How to Clean Eyelash Extensions, According to an Ophthalmologist
If you're unfamiliar, eyelash extensions add volume and/or length to your lashes with the application of individual strands of "lash hair," typically made of synthetic fibers, mink fur, or silk. Your provider adheres the lashes to your natural eyelashes using a semi-permanent glue. A set can cost $100 (give or take) and lasts 2-3 weeks before needing to be refilled (typically at a lower cost) as the lashes generally fall out over time following the natural cycle of your lashes shedding.
While they can save you the effort of applying strip lashes or mascara, eyelash extensions aren't a 100 percent hands-off solution. In order to keep them clean, you'll have to go above and beyond your basic daily face washing. Here's why and how you should be cleaning your lash extensions, according to an eye health pro. (Related: What You Need to Know Before Getting Eyelash Extensions)
Why Is It Important to Clean Your Eyelash Extensions?
Caring for your lashes while you have extensions is important as they can impact your eye health, says Brian Boxer Wachler, M.D., ophthalmologist and Medical reviewer at All About Vision. Not properly caring for lash extensions can lead to "infection, irritation, and lashes not lasting as long as they could, since they can start to fall out sooner," says Dr. Wachler. Infection can result from "inadequate hygiene in the shop or damage to the eye during application," according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
What should you look out for? "The eye becoming red and painful is a sign of infection," he says. "However, if the eyelid skin becomes tender and red, it could also be a reaction to the glue (often formaldehyde is an ingredient that can cause reactions)."
If you're already at the point of redness and discomfort, your best bet is to visit a medical professional who may recommend lubricating eyedrops, antihistamine eye drops, or antibiotics, depending on the issue, according to the AAO.
The Best Way to Clean Eyelash Extensions
It's best to avoid getting lash extensions wet for at least six hours after application, since it can take that long for the glue to solidify, according to the AAO. After that, it's recommended that you clean your eyelash extensions two to three times per week, plus any time you work out or wear eye makeup, according to Dr. Wachler. (Related: Will Eyelash Extensions Make Your Real Lashes Fall Out?)
To get the job done, you'll need a lash brush (aka a clean mascara wand) as well as a suitable cleanser. To protect your investment, Dr. Wachler suggests avoiding oil-based cleansers — they can break down the glue — and instead opting for those that are either labeled as lash-specific or gentle. You can use the cleanser in lieu of your go-to eye makeup remover, since using mascara while wearing lash extensions isn't advised.
Some of his suggestions include PCA Skin Creamy Cleanser (Buy It, $35, amazon.com), La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser (Buy It, $16, ulta.com), and Medature Plantract Cleansing Gel (Buy It, $26, MedatureUSA.com). For a formula created expressly for the purpose, try Stacy Lash Shampoo (Buy it: $16, amazon.com), a top-rated pick on Amazon. (Related: Everything You Want to Know About Lash Lifts)
Once you've gathered your materials, follow these steps from Dr. Wachler for how to clean your eyelash extensions.
- Wet your lashes with water, then apply the lash extension cleanser/shampoo to the lashes with a lash brush. Make sure your eyes are tightly shut to avoid getting soap in your eyes. It may be helpful to wash one eye at a time.
- Use your lash brush to gently brush your lashes from the root to the tip, working the cleanser through your lashes. Don't treat this as a wrestling match; you want to be gentle as your eyes are delicate and you don't want to risk ruining your lash set by pulling out extensions prematurely.
- Rinse your eyelashes with water and pat them dry with a towel. If you find your lashes to be a bit clumped together after rinsing away the cleanser, feel free to comb through them with a clean lash brush to separate the lashes.
- If you're short on time and can't wait for your lashes to air dry — perhaps you're running out the door to work — you can opt to blow dry them, making sure to keep the dryer on a low-power, cool setting to avoid damaging the extensions.
When it comes to eyelash extensions, carving out time to care for them properly pays off. Following these steps can keep your lash sets intact as long as possible while preserving the health of your natural lashes and eyes.