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The Truth About Eyelash Extensions: Risks, Side Effects, and Safer Alternatives

Eyelash extensions and the risks, side effects and safer alternatives

In a survey of women, age 18-65, 3 out of 4 said they wanted longer, thicker and

darker lashes. Therefore, it is not a surprise that eye lash extensions are such big business and that demand is predicted to keep growing. However, this procedure is not without risk and in one recently published study the researchers concluded that eye lash extensions can lead to an imbalance in the ocular surface environment resulting in symptoms of irritation in over 80% of cases studied and loss of tear film quality. This is especially problematic if you already suffer from dry eye diseaseand, if you ask an eye care professional, they would almost certainly tell you to think again before having eye lash extensions for the sake of your eye health.


Dry Eye Zone believes there is a real need for greater awareness of the risks of artificial lashes. Read on to find out what you need to know:


What exactly are eyelash extensions?

They are semi-permanent, ‘professionally’ applied artificial lashes which are placed one at a time within your natural lashes to give extra length and thickness. There are 3 types of materials available: synthetic plastics, silk and mink, they come in different lengths and thicknesses. The fake lash is attached to your natural lashes by a semi-permanent glue and falls away when the natural lash is shed.


Why are eyelash extensions so popular?

They can have a dramatic impact on the overall look of the eye giving far thicker and longer lashes without the need for mascara. Because of this some people find themselves becoming addicted to the impact of the full-lash look which makes them an expensive and time-consuming habit.


What can go wrong with eyelash extensions?

The most common side effect is a reaction to the glues used, some of these actually contain formaldehyde, which is known to be an irritant. This reaction leads to an inflammatory condition of the eyelid known as blepharitis. Other problems include damage or infection of the eyelid or cornea and permanent or temporary loss of eye lashes.


Cannot give up on those long eyelash extensions?

An eye care professional they would prefer you worked on your natural lashes instead. But if you cannot kick the habit here are some important tips:

  • Find a reputable and experienced beautician, there is no specific licence needed to be a practising lash technician, however, there are accredited courses out there. Make sure your technician has had formal training in the technique.

  • Once you have extensions make sure you maintain the highest levels of ocular hygiene, you might want to consider daily use of a hypochlorous spray to help reduce microbial growth on the lashes.

  • You should make sure that if you are using additional eye make-up you avoid any harsh chemicals.

  • At the first sign of an adverse reaction make sure you visit your eye care professional for advice on alternative ways of enhancing your eye lashes.


Are there any alternatives?

If you want to double the length of your lashes in just a couple of hours then the short answer is ‘no’, but if you are prepared to be patient and invest in a longer-term solution then you could look at a restorative eyelash serum. However, in the same way lash extensions have unwanted side-effects so do most of the widely available online lash-building serums.

To rebuild the condition of damaged or lost eye lashes restorative formulations are available, however, most of the leading brands contain sub-optimal ingredients such as harsh preservatives including benzalkonium chloride (BAK) which is known to be cytotoxic to the cornea, as well as prostaglandins (such as bimataprost) or synthetic prostaglandin derivatives  - all ingredients known to make dry eye worse. Because Dry Eye Zone is focused on delivering best-in-class products for dry eye sufferers it recommends a much safer, more natural alternative - Lash Builder that produces longer, thicker and darker lashes, the results of which you can usually start to see in 4-6 weeks.

You can find out more about all things dry eye related by visiting Dry Eye Zone – there is plenty of useful advice, more about dry eye disease itself and a curated range of products you will only find available from leading independent opticians.



And don’t forget to subscribe to Dry Eye Zone's regular free information updates.



If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms then you should ask the advice of your eye care professional. Do not leave things untreated as symptoms may progress. Why not book your next eye examination with an independent optician today.




Reena Mukamal, reviewed by Dr Rebecca Taylor. Eyelash Extension Facts and Safety. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Feb. 23, 2018.

Jiaxin Han, Zihong Xie, Xingwei Zhu, Wanting Ruan, Meng Lin, Zhiqiang Xu, Lijie Miao, Junyang Zhong, Fan Lu, Liang Hu, The effects of eyelash extensions on the ocular surface, Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, Volume 47, Issue 2, 2024,102109, ISSN 1367-0484,

Masud M, Moshirfar M, Shah TJ, Gomez AT, Avila MR, Ronquillo YC. Eyelid Cosmetic Enhancements and Their Associated Ocular Adverse Effects. Med Hypothesis Discov Innov Ophthalmol. 2019 Summer;8(2):96-103. PMID: 31263720; PMCID: PMC6592309.

Sarkar J, Chaudhary S, Namavari A, Ozturk O, Chang JH, Yco L, Sonawane S, Khanolkar V, Hallak J, Jain S. Corneal neurotoxicity due to topical benzalkonium chloride. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Apr 6;53(4):1792-802. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-8775. PMID: 22410563; PMCID: PMC3995561.

Shen W, Huang B, Yang J. Ocular Surface Changes in Prostaglandin Analogue-Treated Patients. J Ophthalmol. 2019 Dec 10;2019:9798272. doi: 10.1155/2019/9798272. PMID: 31885896; PMCID: PMC6925925.

Amano Y, Sugimoto Y, Sugita M. Ocular disorders due to eyelash extensions. Cornea. 2012 Feb;31(2):121-5. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e31821eea10. PMID: 22134404.



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