Eyelash extensions: Are they risky business?

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Eyelash extensions are a booming business, but is it safe? As Global's Anne Leclair reports, the industry isn’t regulated in Canada and if it’s not done right could lead to permanent damage – Jul 12, 2017

Eyelash extensions are a booming business. But are they safe? In Canada, it’s an unregulated industry and the procedure could cause permanent damage if it’s not done properly.

Eye specialists are now warning patients to do their research before opting for longer lashes.

“During the installation when they lay the lashes there’s always a risk of injury cause they’re bringing sharp instruments close to the eye,” oculoplastic surgeon and medical director of Clinique O Dr. Patrick Boulos said.

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Eye infections, corneal abrasions, and damage to the eyelash follicles are the most common complications. And in some cases, the injury can be permanent.

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“It ripped part of my eyelashes on my right eye and I couldn’t even sleep on my left eye because it was irritating,” Montrealer Anna-Maria Koscielna said.

Luckily the damage wasn’t permanent and she’s now trying a new technique called an eyelash lift, which is less invasive and basically works like a perm to curl the natural eyelashes.

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“A lot of my clients that see me for the lash lifts have had a bad experience with the lash extensions,” makeup artist and esthetician Tamsen Rae said. “A lot of them had an allergic reaction.”

Health Canada has received 18 incident reports over the last six years for botched eyelash extensions, but experts believe the number is much higher since complaints are voluntary.

The Quebec order of optometrists and some ophthalmologists are calling for strict rules and regulations both at the provincial and federal levels and they’re warning patients to seek out certified estheticians.

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“If you do your research find somebody who’s reputable in a reputable salon — somebody who has experience that’s the number 1 thing,” Boulos told Global News.

Whether it’s an extension or lift, all eyelash enhancement procedures have their risks according to eye specialists. The glue used in some cases can contain formaldehyde which can be toxic. The solution used to curl the eyelashes during a lift can also irritate the eyes. The best estheticians will do a patch test to avoid allergic reactions and properly decontaminate tools to avoid infections.

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“Definitely certification is a plus,” Asako Ito, owner of Divine Lashes said. “Education is really important to give you that foundation, that knowledge but like any professional you need to practice to master the technique.”

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