Article

OCULAR AESTHETICS

Lash Obsessions

The convergence of social media, reality TV, and selfie culture is fueling a global obsession with long + thick eyelashes—but are they safe for the eyes?

got patients with an eyelash obsession? Today, more and more optometrists are seeing patients who use eyelash growth serums and those coming in with eyelash extensions (and even falsies, eyelash perms, and lifts).

According to market research firm Kline, lash services registered notable success in 2017—professional eyelash services saw a sales increase of 15% in the second quarter of 2017 (compared with the same period in the previous year). It is also predicted that the eyelash care market will continue to experience strong growth in the years to come.

On the next page, we look at current eyelash beauty trends and eyelash growth serums, and review their harmful beauty ingredients and ocular surface complications—in tear-out-and-keep charts.

The Problem

While this beauty trend has taken hold across the country (and around the globe), many patients with eyelash extensions report various symptoms from red, dry, itchy, scratchy, and irritated eyes to inflamed and itchy lids.

At the same time, optometrists are also observing increased signs of ocular surface disease (OSD): blepharitis, demodex (eyelash mites), conjunctivitis, keratitis, ocular dermatitis, Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), and dry eye disease.

The Solution

At my practice, Vision Optique in Houston, we are having daily conversations with our patients about these beauty trend complications. Many women with eyelash extensions or falsies-related complications find us by referral or online.

New eyelash beauty trends provide scores of eyecare (and business) opportunities for those eyecare providers who are passionate about ocular surface disease education and prevention. —Bridgitte Shen Lee, O.D.

Eyelash Beauty Trends

Table 1 lists current eyelash beauty trends, their harmful ingredients, and ocular surface side effects.
EYELASH BEAUTY TREND & MAINTENANCE LEADING HARMFUL INGREDIENTS POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECT ON OCULAR SURFACE
1. EYELASH EXTENSIONS
Artificial eyelash is glued to individual real eyelash
Replace lashes every 2-3 weeks
Cyanoacrylate (methacrylate): Adhesive (glue)
Formaldehyde: preservative, used in glue
Irritation, allergic reaction, dermatitis, chemical conjunctivitis, redness, burning, itching, tearing, compensating incomplete blinks (from weight of lashes)
2. FALSIES
A. Strips of artificial lashes glued to eyelid margin or a few strands glued under the natural eyelash
B. Magnetic clip-on eyelash, with natural lash in the middle
Repeat on as-needed basis, some use daily
A. Formaldeyhyde: derivatives DMDM-Hydantoin, quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
B. Magnet: attached to the artificial lash
Same effect as eyelash extensions
Corneal abrasions, keratitis (from contact)
Compensating incomplete blinks (from weight of lashes)
3. EYELASH TINTING
Use dye to darken eyelashes
Repeat every few months
Para-PhenyleneDiamine (PPD) Acute conjunctivitis, swelling, tearing, redness
4. EYELASH PERM
Use chemical to semi-permanently curl eyelashes on cylindrical rod
Repeat every 2-3 months
Ammonium Thioglycolate:
strong alkali
Acute conjunctivitis, swelling, tearing, redness
5. EYELASH LIFT (JAPANESE LASH PERM)
“Lifts” lashes up from the base using “speed bump-like" shaped device
Repeat every 2-3 months
Ammonium Thioglycolate:
strong alkali
Acute conjunctivitis, swelling, tearing, redness

Eyelash Growth Serums

There are three main types of eyelash growth serums currently on the market.

Table 2 summarizes the serums, their main ingredient, and ocular surface side effects.
EYELASH GROWTH SERUMS MAIN INGREDIENT POTENTIAL OCULAR SURFACE SIDE EFFECT
Latisse
(Allergan, Rx required)
Bimatoprost Ophthalmic Solution, 0.03%
(a prostaglandin)
Conjunctival & eyelid hyperemia, burning, irritation, prostaglandin periorbitopathy, skin darkening, loss of periorbital fat, change in eye color
Popular OTC Lash Enhancers
(Many brands, non-Rx)
Isopropyl Cloprostenate
(synthetic prostaglandin analog)
Similar side effect to prostaglandin
Zoria Boost Eyelash Serum
(OCuSOFT, non-Rx)
Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17
Cocoyl-oligopeptide-1
(patented polypeptide)
No prostaglandin side effect profile

COMING SOON: In Part 2 of this series (appearing in an upcoming issue), look for information on how primary eyecare providers can provide ongoing care for patients who choose to stay in extensions and falsies, manage the ocular surface disease symptoms and complications, and educate patients on developing safer cosmetic use practices.

The Inside Line on Lashes

Every patient has between 225 and 300 eyelashes per eye (150-200 upper eyelid, 75-100 lower eyelid). The natural eyelash growth has three phases:

  1. Anagen (active growth) Phase: lasts between 4 and 6 weeks.
  2. Catagen (transition) Phase: lasts 2 to 3 weeks. During this phase, the eyelash stops growing once it reaches its maximum length and volume.
  3. Telogen (resting) Phase: lasts approximately 100 days before the eyelash eventually falls out.

Each individual eyelash undergoes each phase at different times.