By Scott Nyerges

Do a quick web search for the term “eyelash extensions” or “fake eyelashes,” and you’ll come up with a slew of ads for local salons and breathless articles about the fashion trend. Even the Kardashians are selling their own brand of fake eyelashes. What you probably won’t find—unless you go digging—is information on eyelash extension safety.

“The risks of eyelash extensions are not only an allergic reaction to the glue [used to attach the extensions], but erosion of the inner surface of the eyelid,” says Dr. Orly Avitzur, M.D., one of our medical advisors. “And that can cause permanent damage to your eyelashes.”

Whether you go for regular old glue-on versions or fancy extensions that can cost hundreds of dollars at a salon, the risks are the same. Here are five you need to know:

  1. Irritation and redness.
  2. Inflammation and swelling. Check out this clip of actress Kristin Chenoweth on CNN.
  3. Infection. Extensions can trap dirt and bacteria, leading to serious infections, including pink eye.
  4. Allergic reaction. The glues in some lash adhesives contain formaldehyde, which can cause a severe allergic reaction over time that can result in oozing and crusting. Formaldehyde is also a known carcinogen.
  5. Loss of eyelashes. Yes, you can end up with bald eyes! The glue can pull out your lashes or you could end up pulling them out yourself. Irritation can lead to a condition called madarosis, which causes you to tug on them. Britain’s College of Optometrists also cautions that you could end up with traction alopecia, “where the hair falls out due to excessive tension placed on the hair shaft. As a result this can damage the hair follicle which can slow down and even cease production of hair.”

What about eyelash dyes, eyelash adornments, and growth formulas?

Eyelash dyes are a big beauty don’t. Currently, there are no color additives approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration for dyeing or tinting eyelashes, and the FDA cautions against doing so. The dyes can cause blindness.

Eyelash adornments, such as gluing tiny glass beads or crystals to the eyelash, or more extreme, attaching tiny charms to wires that are affixed to the eyelids, pose the same risks as eyelash extensions, not to mention an added hazard.

“It doesn’t take an expert to see trouble coming with sharp objects placed close to the eye,” Avitzur says.

And Latisse, which is an FDA-approved treatment for thin lashes, has potential side effects as well, including:

  • Permanent changes in eye color—turning blue, green, or hazel eyes brown
  • Permanently darkened eyelids
  • Hair growth elsewhere on your face if you’re not careful
  • Itching, redness
  • Lower eye pressure, which could potentially mask glaucoma or other eye problems

How to avoid eyelash extension complications

The easiest way to prevent the risk of infection or eye irritation is to simply avoid getting eyelash extensions. If you want thicker, fuller lashes, our experts say, use mascara instead. But if you decide to use eyelash extensions, make it an occasional beauty treat. And follow these tips from the American College of Ophthalmology:

  • Make sure the aesthetician who is doing your eyelash extensions has valid certification.
  • Ask to see the ingredient list on the adhesive being used and check for potential allergens like formaldehyde.
  • Make sure your aesthetician is practicing good hygiene, including washing his or her hands thoroughly and wearing gloves.
  • Lastly, if you do notice signs of infection, see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

More information on eye cosmetic safety

The FDA has an extensive list of safety tips for beauty treatments, including eyelash extensions, mascara, eye shadow and other cosmetics.

Information from