The Not-So Hidden Dangers of Lash Lift

2:39 PM

Few cosmetic enhancements seem as desirable as longer lashes in today's beauty marketplace; from prescription serums to fiber mascaras, and false lashes to lash perming, the cosmetic industry is overrun with options for achieving gravity defying eyelashes.  Unfortunately one of the leading reasons why so many products exist for getting longer lashes is that all of the available enhancement options come with a certain risk for ocular surface discomfort and dry eye signs and symptoms. Serums like Latisse can cause redness, irritation, and chronic meibomian gland dysfunction. The preservatives and chemicals in most mascaras are known ocular irritants. And the glue used to apply false eyelashes can cause severe allergic reactions, and increase the risk for styes.  


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Newer to the market is lash perming, a procedure that focuses on enhancing the look of your own lashes.  Dubbed Lash Lift, these procedures promise to be a more natural approach to bolder looking lashes for people who want to lay off daily eyelash curling and heavy mascara or false lashes. The process uses no long term glue holding in fake lashes, and can enhance lash appearance without the need for irritating lengthening serums or mascara.  The person's own eyelashes instead are permed so that they curl dramatically upwards; one treatment can last 6-8 weeks. The beauty world has been abuzz with dramatic before and after images, with features on daytime TV, magazines, and a huge push from beauty bloggers sharing their results. 

But is Lash Lift really safer than other options for lash enhancements on the market? Like most cosmetic products and procedures, there are significant possible dangerous side effects to the delicate surface of the eye.  The process of an eyelash perm itself has several potential hazards, and would need a very careful and well trained aesthetician performing the procedure to prevent the risk of chemical injury to the eye.  

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First, protective pads are glued to the top and bottom surface of the eyelid in an effort to shield the eyelid skin from unneccessary exposure to the perming chemicals. If the glue were to come in contact with the waterline or surface of the eye, it could cause major irritation.  Some skin types may also be at risk of having an allergic reaction to the glue, so the skin should be tested before the procedure on the arm to rule this out.

A silicone curler is then glued to the top eyelid, and the eyelashes are then curled up over the curler pad and glued to stay in place.  Then a chemical perming solution is combed through the eyelashes to break down the keratin shaft and encourage the hair to bend to the shape of the curler. Different companies will use different perming solutions, but the main ingredient is ammonium.  Because the beauty industry is not regulated in the same way as the medical industry, companies do not have to share what ingredients and what percentages of these ingredients are used in the procedure. We do know from multiple studies of preservative BAK (benzalkonium chloride) that even low amounts of ammonium is toxic to the cornea and conjunctiva (white of the eye).

The waterline is where the delicate meibomian glands are located, right below the root of the eyelash follicles.  As you can see from this photo, the glands are exposed to the treatment solutions, even though your eye is closed. Glues or perming solution contacting the glands could result in toxicity, which you would experience as redness, puffiness, and lingering dry eye symptoms like irritation, watering, and itchiness or discomfort. via

To avoid the potential risks, Lash Lift providers have extensive FAQs warning about the dangers of the process to the surface of the eye.  You must remove contact lenses before the procedure, and those that have had ocular surgeries, including blepharoplasty (eyelid lifts) and LASIK must wait at minimum 6-12 months before having the procedure done. Aestheticians warn that Lash Lift should NOT be performed if a person has a history of eye allergies, eye infections, styes, sensitive eyes, watery eyes, or chronic dry eye.  

Are these warnings enough, however when only 8 million of the estimated 25-30 million Americans with chronic dry eye have actually been clinically diagnosed with the disease?  How many women or men pursuing this procedure would have consulted with an eye doctor first to have the opportunity to even be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome?  Because the cosmetic industry is not regulated under the FDA with the same guidelines as the medical industry, this is where the system really breaks down. 

Like all options available on the market for lash enhancement, lash perms come with inherent risks for the ocular surface.  Some people might have severe reactions from lash growth serums but do great with lash perms like beauty blogger Kate of The Small Things Blog.  Others might have recalcitrant dry eye side effects from Lash Lift procedures like Kelly from No Thanks to Cake.  There is no completely safe way to manipulate the ocular surface with chemicals, whether they be from serums, perms, or glues.  Knowing the risks and the dangers before the procedure, and getting routine eyecare to ensure that you aren't at risk before pursuing these cosmetic enhancements is the key!

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15 comments

  1. Had one of these recently and had extreme eye irritation and burning for days even though a patch test was done. Would not recommend this, wish I'd have read this page before deciding to have it done.

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  2. Did you see a doctor or did you just wait out your infection? I have swelling under my left eye and i dont knowif i should wait hours to get it checked out.... thank you

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  3. I've had this done yesterday woke up today in agony eyes are itchy blood shot swollen burning feel like some one is scratching my eyeballs can't keep my eyes open very long 😢

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  4. My eyes burned during the procedure and afterwards at night I had such itchy eyes that I pulled some lashes out in my sleep. Further more, although I never had this problem before, my eyes became very dry and slightly painful. They still are. Please dn’t risk it!

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  5. Omg this is a nightmare. There is too much of a curl on my lashes and therefore they are rubbing my eye lid and I have a constant feeling of something touching my eye lashes and a double whammy, the lid too.

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  6. I went to a very reputable place for my first lash last Lift after a 6 month break of having extensions for 4 years and my eyes have been irritated and dry from the first day I received it. I am an esthetician (retired) and am extremely Picky about where I go for any services such as this, and now I’m dealing with a possible eye infection on my right eye! Bit mistake doing this treatment at least for me... and I do not have sensitive or allergenic eyes! If you do Decide to get this done, truly make sure the person is licensed aesthetician as mine was only licensed in the Yumi lash Lift procedure and in my opinion was heavy-handed and a bit careless during the treatment.

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  7. Can the solutions applied damage your eye sight?

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    1. It depends on what chemicals they are using! Definitely check with the aesthetician that is performing your treatment and find out every chemical used before going forward. That way you can check for side effects with your eye doctor.

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  8. I had this done at an Asian mall in San Diego California in 2006 the very first day I arrived on vacation, I should have known when I saw the giant roach scatter across the floor but went ahead as I didn’t want to offend anyone. The shit burned like a son of a bitch. I don’t know if they used Barbie hair curlers on me or if they were actually meant for the procedure I was having done because my young daughter commented how they look like her Barbie dolls hair rollers. Who in the fuck wants a complete curl around of the eyelash? I sure didn’t and I wasn’t educated enough on the procedure to know that the mini rollers were not going to give me the beautiful fanned out lashes that were advertised in the window as a result of this procedure. After lying there with my eyes and surrounding skin burning for what seemed like wayyy too long, I finally said get this off I can’t take it anymore, needless to say, most of my lashes came off with the rinsing. I looked in the mirror and I had a few lashes completely curled into a full circle, think grandmas perm curls. I was mortified. The Asian woman gave me some cream for my 3rd degree burns and a lash comb, I went into the bathroom to try and give them a comb and the remainder of my curly perm lashes crumbled off like ashes.. not lashes. This was a literal nightmare 13yrs ago, maybe this technique has come a long way since, but I’m not willing to give it another go.. I should’ve sued the lady but I was too nice, my boyfriend even paid her the $300(probably because he was Asian himself) what a fucking joke.

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  9. theres a big difference before and after the lash lifting.
    your eyes look bigger and more natural.
    Im a lash stylist in Salzburg and I also do lash lifting. Normally there shouldnt be a red eye or burning eye after the lash lift you should ask your lash stylist what product she used because it could be too aggressive for your skin and eye.

    best wish
    Tina

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  10. Massive headache after the fact and my Corina is scratch there is a piece of it flapping. I hope it gets better tomorrow.

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  11. I wish I read this before I had this done. I had mine done yesterday morning (17th April 2019). I woke up with puffy, bloodshot eyes. Green gunk ozing from my eyes. Feeling really scratchy. I used eyedrops to relieve some of the itchiness. But by the end of that day, I went to the drs and go antibiotic eyedrops and an ointment. It's now 11pm 18th April and my eyes are still the same. The dr said I could have gone blind and she's not sure is it will do some damage to my eye as we don't know what chemicals were used and how long it lasts for

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