Eyelash Extension Health Risks Aren’t Pretty

The cosmetic procedure can cause allergic reactions, lash loss, and eye irritation.

Eyelash extensions

Eyelashes like this aren’t worth it. Photo via Shutterstock

If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. And, ladies, we’re sorry to say that mantra applies to some of the hottest beauty trends right now. We already reported on the health risks associated with nail polish and gel manicures, and now we have bad news about eyelash extensions, too.

For those not satisfied with mascara, eyelash extensions—individual synthetic fibers glued onto the natural lashes one by one— offer a long-term way to get long, lush lashes. But an ever-growing body of information is coming out saying the procedure is not without its risks. According to an article from Consumer Reports, the health concerns are in large part because the glue used to attach the lashes often contains formaldehyde, which has been linked to allergic reactions (including Kristin Chenoweth’s high-profile one on the Letterman Show). Falsies can also trap bacteria and cause eye irritation, and women who remove them incorrectly often experience thinning or lost natural lashes. The article also includes a statement from England’s College of Optometrists:

“…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.”

An ABC News report also quotes opthalmology professor Neda Shamie about the possible dangers:

Dr. Neda Shamie, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Doheny Eye Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif., said, “Any chemical exposure to the cornea being so fragile in some ways or susceptible to scarring and irritations and infection, it could be harmful.”

The Association for Damage-Free Eyelash Extensions (who knew such a thing existed?) has issued statements of its own, like one mentioned in the ABC article saying that hypoallergenic eyelash glues or those not containing formaldehyde are perfectly safe for use in extensions. While that’s probably true, it takes a lot of policing on the part of the consumer to make sure that the glues being used on them are safe, which is risky to rely on. Plus, there are still the non-glue related problems of hair loss (sometimes when they fall out, or are pulled out your real eyelashes go with them) and spreading bacteria.

Our verdict? Channel your inner middle school girl and pile on the mascara instead.