For generations, people have sought out long, dark eyelashes. Between mascara, fake eyelashes, lash serums and eyelash curlers, many tools can help achieve this look temporarily.
Now, though, semipermanent chemical processes, like lash lifts, can give eyelashes a boost, curling them upward to remove the need for mascara and making your eyes appear bigger and brighter.
As with any chemical process, lash lifts could have side effects, and some people should think twice before booking an appointment.
Experts told HuffPost what to know about the safety of lash lifts.
What exactly is a lash lift?
“A lash lift is similar to the process of a perm for your hair,” said Dr. LaTasha Perkins, a family physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “The same chemicals are used on your lashes to give them a more curled look.”
When you get a lash lift, a technician applies a silicone mold or shield onto the eyelid using a nontoxic glue, which is the only thing that should touch your skin during the process. The technician then lays the lashes over the mold, which is curved upward and outward to create a curl.
Next, a perm solution is added to the lashes and sits for about 15 minutes. That is then wiped off and replaced with a setting solution to finish the process, which in total takes roughly 45 minutes.
Once complete, this semipermanent procedure generally lasts until your lashes shed and new ones grow in their place.
That typically occurs after about four to six weeks, though this time frame differs from person to person, Perkins added.
Lash lifts are safe, but allergic reactions are possible
“While lash lifts are considered safe overall, some people, especially those with sensitive skin, may experience skin sensitivity or [an] allergy,” said Dr. Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City.
In particular, you may have an allergic reaction to the adhesive, which can cause burning, stinging or redness on the skin around the eye, she said.
So if you know your skin reacts to certain materials, you may want to reconsider before heading in for an appointment.
Chemicals in the perm solution could irritate your skin
There is “some risk with using chemicals on hair follicles,” said Perkins. The chemicals used in lash lifts vary, but they may include thioglycolic acid or polyacrylamide, which is made of a suspected carcinogen, according to cosmetics company Plume Hair & Lash Science.
Some people, Perkins said, could also have an allergic reaction to the chemicals or experience general irritation. While the perm solution isn’t directly applied to the skin, it could potentially drip into the follicles or be applied by a technician with a not-so-steady hand.
“The hair can also be affected if the chemicals are left on too long,” resulting in damaged eyelashes, Perkins said.
But if you go to an experienced lash lift professional, they should know the ideal amount of time to leave them on. Just do your research in advance to find the best salon for lash lifts near you.
People who are pregnant should talk to their doctor first
The exact risk of lash lifts during pregnancy is debated, and opinions differ from expert to expert. But the procedure is widely recognized as safe after the first trimester.
Still, you should talk to your OB-GYN before going in for a lash lift, no matter what trimester you’re in.
Perkins, though, is one of the many experts who believe that you should hold off until you are no longer pregnant, due to the chemical nature of the process.
Chemicals can transfer from pregnant people to developing fetuses through the placenta, which is why doctors generally recommend waiting until the second trimester to dye your hair and avoiding phthalates — which are often found in plastics and fragrances — when possible.
Research into the long-term effects is lacking
As with other hair on your body, too much chemical processing can leave your lashes damaged, according to Dr. Nicole Bajic, an ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute.
“If you think of your eyelashes as being like the hairs on your head, less is more,” she said.
“If you’re constantly stressing out the lash follicles, you can have potentially permanent damage,” she added.
That damage could appear in many forms, but data on what exactly it might look like is lacking, since lash lifts are a fairly new procedure.
Bajic added that she worries about the long-term effects and still encourages her patients to go the old-fashioned route: mascara from a reputable company and an eyelash curler on occasion.