ATLANTA, Ga. (April, 2017)Kim Kardashian and Angelina Jolie helped make them popular. Singer Katy Perry even has her own product line. And they’re a big part of the $40 billion beauty salon industry. But can eyelash extensions put your vision at risk?
One Atlanta woman found out the hard way just how dangerous they can be.
Kimberly Parnell, an events and conference manager, just wanted an easy way to look great and not wear a lot of makeup. Born with short eyelashes, Parnell had always wanted the long, luxurious lashes featured in advertisements for beauty products.
Her sister had had lash extensions done and had not had a problem. Parnell thought of them as an easy alternative to wearing a lot of makeup and something that would make her look more professional.
Instead, a bacterial infection led to months of treatment and, finally, surgery.
Eyelash extensions are individual lashes, made of a synthetic fiber, which a professional glues one strand at a time on to each of a person’s top lashes. They last until the natural lash falls out, in roughly 60-90 days. Some people return for refills every 20-30 days. Others get them done for special occasions and then let them grow out, returning when they need a new set.
When Parnell had the extensions added, she paid special attention to the care regimen outlined by the aesthetician. “I always listen closely to advice like that,” Parnell said. “Part of the maintenance was washing the lashes with antibacterial soap two to three times a day. It was a bit inconvenient, but I followed all the rules.”
Unfortunately, about three weeks after having the extensions put on, Parnell developed an eye infection that blocked the lash glands and she ended up developing a sizeable stye. Resembling a pimple on the eyelid, a stye can grow on the inside or outside of the lid.
Parnell says that at first it was a slight itching sensation, then her upper eyelid started to get red and puffy.
She waited to see if the puffiness would go away. She realized it was not going to go away when the eyelid became inflamed and visibly swelled. Then she developed a huge knot in the top part of her eyelid near the socket.
Parnell has been a regular patient of Dr. Andrea Knouff of Atlanta for three years. She went to Dr. Knouff at her office at Eyeclectic Vision Source on Howell Mill Road for an examination and treatment.
Dr. Knouff diagnosed that an infection had led the stye to grow in the gland behind the lash gland.
Parnell was first treated with oral antibiotics and then an ointment.
During this time she could not wear makeup, could not wear her contact lenses and was dealing with the “crusty stuff” her eye was producing.
“There were days when my entire eyelid stayed red all day long,” Parnell said. “Being out in public and not being able to wear makeup and having to wear my glasses was bad enough, but the look of it was just horrible.”
Despite progressively aggressive treatments the stye was so severe that Dr. Knouff determined that it had to be surgically removed. Parnell was referred to a doctor who performed the surgery in June 2016.
During the outpatient surgery the doctor flipped the eyelid, operated from the inside and scraped out the infection.
Parnell’s advice to people considering getting lashes? “Don’t! You just never know how your body is going to react.”
“I chose a reputable shop and followed all of the directions,” Parnell said. “It may have been a freak experience but I don’t feel like it’s worth it. I’m really lucky that Dr. Knouff was there to help me deal with this really annoying problem.”
Parnell has recovered and no longer wears lash extensions.
Lash Extension Safety Tips
Try traditional false eyelashes first to see if you really need the lash extensions.
When you decide to have them done choose a reputable salon.
Ask the aesthetician if the equipment has been sterilized or is new.
Wait 48 hours before getting water near the eye area after your lashes are applied. The glue needs to dry and set properly.
Your usual skincare routine will need to be slightly adjusted during this window. Avoid eye creams and oil anywhere on the face.
Consider taking a break from lashes every six to eight months to clean your natural lashes thoroughly and let them retain the natural curl that gets flattened by the weight of the artificial lash over time.
For more information about the Georgia Optometric Association or to find an optometrist near you please visit www.GOAeyes.com.