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Eyelash Extension Experts Warn: Look Before You Apply

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Michele-Gillen-600x450 Michele Gillen
Michele Gillen is chief investigative reporter at WFOR-TV, Mi...
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MIAMI – (CBS4) – If the eyes are the windows to the soul then there’s a whole lot of window dressing going on and, in some cases, stories that don’t always end with a fairytale.

Eyelash extensions – they’re the latest beauty trend that’s costing some women more than money.

“These eyelashes are amazing, you put them on and you are Cinderella,” one beauty insider who asked not to be identified told CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen.

In the blink of an eye, eyelash extensions have become the latest must-have. While the promise of extending lashes by a couple of millimeters is luring women to salons, some report paying too high a price for the procedure.

During a recent trip to a nail salon, Olga Horn saw another woman having her eyelashes extended and asked for the same beauty treatment.

“I went up to the lady and I basically said I want them! I have to have them!” Horn said.

Horn asked if there were any risks.

“What’s going to happen when I take these off? And she said, ‘Oh no, it won’t do a thing to your eyelashes.’ ‘’ Horn said.

But weeks later she had regrets.

“When I started taking them off I had no eyelashes, so I was very upset,” Horn said.

Horn is not alone. Women are lining up and willing to pay from $10 to $1,000 for a set of these eye-popping extensions.

“Eyelash extensions are the latest addiction. I’ve seen many women that have lost their eyelashes and once they stop using them, they have less eyelashes and I don’t see them coming back,” the beauty insider said. “The reality is that a lot of the people that are doing the applications are not thoroughly knowledged.”

Dr. Wendy Lee, eye surgeon for the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, said some of her patients have reported problems.

“The most common complaint I hear is that women end up with shorter stubbier lashes, or either no lashes when they take these off,” Lee said. “It becomes a vicious cycle because they don’t want to stop the lashes, the lash extensions in order to grow the lashes back.”

Patients being treated by Dr. Lee describe being in shock when they realize they lost their own lashes after adding the fake ones.

The harm is not just cosmetic, according to Lee.

“The lashes play such an important part in the beauty of the eyes. So if you don’t have any left, number 1, it’s going to alter the way the eyes look. But number 2, the eyelashes are there for a function as well. We have eyelashes and hair around our eyes to catch dust and to protect the eyes.”

One of Lee’s patients who asked to be identified only as ‘Q’ said she cannot stop wearing the fake eyelashes after eyelash extensions left her eyes bare.

“I loved the look. But when I went to remove the lashes it ripped off my original eyelashes, so that forced me to have to wear the artificial eyelashes,” she said.

Like many patients, Lee said ‘Q’ did not want to be seen without eyelashes because growing them back can take months.

“Q is one of my patients who cannot come off of the false lashes because she refuses to walk around with basically no lashes for at least 2 months,” Lee said.

Lee also offered a warning against eyelash extensions made of animal fur, specifically mink fur.

“We have no idea how they are cleaning it number one. We have no idea what diseases these minks could be carrying that are communicable to the human eye,” Lee said. “There are a lot of red flags, a lot of health concerns there as well.”

Horn said she hopes others will learn from her mistake.

“I should have been a little bit more careful about it,” Horn said. “I should have asked a lot more questions. Yes, it was a lesson to be learned.”

So far, the Florida state agency that regulates hairdressers says it has no program to check up on how these procedures are being done. Only the state of Texas has passed legislation requiring technicians to be specifically trained to apply eyelash extensions. The push to do that came from two major companies in the industry concerned that inexperienced applicators could pose a risk to clients.

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