Unlike the group of young female factory workers of the 1920s now known as the Radium girls who died of necrosis as a result of their exposure to the "harmless" chemical, the modern woman has very little reason to equate beauty with any real suffering. (Yes, bikini waxes hurt, but they don't make your jaw disintegrate from the inside out.) But before you cast the first stone at the seemingly poor decision-making skills of women of yesteryear who would paint their teeth with radium to create a luminous smile for a night out or use lard as hair product, consider one of the most popular beauty procedures in this year of 2018: eyelash extensions.
As nice as it is to wake up in the morning in full Bambi mode without a single coat of mascara, having synthetic eyelashes glued to your real eyelashes is objectively questionable. That hasn't stopped millions of people from getting them, and while most of those people have emerged unscathed, others have not been so lucky — like 20-year-old nursing student Isabelle Kun, of Ottawa, Canada, who was taken to the hospital after suffering an allergic reaction in her bid for lush lashes.
Kun told CTVNews.ca that she's been getting eyelash extensions at the same salon every two or three weeks for the past year, and had never shown any signs of an adverse reaction. After her last touchup about a month ago, she noticed her eyes became swollen — so when she returned to the salon last week, she told her esthetician that she thought she may be allergic to the glue, and asked her if she'd be using the same one. Kun says that the esthetician brushed it off and told her not to worry, saying, "I don’t know the name of the glue we use, but you should be good."
Just two days later, on Thursday morning, Kun woke up with her eyes swollen almost completely shut. "My girlfriend had slept over and I couldn’t even see her," she said. "And I was having a hard time swallowing and even breathing." The friend called an Uber to take Kun to the hospital, where she was rushed in immediately. "They took me right in within seconds when they saw my face. My eyes [were] swollen both above and under and my tonsils were apparently really inflamed."
Doctors administered an antihistamine and steroid intravenously to reduce the swelling, which Kun said still hasn't improved after she was sent home with another prescription antihistamine. "My eyes are actually even worse now," she said. "There’s like a sac of fluid under my eye now. It’s so gross." What's more, she says that the salon she's been going to states on its website that, because most reactions to lash extensions are caused by the adhesive, clients can ask to be tested for allergies to the glue before undergoing the full treatment. Kun said that next time, she'll be sure to ask for the allergy testing to be on the safe side — and there will be a next time. "I do love getting fake eyelashes," she admitted.
The biggest takeaway for the rest of us? Do your homework. Elizabeth Diaz, a senior lash artist for Pucker at Spruce & Bond in NYC, told us that some salons even offer several options of hypoallergenic glue for those with allergies and sensitive skin — and always, always make sure the person you're seeing has the proper credentials. "Experienced lash technicians go through years of training, so make sure your technician is licensed," she said. "A certification is not a license — please know the difference." Finding a lash expert you trust might mean paying a little more up front, but it'll cost less than a hospital bill... and save you the emotional trauma, too.