The secrets to healthy eyes – and lashes

As part of its campaign to educate beauty professionals and consumers about lash and eye health, Nouveau Lashes asked Francesca Marchetti, a leading UK optometrist a few questions to ensure that eye health is always the main priority in the lash enhancement business.

Why do we have eyelashes?
“Eyelashes protect the eye. They catch all the bits of debris that could land in the eye and cause harm. Although we have a very fast blink reflex, we need the lashes there also to deflect anything that is coming towards the eye and can-do harm.”

Is there an optimum length for lashes?
“No, there is not really an optimum length. Lashes that are too long can be a nuisance if you wear spectacles or even sunglasses as the lashes can hit the back of the spectacle lens. Short lashes and sparse lashes can be a problem as there are not enough lashes there for protection, and sometimes short lashes can be viewed as cosmetically undesirable.”

Can age and ethnicity affect eye and lash health?
“Yes, as we age, we do suffer from hair loss all over our body and our eyes are no exception. Both our eyebrows and eyelashes do diminish with age, which is why thick long luscious lashes make us appear younger. You will find even in families that hair loss tends to be genetic, as it does with different ethnic groups. Our general health and certain medications can affect our hair, if it affects the hair on our head, it will affect our eyelashes.”

Can poorly applied lash extensions cause eye problems?
“Absolutely, poor quality lash extensions and poor application technique can cause damage to eyelashes, increasing the risk of lashes breaking, which in turn means that there is less eye protection. More seriously, poor lash extensions can lead to damage of the hair follicle, causing the lashes to drop out. Without eyelashes the eye will feel sore, dry and uncomfortable, and can lead to dry eye as the protection mechanism has been damaged.”

What would you recommend looking for in a lash artist?
“I suggest looking at who they are certified with, their level of hygiene and their product supplier for formulas of adhesive (lash extensions). As well as looking at “trust pilot” or equivalents, so that you can read about the lash artist. It is important that your lash artist has done all the correct training and obtained the relevant qualifications to perform any of the procedures. I also think a patch test is essential for any products that may come into contact with your skin and a good consultation with your lash artist, so that you have the opportunity to ask what products they use.”

Why is the eye area so sensitive, and why do you have to be careful about what you apply around this delicate area?

“The skin is a lot finer and delicate around the eyes and therefore is more sensitive, so lotions and potions need to be very delicate and perfume-free. We can also sometimes experience some dispersion of face creams into the eye area itself so these need to be chosen wisely to not upset the eye, as it can cause irritation and inflammation. I would recommend using creams as far away from the eye itself to prevent any seepage, unless you are using a gentle hypoallergenic formulation which is deemed suitable for use on the eye area.”

What common irritants are found in eye make-up removers or cleansers that consumers should be aware of?
“If people are prone to sensitive skin anyway, then the area around the eye will be even more sensitive. Avoid highly perfumed eye lotions and potions. Look out for the preservative chlorhexidine (chg) which can cause irritation inflammation and allergy, you should avoid chg near the eyes at all costs.”

Are lash treatments and extensions safe for contact lens wearers or those who have had laser eye surgery?
“Yes, there is no reason why this would not be suitable for both contact lens wearers and laser eye surgery patients. For contact lens wearers it is important that the contact lenses are removed prior to the treatment and that the contact lenses are not worn for approximately one hour after treatment. During treatment, the eyes may sting a bit and if your practitioner advises, they may apply a lubricating drop to the eye. If so, make sure that they are using an individual vial and not putting drops in from a bottle, as this could cause cross-contamination from another client.

Lash extensions are ideal for patients prior to laser eye surgery, cataract extraction and clear lens extraction (vision corrective surgery which replaces your internal lens with a corrective one to enable you to be spectacle/contact lens free). This is because post-procedure the patient will be unable to wear any eye makeup for three weeks, due to the risk of infection. I recommend my patients to have lash extensions/LVL and eyelash tinting for that reason.”

What are the key rules of wearing make up around the eye area?
“Using old formulas or unhygienic make-up bags will lead to: infection, infection, infection. Never ever share eye makeup and always throw your mascara and wet eyeliners away every three months. The lovely warm dark environment of a mascara tube is heaven for nasty bacteria. Make sure you wash your eye makeup brushes very regularly and allow them to air dry. If you have an eye infection, it’s important to stop wearing eye makeup and any eye makeup that you may have should be thrown away as the bacteria can live long in the eye makeup.”

Recent research shows consumers are driven more by the finished look achieved by the treatment than the health and safety standards of the salon – what dangers could people face if they ignore salon health and safety standards?
“Infection and eyelash damage are the main cause for concern. Make sure that no products are re-used as everything should be just for you. Any lubricants put in the eye to wash/flush any products out of the eye must be done using an individual vial, not with tap water nor an already opened bottle that has been used on other clients. If cheap imitation lash products are used, that perhaps have not been tried-and-tested, they may damage your lashes causing them to break off, fall out and damage the hair roots – which in turn could cause the eyelashes to die off and not grow back.”

Over a third of the people we surveyed felt that eye area is important to women because the eyes are the first thing you notice about someone else – what are your top tips for caring for this area?
“Protection and cleanliness. Always wear sunglasses when it is sunny to protect the eye area and the eye itself.

“Always remove your eye makeup at night, no matter how tired you are, as this will help prevent any infection. Use a gentle hypoallergenic eye makeup remover, massaging the eye area very gently to prevent stretching the fine skin, which can lead to more wrinkles. General make up removers tend to be too harsh around the eye area.

“I would also recommend a regular eye examination. When you struggle to see, you often screw the eyes up, which again can lead to wrinkles. Other eye conditions can make the eyes look older – for example cataract, blepharitis, and dry eye – so a regular eye examination is essential to keep the eyes healthy.”

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