Greeley optometrist warns about fake eyelashes as trend among women rises

GREELEY, Colo. -- Everywhere you look these days, hair and nail salons are offering eyelash extensions, and plenty of woman swear by them.

Every other week, Greeley resident Nancy Smith treats herself to a little R&R, one long lash at a time.

"They look great. They're so easy," said Smith. "It makes a woman feel good to have full eyelashes."

But getting those eyelashes hasn't always felt good.

"My technician moved far away, so I needed to find somebody new," said Smith.

A couple of years ago, she found someone at a hair salon in Greeley who later told her she had learned to apply eyelash extensions from a friend.

"Immediately, I had a lot of burning, tearing. I could hardly open my eyes, and so it was very painful at that point," said Smith.

She is not alone -- a quick Google search for lash extension reactions turns up image after image of swollen, red eyes.

But it was especially bad for Smith because she is an optometrist.

"It was a little on the frightening side, since my job was to examine eyes, I wanted to make sure my vision wasn't affected by it," said Smith.

The State of Colorado does require an esthetician or cosmotology license to perform eyelash extensions, but some people say not all eyelashes are created equal.

 "There's a whole lot of glues out there on the market and a whole lot of eyelashes," said Adrieanne Jackson, a licensed esthetician in Greeley, who took a two-day class to learn the correct procedure.

Jackson said even with the best products, which may or may not use formaldehyde, she has seen allergic reactions that require her to immediately remove the adhesive.

"That's when their eyes are swollen. They're red; they're oozing; they're crusted over," said Jackson. "You could get glue that's for sensitive, sensitive glue. It doesn't last as long, I'll tell you that."

She has also seen severely broken eyelashes, she said, from cluster lashes -- three to five fake lashes glued to one real lash.

"One of my clients particularly from here to about here looked like they were cut down more than half," said Jackson.

Smith said the chemical burn on her cornea did not cause permanent damage. She is much more careful now about where she gets her extensions.

"I learned a valuable lesson: To make sure and ask questions before I had somebody work on my lashes," said Smith. "I'll always ask if they have taken the formal classes."

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