Eyelash Extensions: What To Know Before Heading To The Lash Bar

A little less than a month ago, I was part of a good friend’s wedding party. Of course, as a bridesmaid there are certain things expected. Oftentimes, you have to shill out for a dress that’s not necessarily your style. Additionally, the cost of having your hair and makeup done are often part of the deal. However, in this case, my friend requested that all the ladies in her bridal party get eyelash extensions. What?! As you can probably guess, I wasn’t happy about it, but I felt guilted into relenting because it was her big day.

You’re likely wondering what my issue was? I mean, what woman doesn’t want long, luscious lashes, right? I emerged a mere 2 hours later with a full fill that made my eyes pop, no need for mascara…

1. B’Eyer Beware

Okay, so my issue with eyelash extensions is that it’s generally an unregulated industry, which means that anyone so called “technician” with a pair of tweezers and some glue can promise a full set of stunning, eye popping lashes.

However, the problem is that without the proper training and attention, those stunning fake lashes can cause all sorts of issues—from eye infections to irritations, to ending up with lashes to long and heavy that they look fake and completely ruining your real lashes underneath (I’m talking worn down to nubs). The main issue for me was that the salon had already been decided upon, and I was expected to jump on the eyelash extension train without doing my own research.

2.  Cue the Common Horror Stories

Before you say it, yes, I’m old school. I don’t use fillers, hair dye, or even wear lipstick, and I’m totally OCD when it comes to researching the life out of fad beauty and fitness trends (hence, how I landed this sweet gig). However, I’d heard the horror stories and even witnessed a few eye lash horrors from friends who’d gone under the tweezer and glue before me. For instance, I have a family member who’s eyelids were accidentally glued together by the technician. She ended up with a nasty fungal infection. Call me a eyelash extension naysayer, but I see far too many women walking around with clumpy, fake lashes coming at me, and I’m (personally) not for paying to look like that.

The stories of unregulated eyelash extension technicians causing infections and genuine eyelash carnage (nubs, people) was enough to make me question whether I wanted to be a part of this wedding. Even actress Kristin Chenoweth confessed to her eyelash extension mishap while hopped up on Benadryl to David Letterman, “I got eyelash extensions…[but] the glue has formaldehyde in it, and I’m allergic [so] I swelled up and I’m sneezing…It looks like I have lips on my eyelids.”

3. The Risk of Irritation

Not only that, but going in you virtually have zero idea if you will be the lucky person to suffer irritation due to eyelash extensions. You could suffer a fungal or bacterial infection or allergic reaction due to a number of factors—including the eyelash extensions themselves, which can be a single synthetic, mink, or silk fibers fixed to the natural eyelashes; the adhesives (usually a type of biologic glue or formaldehyde-based adhesives); the eyelash enhancers; or the solvents used to remove them.

A 2013 news piece from Consumer Reports reveals that it’s quite common for clients emerge from eyelash bars with keratitis (irritated corneas) and conjunctivitis (irritation of the conjunctiva) due to repeat eyelid contact or hypersensitivity to adhesives used to attach fake lashes.

4. Permanent Hair Loss

While the allure of lush, long, thick eyelashes has many rushing out for a set of eyelash extensions, having too heavy or too long lash extensions applied can result in the wearing away of eye lashes. With lashes suddenly so thin, clients are trapped in a never-ending cycle of eyelash fills.

Data collected by England’s College of Optometrists warns frequent eyelash extension devotees about developing alopecia, a condition that causes hair to fall out due to damage to the eye lash hair follicle. The damage is typically caused by repeated application of eyelash extensions, which places too much tension on the hair shaft causing hair loss, slow hair regrowth, and even the permanent cessation of new hair production.

5. Applying Eyelash Extensions

If you’d trust just anyone to extend your lashes, think again warns Sophy Merszei, certified eyelash technician and founder of NovaLash, a Texas-based beauty company. She characterizes the process as “microsurgery” explaining how each individual fiber extension is glued to the top lashes, one by one using long pointed tweezers and dabs of adhesive.

Merszei admits that applying eyelash extensions is “one of the hardest beauty procedures for a cosmetologist to learn”, because it takes isolating one natural lash, brushing a single synthetic lash, applying adhesive, and holding it for a few seconds for the glue to bond. As you can guess, attaching 50+ lashes of different sizes to each eye can takes patience, professionalism, time (2 to 3 hours), and lots of money ($150 to $600 for a full application plus $50 to $100 for touch ups and fills every 3 to 4 weeks).

6. Pick Your Technician Wisely

Eyelash extensions are akin to any new beauty trend, and I’m not trying to talk anyone out of getting them. However, keep in mind that the products are not regulated by the FDA in the U.S. or in Canada, which means buyer beware, or in this case b’eye’r beware! In the end to extend or not to extend your lashes is a personal choice.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends doing your due diligence by researching salons to find one with certified technicians, a good reputation, and a reputable brand of lash products.  I would also suggest going with a salon that uses an eyelash extension brand that openly lists all ingredients and allergy/toxicity reports, especially to adhesives. In the end, I did get agree to get the extensions for my friend’s wedding. And while I was lucky enough not to experience an infection, irritation, or eyelash loss…it was not a happily ever after tale. I got them removed the day after the wedding and my real lashes are currently happily living the single life.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.