close to your eye. Infection can come from inadequate hygiene in the shop or damage to the eye during application. Although rare, extensions can also lead to fibers getting stuck under the eye tissue, which may require surgical removal.”
This long list of dangers is enough for the average person to avoid eyelash extensions altogether, but some of us are willing to risk it all for beauty. Dr. Factor recommends the following steps to mitigate the risk when getting eyelash extensions:
- Look carefully at the shop or salon, the aesthetician, and the ingredients of the products before going ahead.
- Check the salon’s Yelp page and website. Does the salon look clean? Can people vouch for its hygiene practices?
- Read reviews and look at before-and-after photos from other customers. Does the salon have a good reputation?
- Ensure that the aesthetician is certified and ask how many years experience they have in lash extensions.
- Ask for the glue’s ingredient list and check it for allergens.
- Confirm the expiration date has not passed.
- Request a spot test on the inside of your wrist before the glue is applied to your eyes.
Most lash experts and doctors agree that if you’re going to a qualified and certified esthetician, then the risks associated with eyelash extensions are relatively low. But optometrists and ophthalmologists — eye doctors — say ‘Not so fast!’ The College of Optometrists in England has warned that “repeated use of eyelash extensions can cause traction alopecia, a condition where the hair falls out due to excessive tension placed on the hair shaft. As a result, this can damage the hair follicle, which can slow down and even cease production of hair.” Oculofacial plastic surgeon and board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Tanya Khan has colleagues that have performed corrective surgeries from botched eyelash extensions, and she is not a fan of the procedure. “Because lash extensions involve the placement of synthetic materials and glue that can be hugely inflammatory to both the eyelid skin and the eye itself…[I] do not recommend lash extensions.”
No matter how you look at it, eyelash extensions come with risks. You have to decide if the results are worth the dangers. But before you make your decision, be sure to check out our tips below for preserving and protecting your natural lashes before losing your time, money, and possibly eyesight on eyelash extensions.
What Are Alternatives to Eyelash Extensions?
Alternative 1: Lash Lift
Our Score: 4/10
A lash lift is like a perm for your eyelashes. “It makes your eyes appear more awake and really opens the eye up,” says Angelina Salacinski of Lash Factor. The treatment uses chemicals to instantly give your natural lashes a dramatic curl worthy of a mascara ad. The result is lifted, open, and curled lashes everyday — with no need for an eyelash curler.
What Are the Dangers of a Lash Lift?
“If you go to a qualified technician then you will be in safe hands,” reassures Salacinski, but again, eye doctors don’t agree. Dr. Khan doesn’t think a qualified esthetician is enough. “Since lash lifts are not being performed by ophthalmic professionals, the lack of attentive detail during the procedure and inadequate protection at the eyelid and eye is quite concerning. Patients should be aware of the tremendous risk they undertake for this cosmetic procedure not performed by an ophthalmic specialist.” Salacinski does admit that “The [chemicals] could get into the eyes and cause retinal burns,” but Dr. Khan says it doesn’t stop there. “Lash lifts typically involve curling the lashes upward with the use of excessive heat, similar to a curling iron for hair. Near the eye, however, the stakes are much higher. Extreme heat can cause 1st-degree or higher burns to the eyelid skin, and it is possible for the heat vapor to be absorbed across the mucous membranes of the conjunctiva (white lining of the eyeball) and even the cornea (clear surface of the eye). This type of thermal damage, whether indirect or direct trauma to the surface of the eye, can cause infection, ulceration, and scarring, all of which can lead to ultimate loss in vision. The lash follicles can become irreparably damaged from high heat exposure, resulting in complete loss of lashes. Additionally, the eyelid skin can become compromised, leading to thickening and scarring over time as it heals from burns.” It may be a nuisance to curl your eyelashes every day, but I’d say thermal damage to your cornea and loss of vision are bigger inconveniences. If you’d like to keep your lashes (and your eyesight), scroll down to the tips below to nourish your natural lashes at home without the risk of a retinal burn!
Alternative 2: Eyelash Tinting
Our Score: 3/10
Eyelash tinting is similar to dying your hair. You go to a salon and choose a shade to dye your natural lashes, just like you’d color your hair. The result is beautiful, dark lashes without needing to apply mascara.
What Are the Dangers of Eyelash Tinting?
Eyelash tinting was illegal in the state of California up until January 2022 and is still banned in many other states. So now is the time to be extra careful when searching for the right esthetician to tint your lashes. Make sure the salon is certified and using FDA-approved dyes. Christina Fernandez, a lash expert for over 20 years, says, “The tint is the most dangerous part of the treatment [and is] known to cause serious injuries and blindness.” Because of the placement and consistency, lash dye can seep into the sclera — the white protective tissue that covers almost the entire eyeball — causing infection and even in extreme cases, loss of vision.
Your eyes are incredibly sensitive. Not just the organ itself, but the delicate skin surrounding it. While they can be dangerous, thousands of people have these procedures done every day. We are not telling you to avoid eyelash extensions, lash lifts, and tints at all costs. But before spending time and money on expensive and risky cosmetic procedures, we recommend to check out our tips for waking up with effortless, beautiful, bold, flawless lashes.
Tips to Keep Your Natural Lashes Looking Bold, Long, and Full
Alternative 3: Eyelash Serum
Our Score: 10/10
I understand the appeal of eyelash extensions, lash lifts, and tints. We all want to wake up with perfect movie star lashes, and we’re all guilty of putting a lot of effort into looking effortless. Before you consider a potentially risky procedure, know there are alternative ways to achieve thick, full, dark-looking lashes — without losing your lashes or your vision. City Lash, for example, is a lash serum that rejuvenates lashes, so they appear stronger, thicker, and longer. Eyelash extensions, lifts, and tints can leave lashes brittle, broken, or dryed out. City Lash uses conditioners – including Hyaluronic Acid – to fortify lashes with moisture and hair-nourishing vitamins like Biotin and Vitamin E to visibly improve lash texture and give lashes a strong, high-volume appearance.Even Dr. Khan agrees, “The best alternative for lash enhancement is lash growth serums, more specifically, non-prostaglandin containing formulas. There are many available over-the-counter that do not require a prescription and are safely used at the eyelid margin / lash line, without the risk of eyelid skin darkening, iris darkening, and loss of eyelid fullness.” That’s City Lash: a gentle, comfortable lash enhancement solution – free of harsh chemicals.
City Lash, $90
Alternative 4: Hybrid Mascara
Our Score: 10/10
Last, but not least: mascara. Eyelashes and mascara have been in an abusive relationship since ancient Egypt. Yes, mascara coats the lashes helping them appear longer, fuller, and darker. But mascara also draws out moisture, leaving the lashes brittle, dry, short, and broken once it’s washed off. More mascara means more breakage, which means thinner looking lashes, which means more mascara. It is an unending cycle. Except, you can end it with Beyond Mascara. Beyond Mascara in an ultra-pigmented, smudge-resistant formula that adds the instantly bold, full-lash look you want from a mascara while also conditioning lashes with every application. Deeply nourishing ingredients promote stronger-looking lashes that are resistant to breakage. The more you wear Beyond Mascara, the more you give your lashes exactly what they need to appear thick, full, and long. How’s that for effortless?
The Long and Short of It
Luxe, bold, and full lashes draw the right kind of attention to your face and eyes. There are plenty of ways to accentuate your lashes and there will continue to be more. But one thing we can agree on is: it’s always best to preserve and pamper your natural features before rushing to cosmetic procedures that could potentially damage the beauty you were born with. At City Beauty, we are firm believers that everyone should do what’s right for them. If what’s right for you is $500 eyelash extensions or another expensive cosmetic procedure, just be sure to educate yourself on the risks first — but the decision is ultimately yours to make! In the meantime, while you’re doing your research, try a much less expensive, much less invasive alternative that can have your lashes looking better than you ever dared imagine. Got a friend considering eyelash extensions, a lash lift, or a tint? Share this blog with them so they’re armed with everything they need to know!