Women have been known to go to great lengths for beauty. The latest trend: eyelash extensions.
For a modest price, women can get movie-star quality lashes that last for months. Some women are even opting for full eyelash transplants, applied during outpatient surgery. Consumers are promised thicker eyelashes and an improved appearance.
However, there are health dangers associated with these falsies.
According to a new study from Consumer Reports, eyelash extensions may lead to multiple allergic reactions. As an allergist, I’ve seen dozens of female patients with conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, resulting from bacterial infections associated with a build-up of dirt and bacteria in these products.
Symptoms can include eye discharge, irritation, swelling and great discomfort.
Actress Kristin Chenoweth experienced an allergic reaction to eyelash extensions in 2012, and described the experience on The Late Show With David Letterman, while wearing sunglasses.
"Something bad (had) happened," she told Letterman, according to Tulsa World, about the extensions.
Chenoweth had developed an allergic reaction to the glue that held her extensions in place. This glue often contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. She added that her eyes "swelled up and (I) was sneezing a lot. It looks like I have lips on my eyelids."
Chenoweth said she had eye discharge, which caused a hard crust to form around her eyes, the newspaper reported. She said her doctor prescribed eye drops and an antihistimine.
In a study of more than 100 women in Japan, a variety of eye and eyelid conditions and complications were identified related to the use of synthetic eyelash extensions. Fake eyelashes may also contain metal contaminants and chemical preservatives.
If you are allergic to latex rubber, it is essential to make sure that your eyelash glue does not contain latex. However, many glues do not disclose exact ingredients, making it more difficult to avoid certain chemicals.
Even more serious is the fact that permanent damage can be done to your own natural lashes and/or eyes if the extensions are not applied properly.
A report from Britain's College of Optometrists warned of possible eyelash loss due to the tension created by the extensions.
In-office allergy patch tests with a doctor can help identify if you are at risk of an allergic reaction, and may provide guidance regarding possible alternative ingredients for products used on your face and eyes.
So, proceed with caution when it comes to eyelash extensions. Speak with your allergist and/or dermatologist about potential risks, and if you do opt to have extensions applied, see a doctor immediately if you begin to feel any abnormalities. Remember, mascara is a cheaper, safer option.
Dr. Clifford Bassett is an adult and pediatric allergy specialist, and diplomat of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY. Bassett is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and on the teaching faculty of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center and faculty at Cornell University Medical College. Follow him on Twitter.