February 22, 2019
2 min read

Know the potential hazards of eyelash lift, extensions

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Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD
Bridgitte Shen Lee

NEW ORLEANS – Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD, sees one new patient a day with a cosmetic eyelash problem; in her talk here at SECO she said there are many potential complications from the “global eyelash obsession.”

The hashtag #eyelashextensions has 6.4 million posts on Instagram alone, and the practice of eyelash extensions was explored in 1882 in a book from Paris called The Beauty Book. It became popular as part of a Korean beauty trend in 2008, Shen Lee said.

Problems may arise from eyelash extensions if wearers neglect to clean their lids well, which is a common practice. People do not want to harm their artificial lashes, which can cost about $300, or $50 for a touch-up/refill service.

“A lot of these women end up with blepharitis, and then Demodex. If they continue to wear the lashes they can develop dry eye and meibomian gland dysfunction. Hopefully we catch them early and teach them what they need to do,” Shen Lee said.

She coined the term “ocular aesthetics” to more easily discuss the myriad of complications that may result from eyelash extensions, tint, lift and false lashes, which are glued on.

Many wear make-up over the extensions, which can compound the problem, she said. Permanent eyelash loss is also possible.

The eyelash growth serum Latisse (bimatoprost 0.03%, Allergan), which now has a generic version, contains a prostaglandin used in glaucoma treatment and has been shown to cause a higher prevalence of meibomian gland dysfunction, Shen Lee explained.

False lashes often contain formaldehyde in the glue to adhere to the lash line and can cause irritation, allergic reaction, dermatitis, chemical conjunctivitis, redness, burning, itching tearing and compensating incomplete blinks from the weight of the lashes.

Another concern for people who wear false lashes is blink quality. “Women with falsies don’t blink fully, because their lashes are now heavy. They simply flutter their lashes to blink, and the oil doesn’t get expressed out,” Shen Lee added.

“The key is education and communication,” she said. “Social media can help grow your practice in this area.”

At her Houston-based practice, which she founded with Brad Owens, OD, 20 years ago, they are known for treating issues from ocular aesthetics such as eyelash extensions.

“I see at least one new patient with these issues per day,” Shen Lee said. She takes a proactive role and is often an expert on local news outlets regarding the topic.

Magnetic false lashes are not applied with glue, but tiny magnets, and are “safer” but harder to apply, she said.

Shen Lee recommends, which contains resources and literature from experts such as Leslie O’Dell, OD, FAAO, to help practitioners educate themselves on this hot topic.

She also recommends her YouTube playlist, “Eye Questions Answered” on her channel, Dr. Bridgitte Shen Lee, with helpful resources for providers. – by Abigail Sutton


Shen Lee B. Complications from global eyelash obsessions. Presented at: SECO; New Orleans; Feb. 20-24, 2019.

Disclosure: Shen Lee is an advisor/consultant for: Alcon, Essilor, Eyevance Pharmaceuticals, Guardion Health Sciences, Johnson & Johnson Vision, Lumenis, OcuSoft and Sun Pharmaceuticals. She is a spokesperson and medical advisor for The Vision Council and also global ambassador for The Tear Film Society.