Semi-permanent eyelash extensions look and feel completely natural while making the eyes appear wider and more alert. Despite their popularity, eyelash extensions are a relatively new beauty technology, with little research having been done as to their long-term effects. The procedure is also relatively complex to perform, and products of varying quality are used at different salons.
One of the principal risks of eyelash extensions is the damaging effect they can have on existing, natural eyelashes. The procedure involves a synthetic extension being attached to each individual natural eyelash with adhesive glue. It is important that a technician accurately calculates the length and weight of the extensions, as well as the amount of adhesive used, to avoid putting excessive pressure on the natural lashes. If too much tension is placed on hair follicles they may fall out, and in extreme cases they will not grow back (a condition known as traction alopecia). The quality of the extensions themselves is also relevant in this context.
Inflammation, Swelling, Blistering, Itchiness Around Eyelids
Damage to Eyelash Hair Follicles Including Permanent Hair Loss
Damage to Eye Caused by Fumes, Products or Tweezers
Further problems may be caused by inexperienced, unqualified or inattentive beauty salon technicians. New clients should always be offered a skin patch test to check for possible allergic reactions to chemicals contained in adhesives and gel pads. This should ideally take place 24-48 hours before a scheduled treatment. If the adhesive itself or the fumes it gives off accidentally enters the eye it can cause severe irritation and inflammation. Other errors by technicians include failing to cover the upper or lower eyelashes, causing them to get glued together. Eyelashes may also be glued to the skin accidentally, or glued together in unsightly clumps. Clients in these scenarios may require costly further treatments to correct these errors. Applying eyelash extensions is also a technically precise procedure which utilizes sharp tweezers in extremely sensitive areas surrounding the eye. This in itself poses risks if clients are not instructed to keep their eyes closed at all times.
Skin patch tests are essential for clients who have never had an eyelash extension treatment before, or who have not had one done for a few months. With salons having been closed during the Covid pandemic, this effectively means that all clients should be given a patch test before having eyelash extensions applied.
Despite the well known risks of an allergic reaction to eyelash adhesive, some beauty salons try to avoid the need for a patch test by getting clients to sign a disclaimer form, which states that the salon cannot be held responsible if anything goes wrong and that the client acknowledges that this is the case. Many women consequently believe that they surrendered their legal right to take action against a salon following an adverse reaction to eyelash extensions.
A disclaimer of this kind is not worth the paper it is written on. Only a trained beauty therapist or medical professional can fully understand the risks involved in not having a patch test, and a therapist is responsible by law for carrying out eyelash extension treatments in a reasonably safe and competent way. By asking a client to sign a disclaimer they are acting unprofessionally, and putting the former at risk of serious injury as a result of the treatment.
To act in accordance with the law, beauty therapists should make sure that clients are properly informed about the importance of patch testing due to the possibility of an allergic reaction. Ultimately, regardless of the client’s preference, they should refuse to carry out an eyelash extension treatment unless a patch test has been carried out.
Apart from the possibility of allergic reactions with unpredictable consequences, eyelash extensions also have the potential to cause serious and contagious infections to the cornea and eyelids. While natural eyelashes serve to protect the eye, extensions can lead to dirt, debris and bacteria becoming trapped in the eyelashes, creating the conditions for an infection to develop. This risk of infection is amplified if eyelash extensions are poorly applied or if a beauty salon fails to practice good hygiene, particularly in terms of the extensions used and tools used to apply them. Prospective customers for eyelash extensions therefore need to do their research, and make sure they engage the services of a reputable beauty salon with high sanitary standards and fully trained and experienced beauty therapists.
The two most common bacterial infections that can develop following the application of eyelash extensions are styes, which are an infection of the oil glands in the eyelid, and bacterial conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye), which causes redness and irritation of the conjunctiva - the thin membrane that covers the outer surface of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis is a contagious infection that can also result in yellow or green discharge clogging up the eyes, as well as increased sensitivity to light and blurred vision. While styes and conjunctivitis are relatively easy to treat and cure within a couple of weeks, both conditions can have an extremely detrimental effect on a person’s appearance in the meantime, an upsetting and unpleasant experience, particularly when extensions have been applied at a salon in advance of a holiday or special occasion.
A few years ago eyelash extensions were a relatively new treatment at beauty salons, but now prospective clients can seek the services of a specialist eyelash technician rather than a beautician simply offering eyelash extensions as an add-on service. An eyelash technician will have a greater understanding of how eyelash hairs interact with the skin, and will be more skilled in how to carry out treatments safely without damaging the natural lashes or causing infections. It is also the case that with various alternatives now available, eyelash technicians may recommend a different treatment entirely to achieve the desired effect.
Hygiene is also an important factor. Eyelash technicians should always wear gloves and a face mask when carrying out treatments, and should ideally utilise an autoclave to sterilise instruments effectively (an autoclave uses high pressure and steam to disinfect, and is the only 100% effective means of killing all bacteria and minimising the risk of infections). During a proper pre-treatment consultation, contraindications such as alopecia and hormonal problems should be identified, and patients should be asked about previous eye conditions which may affect the outcome of eyelash extensions.
In the vast majority of cases eyelash extensions are a safe beauty treatment with excellent results. The lack of compulsory regulation of beauty salons in the UK however means that inevitably there are cowboy practitioners offering potentially dangerous treatments such as eyelash extensions which they are not competent to perform. This can lead to disfiguring injuries such as permanent eye damage or baldness in the eyelash region. Beauty salon clients have a fundamental legal right to expect that their treatments will be carried out in a reasonably competent manner. Where this is not the case and clients have been injured due to the negligence of a salon or beauty technician they should seek specialist advice regarding their legal rights. Our expert solicitors will be happy to advise injured persons as to whether a compensation claim will be likely to prove successful.
Case Study 1
Ms A made an eyelash extensions treatment carried out at a new beauty salon that had opened up near to where she lived. A few days after the treatment, Ms A’s lashes began falling out one at a time, and when she attempted to remove the remaining extensions using baby oil (as recommended by the beauty therapist) the majority of her remaining natural eyelashes were pulled out at the root.
Ms A’s eyes were swollen and sore afterwards, but far worse was the effect on her physical appearance of having no eyelash hairs above her eyes. The extensions had seriously damaged her hair follicles, and Ms A’s natural lashes did not regrow for over 6 months. During that time she was embarrassed by her physical appearance, and also indignant about the fact that the beauty salon refused to address the situation or accept any responsibility.
Ms A decided to investigate her legal options, as she felt that the salon owed her a refund at the very least. We advised her that she had strong grounds for making a claim against them, and Ms A chose to pursue this path. We wrote to the beauty salon, outlining our client’s position. A beauty treatment expert witness confirmed that the eyelash extensions were too heavy to be supported by Ms A’s natural eyelash hairs, and photos also showed that multiple hair strands had been glued together, increasing the pressure on the natural hair roots.
We therefore argued that the treatment had not been carried out in a reasonably competent manner, and the pre-treatment care that Ms A received was wholly inadequate. This amounted to negligence, and once this was accepted by the beauty salon’s insurers, Ms A received a cheque for £3,250 in compensation.
Case Study 2
Mrs B made an appointment with a beauty salon for eyelash extensions, in advance of her daughter’s 21st birthday party the following day. As the eyelash strips were being applied by the technician, Mrs B felt a stinging pain in her eye, which then began to stream. When the procedure was finished, Mrs B could see that her eye was blood-shot, and that some of the glue had obviously entered her eye. She returned home in considerable discomfort, and saw her GP the same afternoon who prescribed her eye drops. Mrs B’s eye had not cleared up by the following day, and was red and swollen. She did not attend her daughter’s birthday party, and was upset and angry as a result.
Mrs B instructed Bartletts Solicitors to begin a compensation claim against the beauty salon, for the pain and suffering she felt they had caused. We wrote to the salon stating that the beauty technician had been negligent in not informing Mrs B that she had to keep her eye closed throughout the procedure. The beautician had also failed to apply the eyelash strips in a reasonably competent manner, as the glue used contained chemicals which she knew, or should have known, would cause damage if the glue entered the eye. The salon admitted liability for the incident, and Mrs B received £3,250 in compensation for her physical and emotional pain and suffering.