PORTLAND, Ore. - False eyelashes - whether they're temporary or semi-permanent - can give your eyes that extra pop. But before you decide to load up on lashes, you'll want to understand the risks.
“She looked just like me,” remembers Kaye Lynn Sanders, after seeing actress Kristin Chenoweth take off her sunglasses during an in-studio appearance on the David Letterman Show. Chenoweth, like Sanders, had an allergic reaction to the glue used to attach her semi-permanent eyelashes.
“(My eye) swelled up and then it got a water blister behind the swelling, so it was hanging,” describes Sanders. “I was like, oh my gosh, I have to go to work like this.”
Sanders resorted to semi-permanent eyelashes after an eye injury prevented her from wearing makeup for nearly a year.
Here’s how semi-permanent lashes work: Several lash extensions made of mink, polyester or a polyester-nylon blend are glued to a person's natural lash, creating a thicker, lusher look. Those fake lashes need to be refilled about every three weeks.
But Dr. Rick Fraunfelder at OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute says the lashes aren't sterile, and the poly-nylon blend ones, especially, can lead to infections.
“Those have spaces in the fibers for bacteria to reside,” explains Fraunfelder. “The moist, wet, warm environment of the eyelash margin is a place where bacteria can thrive.”
Whether you use semi-permanent or temporary, drug store lashes, the glue is not FDA-approved and can cause allergic reactions.
“(My eye) started itching, this horrible itching, like you can't make yourself not scratch it,” remembers Sanders.
Finally, falsies can cause something called traction alopecia.
“You’re losing eyelashes, and some of them permanently, because of the pull of the artificial eyelashes on your natural eyelashes,” explains Fraunfelder. “You have eyelash dropout over time from chronic use of artificial eyelashes.”
Brenda Purvis works at the Casey Eye Institute and loves her semi-permanent lashes. Even though she hasn't had any issues, Dr. Fraunfelder warns, the problems sometimes don't show up for months, even years after the first use.
Purvis admits maintaining the fake lashes is getting expensive.
“I’m thinking one more round. Maybe then I might have to lose them,” says Purvis.
“We'll see, because the holidays are around the corner, (I might keep them),” laughs Purvis.
“I would never do it again,” Sanders says firmly.
If you want semi-permanent lashes, there are a couple of things to consider:
- Make sure the lashes are applied by a licensed esthetician or hair stylist. That’s a new requirement in Oregon as of January 1, 2014.
- Watch the esthetician or stylist wash her hands before the application.
- Semi-permanent lashes are pricey. The first application costs upwards of $150. Fills run $35 to $50 every couple of weeks.
There’s always mascara for lusher lashes. Consumer Reports Shopsmart magazine recommends Maybelline Great Lash for about $6.