Are All Eyelash Extensions the Same?

Billy afterEarlier this year the American Academy of Ophthalmology took its cue from a Consumer Reports article about eyelash extensions and published their position on the use and dangers of eyelash extensions.

While the warnings regarding heaviness of false lashes, risk of allergy to adhesives and dangers of unsanitary conditions and techniques are valid, many articles and reports fail to be complete, comprehensive or fair in their report by including “both sides” of the story. Please allow me to provide that for you here and now.

Those of us with years of experience in this business have our doubts. Here’s why:

While it is true that a very tiny, trace amount of formaldehyde is present in the adhesive, the quantity is so minuscule as to be negligible. Formaldehyde is NOT an ingredient that is put into the formulation of the adhesive but is a by-product of adhesive degradation. In addition, formaldehyde is found everywhere in our world both naturally and synthetically. If someone were allergic to formaldehyde, it would have likely surfaced long before reported lash extension escapades.

Exposing eyelash extension clients to this by-product is easily avoided by simply making sure the adhesive is tossed out long before reaching its expiration date. Maintaining an inventory of only fresh adhesive, keeping one’s hands, the tools and application space aseptically clean and keeping excellent documentation of each visit serves to greatly decrease any risk of harm to clients seeking to have eyelash extension procedures.

When it is an allergy?

While true allergic reactions to lash extensions are rare, they do occur. Adhesive companies are now producing lash extension adhesive for sensitive eyes. We have experienced success in using this product for clients who formerly were unable to tolerate the regular adhesive.

However, once a client exhibits evidence of an allergic reaction, the extensions will need to be removed, the client’s record duly noted and the client should not attempt to wear eyelash extensions again.

When It’s Not an Allergy

Many a client has come to us with lashes applied by other salons, usually cheap nail salons or even day spas, with itchy under eyelids that demonstrate small red bumps on the underside of the top eyelid.

This is almost always NOT an allergic reaction but rather the result of poor technique.

When wet adhesive is allowed to touch more than one natural lash, these naturals, upon drying, become joined, stuck or “gunked” together and unable to grow out as they normally would. Being matted together as two, three, four and even five (yes, I have seen as many as five naturals matted to one extension) the fastest growing eyelash of the group then drags the others with it. The result is a slow moving but sure pulling of the naturals that results in “ripping” out of their follicle slowly but surely. The eyelash follicles that are housing the lashes being slowly pulled out begin to turn red, itch and may swell. This gives the underside surface of the upper eyelid, and if bad enough may include the topside of the eyelid, an appearance much like a skin-type allergic reaction. When coupled with the intense itching, clients feel certain they’ve diagnosed the problem.

However, once again with careful removal and meticulous reapplication, we have been able to give many women, who thought they were allergic, a gorgeous set of comfortable, safe lash extensions. The majority of these became loyal clients for many years.

The Bottom Line in Eyelash Extensions

There are very safe, highly skilled eyelash extension procedures and practitioners who do meticulous and beautiful work. Despite operating our lash extension business on a fairly small Amelia Island in Northeast Florida, we have many first time customers and dozens of “regulars” getting lash extensions and “refills” over up to six years now without adverse affects to their eyes or their natural lashes.

Some of our clients have even experienced enhancement and improvement in the health of their natural lashes because of the protection that occurs when wearing properly applied and cared for lash extensions of the proper length and weight for the client’s natural lashes and when following our advice on how to maintain healthy eyelashes.

We have always helped our lash clients to take excellent care of their natural lashes by suggesting which vitamins are beneficial for the lash follicle, how to perform proper make up application over lash extensions, the correct way to remove make up and clean both the natural lashes and extensions and recommended use of OTC natural eyelash enhancing serums for those clients whose natural lashes appear weak, thin or sparse during their initial consultation.

If ever the occasion arises where removal is requested, and yes we have removed other people’s sloppy work, we are trained and qualified stylists using the right removal solution (we keep a policy manual with all MSDS sheets and antidotes), hygiene and meticulous technique for safe removal.

Feel free to read the comments of my many satisfied clients over the years (link or cut and paste Genbook reviews).

To us, eye lash extensions is not unlike choosing a plastic surgeon. We have all heard the horror stories and have seen the photos from “back alley” performed by charlatans preying on the vanity of persons looking to get more of a “bang” for their plastic surgery “buck”.

The oft heard, mantra-like, reaction of most of us when we hear of these personal accounts is “buyer beware” or “you get what you pay for”.
But to be honest we have never heard the American Medical Association coming out with the stance stating or even implying that all plastic surgeries are inherently dangerous and warning patients not to have plastic surgery, do we?

In my opinion, the reason we are hearing only one side of the story, and more and more about harm to the eyes and natural lashes of clients seeking to have the eyelash extension procedures is directly related to the consumer’s desire to get something of value for nothing. To truly have the look of beautiful, well done eyelash extensions requires one be willing to do the research, ask the tough questions and pay for a top quality, first class job well done.

So long as consumers are only willing to pay for the cheaper, nail salon priced false lashes, clusters or so-called “one-on-one” extensions that are truly and decidedly not quality, we will continue to get only the bad news.

My biggest concern is that this trend to throw caution to the wind, have little regard for eye safety and continuing to seek the “cheap thrill” may eventually lead us to another over-zealous regulation based upon fear and inaccurate information.

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