Is it possible that eyelash extensions/strips could cause future eye problems? (Part 1 of 3)

I've been using eyelash extensions regularly for about a year. In the past few months, I've been experiencing dry eyes and a feeling of something being in my eyes. Could this be related to the eyelashes?

The answer to this is POSSIBLY! Please see your eye doctor if you have eye symptoms. Be sure to tell them everything you use around your eyes.

For all of you who have been reading this blog for awhile, you all know that I’m not a fan of unnecessary fear-based thinking! Also, I don’t have any financial interests in these products.  And, I am truly concerned about our future eye health.

Eyelash extensions/strips can cause eye problems. Here’s why!

The eyelids are different from the eyelid edge that grows eyelashes. Eye creams which go on the eyelid, rarely cause problems. Ok, sometimes you might have an allergic or irritant reaction to a chemical or plant extract in the eye cream, but generally this is fixable (call your dermatologist or primary doc), temporary, and is just really uncomfortable for 2-7 days.

The eyelids edge or margins are different. The edge contains many oil glands which are part of the eyelash hair root. The oil glands keep edge of the lids, the eye to some extent, and eyelid skin healthy.  When these get blocked up and irritated it causes something called blepharitis. The eye itself feels constantly irritated, and the eyelid margin is red and puffy. If a gland gets really plugged up or infected, it causes what is called a “stye.” Rosacea can also cause blepharitis. You all are smart: This makes sense.

Now think about all the stuff and chemicals many of us are using on our eyelid margins. This includes glues for eyelash extensions, glues for eyelash strips, eyeliners that are too aggressive, lash lengthening products, and mascaras started too close to the edges.

If the stuff we put on our eyelid margins starts to plug up, or worse, damage these tiny oil glands, then our eye health suffers in the long run. We can then be predisposed to blepharitis (see above), persistently itchy or irritated eyes, and styes. Some people may have permanent lash loss, after too much inflammation.

Here’s what to do to avoid eye issues:

  • Is it time to stop those eye lash extensions or strips, for at least 3-6 months, to make sure your own eyelashes and eyelids are still healthy? If you stop the extensions, wean off by having your eyelash person just do fewer and fewer over 4-12 weeks. If you are already having problems, you might need to go off suddenly. Talk to your eye doctor or dermatologist.
  • Clean off that eye make-up religiously every night. Use whatever product works for you, but if it’s oily, make sure you get that off too, unless recommended by your eye doctor.
  • Buy some ReNu sensitive eyes saline solution for contact use, but use that as a final rinse with some Kleenex or a Qtip to make sure all the makeup and/or glue is out of those little oil glands.
  • If you have irritation, dry eye, redness or swelling, see your eye doctor right away.
  • Put your eyeliner on top of the lashes and not under the lashes.
  • Start your mascara a tiny way away from the lash root.

Bottom line:

Is there any “hard” science/data on this? No. But that’s because, except Latisse (prescription – which has been studied extensively), these are all OVER THE COUNTER PRODUCTS (non prescription). The FDA doesn’t require studies for these, other than the most basic safety ones. Sadly, it’s we consumers who sometimes end up being the “guinea pigs.”

Hope this helps, Dr. I

Part 2 and 3 will be on :

  • Is there a difference between Latisse and other lash growing products?
  • Eyebrow and lash health for a lifetime.
Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product, treatment or device.
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