Eyelash extensions can give you the flutter you fancy, but these layers of lashes, whether luxurious mink or synthetic fibers, could be more perilous than you think. The safety factor mostly depends on the type of adhesive used to apply the fake lashes. There are extreme stories of cheap salons using Krazy Glue, so if you ever see a tube of that or Gorilla Glue when you walk in, turn right around and leave.
Most extensions are applied with a substance that contains acrylates, an ingredient typically found in denture gel and nail lacquers that can be harsh for people with sensitive eyes or skin since they’re derived from acrylic. According to Rosalind C. Vo, MD, of the Cornea and External Disease Department of the UCLA Stein Eye Institute, “Acrylate is the main ingredient of corneal glue. We use this for patients with corneal perforation from injuries or ulcers, but otherwise it’s not the best [substance] to get in your eye.”
But perhaps more worrisome is the adhesive’s formaldehyde, which can be toxic. “When considering its use for eyelash extensions, the glue should not contain detectable levels of formaldehyde or benzoic acid,” says Vo. “During application of the eyelashes, the glue can cause blepharitis–inflammation of the eyelid, or an allergic conjunctivitis.” Be sure to ask your esthetician about the ingredients in the adhesive they are using. “Adhesives that have no detectable levels of formaldehyde are safe to use if they do not get into the eye,” she says.
There are yet more concerns with the kinds of falsies that can stay on for two to six weeks—how they affect your natural lashes. “It’s not just the glue that causes irritation. Sometimes an eyelash can grow out [in such a way] and poke at the cornea,” says Vo. “Also make sure they are using sterile forceps to apply the lash and the eyes are kept closed; the fumes from the glue need to completely evaporate before the client opens their eyes, or it can cause irritation and burning.”
The good news is that professionals are now coming up with safer alternatives. The Jose Eber salon in Beverly Hills offers LashDip to fans like Brooke Burke. The salon’s signature extensions—weightless silk ‘lash inserts’— areapplied individually to lashes with a medical-grade adhesive that’s gentler on the eye. This step is followed by a layer of a semi-permanent gel-based coating painted on to seal the lash, which is not harmful to your lashes. The protective coat also supposedly helps lashes grow by helping to prevent breakage after the treatment. According the company, the ingredients in the LashDip solutions are “deemed safe for professional use in the application of semi-permanent lash services”. Even though the glue is also used for suture-less wound closure, “you should still not get it into the eye,” according to Vo.
As a longtime eyelash-extension devotee, I was impressed with LashDip when I tried it. Quick and painless, there was no harsh pulling on my lids or burning from toxic glue. My lashes look and feel natural, and they have not been breaking. Even better, after 48 hours I could shower, swim or have a steamy facial–activities that can be tricky with traditional extensions, as these pursuits tend to weaken the glue or adhesive used for the procedure.
“We created this system out of necessity,” says LashDip President Gina Mondragon. “We knew the polyester and nylon 2-gauge lash extensions of recent popularity were too heavy and rough and required very strong adhesives. Our lashes are only applied where needed for volume or to fill in.” LashDip also created a semi-permanent mascara replacement that blends your natural and inserted lashes to extend the life of the treatment, as well as enhancing fullness and length.
Even long-standing, traditional salons that offer mink lash extensions are adopting a more natural method. At the Vida Emanuel European Day Spa & Beverly Hills Beauty Lounge, where Madonna and Jessica Alba have been clients, a variety of adhesives are available. “One is without formaldehyde; it’s also odorless. Women today want treatments to be as natural as possible,” says owner Emanuel. “Ours is also latex-free and hypoallergenic. Although these lashes don’t last as long as the stronger adhesives, with proper application, they can last 4 to 6 weeks and are easily removed without harming one’s natural lashes.”
If your lash extensions have changed your worldview and you can’t get to Beverly Hills, just make sure to go to a trained specialist at a reliable salon – one that you know has a good reputation from experience or recommendation. Ask questions about how they will be applying the lashes, how long they have been practicing, and what type of glue they are using. Adds Emanuel, “For those looking for the most natural way, ask for no formaldehyde, hypoallergenic, latex-free and no fumes.” And make sure to keep your eyes closed tight until it’s over—then bat away.