Some beauty trends come and go, but it seems a desire for long, commanding lashes has been around for ages — women have been coveting dramatic lashes for thousands of years. Before The House of Rimmel created modern mascara in the 19th century, Cleopatra was making homemade mascara with a blend of waxes and pigments.
Fake eyelashes first made their debut in 1916, when D.W. Griffith was making the film Intolerance, and wanted leading lady Seena Owen to have longer lashes to make her eyes appear bigger. He wanted lashes so long they brushed her cheeks, so a neighborhood wig maker wove human hair with gauze to create false eyelashes, and an industry was born. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s artificial lashes became popular, though they often looked fake and were reserved for movie stars and special occasions. It wasn’t until fashion model Twiggy made big, doe-eyed false lashes popular in the 1960s that the trend became part of a woman’s regular beauty routine.
Still, eyelash extensions as we know them today didn’t come on the scene in the US until 2004. The practice came from Japan and Korea, where women have been lengthening their lashes with extensions for at least 40 years. By 2005, a-list celebrities and many more were batting longer lashes, thanks to eyelash extensions. Some even took it a step further by bedazzling their newly extended lashes. Over the past few years, the trend has become more accessible for those outside the celebrity realm, and more and more women around the country are trying eyelash extensions for themselves.
The Risks of Eyelash Extensions
No matter which extension type you choose, all three options pose potential risks. Some women are allergic to the glue used in the extension process, which can cause inflammation and redness. Usually this is because the eyelash glue contains formaldehyde, so make sure your salon uses an adhesive with other ingredients. Although inflamed, red eyes are no walk in the park, other side effects are even more serious.
In 2013, the American Academy of Ophthalmology said eyelash extensions and their glue could cause infections and swelling of the cornea and eyelid, and cautioned against use. Consumer Reports also warns against extensions, and has said they can cause bacteria and fungal infections, erosion of the inner surface of the eyelid, and even permanent or temporary loss of lashes.
Britain’s College of Optometrists also warns eyelash extension users that alopecia, a condition that causes your hair to fall out as a result of extreme tension on the hair shaft, is a risk with eyelash extensions. In some scenarios, women have experienced, swollen eyelids and temporary blindness due to infections as a result of prolonged wearing of extensions. While these side effects are rare, they are also serious and you should be aware of them.
How to Protect Yourself from Potential Risks of Eyelash Extensions
Although nothing can prevent these risks entirely, you can minimize your chances of infection by choosing a good salon. Choose a spa or salon with an excellent reputation, or even better, an establishment that specializes in eyelash extensions only.
Your lash artist should definitely be a licensed esthetician. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, including what type of adhesive is used. Remember, you want one without formaldehyde! You should also inquire about what sterilization practices the establishment and technician follow. During the process, make sure the technician is washing her hands thoroughly. Once your lashes are in place, if you do notice any signs of infection see an ophthalmologist immediately.
It’s also important to find an eyelash extension artist you’re comfortable with and who will listen to what you want, so you don’t waste your money and can ensure you get the look you’re going for. You might want thick, full lashes, or a more sparse application to create more awake looking eyes. Talk with your eyelash artist to make sure you’re on the same page, and if you have photos bring them along for reference.