The Great, Heated Debate: Are Eyelash Extensions Safe?

This is a divisive issue in the beauty community. 

There was a time when eyebrow guru and makeup artist Sebastian Latiolais offered eyelash extensions at his NYC salon Brows by Sebastian. But after seeing women in his salon every single day with stubby or damaged natural lashes from extensions (problems that that he attributes to lash extension glue), he's switched completely to lash tinting with vegetable dye instead. "Is the short-term beauty regimen worth the long-term irreversible damage?" Sebastian wonders about lash extensions.

He's not 100 percent against extensions, but he thinks you shouldn't wear them for months on end without a break. "You can not go from dry glue, ripping it off in between, to applying new suffocating glue and over and over. Now your lashes are falling out and you feel like you need more fake lashes. It's out of hand and it's very damaging," Sebastian says. "I get frustrated with the beauty industry because we push sales without worrying about the health and the natural beauty of a woman."

Sebastian's not the only beauty pro who is down on eyelash extensions. “Women with eyelash extensions are asked to refrain from oil-based eye makeup remover and mascara altogether. Those are staples in a woman's makeup collection!” says makeup artist Sharon L. Gjieli, who also worries about damage to natural lashes and the expensive upkeep of getting fills.

“How am I supposed to take off my winged liner without oil-based remover? Probably by rubbing and tugging at my eyelid, which will cause wrinkles, and still ruin the eyelash extensions," Sharon says. "So what's the point?”

Anais Cordova, a Priv makeup artist and lash pro in LA, has a counterpoint to all of these arguments. There are makeup lines now made specifically for eyelash extensions, she says, and she works with clients who have been getting lashes for years with no ill effects. "They just get fills and fills and they still have full lashes. I think it depends on you and how you care of them,” she says. To keep fake lashes going strong, you have to brush them daily, avoid rubbing them, and avoid getting them wet within 24 hours of application.

But the real beauty of lash extensions, according to Anais's clients, is being able to avoid that extra step in the morning. "It is a little high-maintenance but I think it's totally worth it. You wake up looking like you have makeup on," Anais says.

The topic of eyelash extensions seems to be one of beauty's "love it or hate it" debate. Just look at this Into The Gloss comment thread: half the commenters say that lash extensions are the best thing that ever happened to their beauty routine and the other half complain that extensions ruined their natural eyelashes.

In 2013, the American Academy of Ophthalmology warned consumers of the dangers of eyelash extensions, but the phenomenon hasn't slowed down since then. There are two main health issues with eyelash extensions, says Jennifer S. Harthan, OD, FAAO, an associate professor and the chief of the Urgent Eyecare Service at Illinois College of Optometry. There could be an injury to the eye or lid if a lash tech doesn't correctly apply the lashes with her tweezers. Then the lash adhesive contains chemicals—some even contain formaldehyde—that could cause an allergic reaction! 

That's not all. "Other potential complications that may occur due to eyelash extensions include: corneal infections, eyelid infections, permanent loss of eyelashes, swollen eyelids, dry eye, Meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis and lid/conjunctival/corneal abrasions from the tweezers," she says. Yikes! 

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But is it a myth that eyelash extensions cause your natural eyelashes to fall out? "Eyelash extensions shed with your natural eyelashes, typically every four to eight weeks. After four to eight weeks, half of the extensions will be gone," Dr. Harthan says. "That being said, some individuals are sensitive to the adhesive used to apply the extensions, as well as to the extensions themselves, and may lose lashes at a faster rate. Frequent application of eyelash extensions can also damage the hair follicles, causing permanent loss of eyelashes."

Here are Dr. Harthan's eyelash extension safety guidelines, if you want to try out the trend:

  • Is the stylist a licensed aesthetician? If not, check out another salon.

  • Make sure that the aesthetician washed their hands and that they are using gloves while applying the eyelash extensions.

  • Sterilized instruments should be used.

  • Avoid adhesives such as those containing formaldehyde.

  • If you are unhappy with the appearance of the extensions, do not remove them yourself. Return to the salon and have the aesthetician remove them for you.

Be careful out there! Your eyes aren't something you want to cheap out on, so make sure you do your research and take good care of your lashes.

Want to leave fluttery, voluminous lashes in the hands of a pro? Whether you want va-va-voom mascara, full-volume lash extensions, or a fabulous set of falsies, Priv has got you covered—in your own home!  Simply download Priv now, and you'll also be batting your lashes in no time. 

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