Social media, reality TV, and our selfie culture is fueling a global obsession with long and thick eyelashes – but are they safe for the eyes?

Our doctors are seeing more patients who use eyelash serums, eyelash extensions, eyelash perms, and even falsies!  While this beauty trend has taken hold around the globe, many patients with eyelash extensions report various symptoms from red, itchy, scratchy, and irritated eyes to inflamed and itchy lids.  Optometrists are also seeing increased signs of ocular surface disease, blepharitis, eyelash mites, conjunctivitis, keratitis, ocular dermatitis, and dry eye disease.

Every person has 225-300 eyelashes per eye (150-200 upper eyelid, 75-100 lower lid. The natural eyelash growth has 3 phases:

  1. ANAGEN (active growth) PHASE:  lasts 4-6 weeks
  2. CATAGEN (transition) PHASE:  lasts 2-3 weeks.  During this phase, the eyelash stops growing once it reaches its maximum length and volume.
  3. TELOGEN (resting) PHASE:  lasts ~~100 days before the eyelash eventually falls out.

Each individual eyelash undergoes each phase at different times.


1. EYELASH EXTENSIONS:  artificial eyelash glue is glued to individual real eyelashes, with replacement every 2-3 weeks.  POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS include irritation, allergic reaction, dermatitis, redness and burning from formaldehyde in the glue, itching, tearing, compensating incomplete blinks from the weight of the lashes.

2. FALSIES:  Strips of artificial lashes glued to the eyelid margin or a few strands glued under the natural lash, magnetic clip-on eyelash, with natural lash in the middle.

3. EYELASH TINTING:  dye is used to darken eyelashes and is repeated every few months.  POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS:  acute conjunctivitis, swelling, tearing, redness.

4. EYELASH PERM:  Ammonium Thioglycolate, a strong alkali, is used every 2-3 months to semi-permanently curl eyelashes on a cylindrical rod.  POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS: acute conjunctivitis, swelling, tearing, redness.

5. EYELASH LIFT (JAPANESE LASH PERM):   Ammonium Thioglycolate is used to lift lashes up from the base using a ‘speed bump like’ shaped device and is repeated every 2-3 months.  POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS:  acute conjunctivitis, swelling, tearing, redness.

6. LATISSE can cause conjunctival + eyelid hyperemia, burning, irritation, skin darkening, loss of periorbital fat, change in eye color.

7. POPULAR OTC LASH ENHANCERS:  similar side effects as Latisse

8. ZORIA BOOST EYELASH SERUM:  no prostaglandin side effect profile

Be careful with your lashes; some patients have altered the growth pattern of their lashes and the thickness of them with eyelash extensions.  Putting chemicals anywhere near the eye, requires the utmost of caution and care.  Make sure your technician is qualified and careful.