Unlike false eyelashes, eyelash extensions are designed to be a longer-lasting solution to beautifying your own, natural lashes.
Eyelash extensions are single lashes, placed on your own eyelashes one at a time by a professional cosmetologist or esthetician. The lashes are made out of natural materials (such as silk or mink), or from synthetic, plastic fibers.
Eyelash extensions eliminate the need to wear mascara. You can also choose the look you want, ranging from a little lusher and longer than your own, to full-out, extravagant glamour (think Kim Kardashian, or Beyoncé, known for her mink lashes).
Eyelash extensions look great, but are not without potential risk to your skin and eyes. It’s very important to choose an experienced, licensed technician, and to inspect the salon for sanitary conditions.
Taking these precautions will help you avoid getting an infection from a less-than-sterile tool, or from a technician’s sloppy use of adhesive.
It’s also very important to keep your eyes closed during the procedure to avoid getting adhesive or adhesive vapor into your eye. This could cause a reaction ranging from a watery eye to a serious burn.
Side effects on the skin and eyes
The glues used to adhere eyelash extensions to your lashes include chemicals and ingredients which may be irritating or can be harmful. If you have a reaction to a chemical used during the process, you may experience side effects within two to three days.
These side effects include:
- bloodshot eyes
- redness and inflammation of the eye or eyelid
- swelling, which can be severe
Some ingredients commonly found in eyelash extension adhesives include:
- cellulose gum
- benzoic acid
Some ingredients found in eyelash extension removers include:
- propylene glycol
Different people have different sensitivities to chemicals, however, the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology recommends never using adhesives which contain formaldehyde, a potentially toxic irritant.
Some of the other ingredients used can also irritate skin, or cause allergic reactions. If you’re new to eyelash extensions, or have sensitive skin or allergies, ask the technician you’re using to give you a patch test first, to see how your skin will react.
Side effects to the lashes
Eyelash extensions can also cause your own eyelashes to break or thin out, but this can largely be avoided if you don’t pull, tug, or rub at your eyes. The gentler you treat your eyelash extensions, the less likely you are to hurt your own lashes.
Keep in mind that, during the procedure, your lower eyelashes and lash line will be covered by a pad that may also have adhesive on it and that the technician will be working on and around your eyelids. While not a side effect, it’s worth keeping in mind for your own comfort.
If your eyes feel mildly irritated after having lash extensions placed, there are several things you can try at home to alleviate the discomfort. These include:
When to see a professional
Any symptoms which last longer than 24 to 48 hours should be assessed. If your symptoms are severe, such as extreme swelling, pain, or itching, on either your eyelid or eye, see your doctor.
It’s important to get the right treatment for your eyes. If you’re having an allergic reaction, your doctor will prescribe eye drops which can help reduce your symptoms. If you have an infection, you may need antibiotics.
Both infections and allergic reactions can have similar symptoms. Seeing a doctor will ensure you get the right treatment.
If your eyes are very uncomfortable or you’re having an allergic reaction, you should probably remove your extensions. The safest way to remove them may be to have a professional do it.
Many salons and technicians will remove lash extensions for no charge or for very little. Or, you can take them off at home by very gently steaming your face and using oil to remove the lashes.
Before considering having eyelash extensions put on, assess whether or not you’re a good candidate for the process. Do not proceed if you:
- have irritated or broken skin on your eyelids
- have a history of eye or skin reactions to products such as eye makeup, eye drops, or eye medication
- are allergic to latex or to any of the ingredients used in the glue, prep, or removal products
- have alopecia areata
- are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation
- have trichotillomania
First, make sure to get a patch test on an area of skin like on your arm, especially if you’re trying out a new salon or a new product.
Getting lash extensions should feel comfortable. If you experience any discomfort, such as itching, burning, or tearing up while they’re being applied, stop the procedure to assess your reaction.
Avoiding an infection can often be eliminated by making sure you’re working with a seasoned professional in a clean environment.
Choose your lash technician wisely. Paul Mitchell Schools suggest checking online references and reviews, and using your own judgement as well. If something doesn’t feel right, you’re in control to stop the process.
If the technician doesn’t prep your eyes correctly, stop the procedure immediately.
According to the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, your lower lashes and upper eyelids should be cleaned and covered prior to gluing, in order to protect them. They also recommend not continuing if the technician uses nail glue on your lashes.
Getting eyelash extensions is a painstaking process, which can take anywhere from two to four hours to complete. The eye being worked on needs to remain closed and as motionless as possible during the procedure.
Each lash is attached to one of your own individual eyelashes with surgical glue made to withstand water, sweat, and oil.
Note about eyelash extensions Eyelash extensions should never be attached to skin. They also should not be clumped over several lashes. Each extension is meant to be mated to one of your own.
If you have no sensitivities to any of the ingredients used, your eyelash extensions will feel comfortable. Be prepared to treat them with care, however.
Eyelash extension maintenance includes touch-ups which can be costly, plus daily maintenance, such as detangling of lashes. They may also require a change in the types of products you currently use on your eyes and face.
Certain oil-based cleansers and products may break down the adhesive more quickly than you would like, requiring touch-ups sooner. You’ll also want to protect your extensions from water pressure from showering and washing your face, or while swimming, to avoid loosening the glue.
Eyelash extensions grow out naturally, along with your own lashes, over a four-to-nine-week period. This is the average growth cycle for most people’s lashes. During that time, you’ll need maintenance touch-ups every few weeks, which are also done by a professional.
During this cycle, straggling lashes may need to be removed so that your eyelashes continue to look uniform and lush. Eyelash extension removal is often done by a professional, but can also be done at home.
Eyelash extensions can give your eyes a beauty boost, which is great for confidence. Some of the possible drawbacks are that they’re expensive over time, require a certain level of maintenance, and are not without risk.
As lovely as they are, eyelash extensions are not for everyone. If you have certain medical conditions, or allergies, you may be better off with plain old mascara.