Chemical burns, infections: when eyelash extensions go wrong.


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Optometrists are seeing an increasing number of patients suffering serious injuries such as chemical burns and infections as a result of the surging popularity of eyelash extensions.

A consumer group revealed shoddy lash jobs were causing infections, irritations and permanent lash loss in extreme cases.

Sydney woman Ellie Luff had her eyelashes fall out after a disastrous trip to a salon a few years ago.

“I assume it was the glue they’d used and my eyes went really red and sore, but then over the next couple of days my eyes scabbed up and then my eyelashes fell out,” she told the ABC. “I do have sensitive eyes, but that was just ridiculous. You’d never go back to anyone like that but it’s a shame that they can still keep working really.”

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Last year, the UK College of Optometrists issued a warning that eyelash extensions carried the risk of infection and allergic reaction.

“Repeated use of eyelash extensions can cause traction alopecia, a condition where the hair falls out due to excessive tension placed on the hair shaft,” the warning said.

“As a result this can damage the hair follicle which can slow down and even cease production of hair.”

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Optometry Australia chief optometrist Luke Arundel said there had been increasing reports of serious injuries.


“We’ve had reports from optometrists around Australia with irritation, inflammation, allergic reactions, injuries from the tweezers themselves and more serious things like permanent loss of eyelashes,” he said.

“Initially there’s a change to vision if there is irritation. That is typically fairly short and not permanent. More concerning are reports from overseas of bacterial keratitis or ulcers that have been linked to these eyelash extensions.

“Eyelashes help protect the ocular surface from dust and other foreign bodies from getting onto the ocular surface. They’re our primary line of defence for foreign bodies getting to the eye.”

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He said it was important that the glue used was pharmaceutical grade and did not contain formaldehyde.

“Proper ventilation is also important, as are hygiene measures within the salon,” Dr Arundel said.

The NSW branch of Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists said shards from the eyelash fibres scratch the cornea and leave fine fibres to embed in the eyelid, causing corneal ulcers, which can lead to vision loss.

Consumer group Choice, who conducted the investigation, said there were safety issues because the industry was not regulated. Choice spokeswoman Kate Browne said while there were some good operators, anyone could perform eyelash extensions using cheap and unsuitable products such as glue.

"Quite a few people in the beauty industry are lobbying for at least minimal training hours, there are similar training requirements for things like brow and lash tinting," she said.


"There is an argument against having more red tape, but with eyes you really can't afford to mess about. If you are looking to have this service done, you need to be really careful who's doing it and also what products they're using on you."

Samantha Barnes, who set up Sydney's first salon solely dedicated to eyelash extensions, said she now saw many customers who had come to her for help after cheaper procedures had gone wrong.

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"I've seen red irritated eyes, watery, puffy eyes, itchy skin around the eyes. I've heard some horror stories of people when they're having their lashes done that they've had to have their eyes cut open with scissors," she said.

She said cheap salons used glue that was not suitable for the delicate eye area and that the industry needed to be regulated.

"I'd say technicians not being trained or not having the skill set required, using too much glue or adhesive or too heavy a lash, too thick or too long and just putting too much weight on and damaging the customer's eyelashes," she said.

"It would be great if technicians who are learning or students who are learning actually did courses where they were accredited, where they were receiving certificates."

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This post originally appeared on the ABC and has been republished with permission.