Unregulated eyelash extensions carry risks

Unregulated eyelash extensions carry risks
A woman undergoes an eyelash extension procedure at a beauty salon in Tokyo.

A growing number of women are seeking medical care after using eyelash extensions, an increasingly popular trend.

Though some safety precautions are taken in the use of the cosmetic products, unresolved issues remain, including toxic substances used in adhesive agents, which are unregulated.

Regulation has not been able to keep up with the rapid proliferation of cosmetic procedures.

During the procedure to make lashes look longer and thicker, artificial eyelashes are attached to each natural eyelash using adhesive agents.

The method, which originated in South Korea, has been spreading in Japan since about 2003. The extensions look more natural than conventional false eyelashes, and the effects last for about three weeks.

Eyelash extensions do not need to be attached and removed every day. Costs range from about ¥5,000 (S$61) to more than ¥10,000 for each treatment.

The number of reported medical cases involving the artificial eyelashes nationwide that have been confirmed by the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan was two in fiscal 2004 and hit 137 in fiscal 2012. In fiscal 2013, 112 cases were reported as of May 19.

A 23-year-old woman said she was diagnosed as suffering from dermatitis on her eyelids at Matsumoto Ganka, an eye clinic in Yamato-Koriyama, Nara Prefecture, in April.

"Five or six hours after [getting eyelash extensions], both of my eyelids became swollen," she said. "I've been to an eye clinic twice since I got them done."

She underwent the procedure after one of her friends recommended a beauty salon. Though it was located in a condominium apartment without a doorplate, she was attracted by the low fee of about ¥4,000.

"When I opened my eyes after the procedure, the glue got in my eyes and I felt pain," she said. "The aesthetician put in eyedrops without an explanation."

Takuya Matsumoto, the director of the eye clinic, said: "In local clinics like mine, the number of such patients has been increasing over the past five years. Nowadays, one or two such patients visit each month."

Last year, 15 such patients visited the eye clinic. As of the end of this April, five others came with similar problems.

A study team of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry compiled a report last year on medical complaints involving eyelash extensions. The team surveyed 3,500 eye doctors and dermatologists nationwide from September to December 2012.

Of them, 467 doctors replied that they had treated such patients in the past three months.

Last month, Kimiko Fukushita, vice president of the Japan Ophthalmologists Association, examined the survey results in detail and found that the 467 doctors had treated a total of 1,621 patients in such cases.

The association believes the main cause of the problems to be inadequately trained aestheticians and toxic substances in adhesive agents.

As a countermeasure, the health ministry is making efforts to resolve problems with practitioners of the cosmetic procedures through training. In 2008, the ministry issued a notice that obliges those who perform eyelash extensions to obtain a beauticians' license to halt the spread of unqualified practitioners.

However, while those who offer eyelash extension procedures without a license has increased, the curriculum for beauticians still does not contain such training, so that even licensed beauticians may not have acquired relevant skills.

To remedy the problem, the ministry has stipulated that the curriculum of beauticians must include training on eyelash extensions starting this fiscal year.

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