Fake Eyelashes—Are They Too Risky?

We all want to look our best, but some beauty choices—like fake eyelashes—can have serious health consequences if you aren’t careful. While fake lashes look striking, they can have unwanted side effects, including allergic reactions to the materials used; damage to or infection of your eyelid or even your cornea; and permanent or temporary eyelash loss.1 Competency, hygiene, and allergy testing are all important components of safely considering fake lashes.

Best Practices

While your safest bet is to avoid them, when it comes to getting fake eyelashes, careful research is always a good idea. Read reviews of brands and keep a sharp eye out for recurring issues with swelling or infection. If you find a brand you are comfortable with, the Abrams Eye Institute recommends you take these four steps before, during, and after application:

  1. Test before you apply. Everyone reacts differently to different materials and chemicals, and we often don’t know how we will react until we come into contact with them. An allergic reaction to the glue or extension removers can result in pain, including burning or itching around the area; bloodshot eyes; a rash or inflammation of the eye or eyelid; and swelling.2 When trying fake eyelashes for the first time, stop and spot test the glue before you fully apply. This simple step can save you a lot of pain and discomfort later.
  2. Apply carefully. Fake lashes can damage not just your natural lashes but the oil ducts that keep your eyes moist and clean. Damaging these ducts can lead to infections or dry eyes so follow the application instructions carefully.
  3. Remove in a timely manner. Bacteria can fester under the glue and on the false lash; always remove the fake eyelashes within the timeframe dictated by the application. Also: never share fake eyelashes.
  4. Consider going pro. Having a professional apply them is a good way to ensure you use fake lashes safely.

If you experience adverse side effects from fake lashes go see your eye care professional immediately.

What About Eyelash Extensions?

Eyelash extensions are professionally applied, long-term fake lashes. An aesthetician applies a single synthetic or silk lash to a natural lash, gluing each extension on individually.

Like other fake lashes, there are health risks involved in the application of eyelash extensions so it’s important to do your research on the salon and the aesthetician you want to visit. You should also ask the aesthetician for the glue’s ingredient list (check it for allergens and confirm it’s not expired) as well as request a spot test to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.3

1. Reena Mukamal. “Eyelash Extension Facts and Safety.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, Feb. 23, 2018. (https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/eyelash-extension-facts-safety) Last accessed 2/17/2020
2. Jack Abrams, M.D. “Know All of the Risks Involved With Wearing Fake Eyelashes.” Abrams Eye Institute, Dec. 5, 2018. (https://www.abramseyeinstitute.com/blog/know-all-of-the-risks-involved-with-wearing-fake-eyelashes/) Last accessed 2/17/2020
3. N.A. “What Are Side Effects of Eyelash Extensions?” Healthline. (https://www.healthline.com/health/eyelash-extension-side-effects#side-effects) Last accessed 2/17/2020