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From minor itching to serious infections, experts discuss dangers of eyelash extensions

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Posted at 9:55 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 09:42:19-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Following in the footsteps of celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Adele, Michelle Lundberg of Sandy says eyelash extensions were a luxury that made her life easier.

"I worked for a company where it was business professional, and I felt like I always had to look on," Lundberg said.

However, getting those luscious lashes took a lot of time and money.

"I had a different friend who said, 'You should go to my lady, she's cheaper and faster,'" Lundberg said.

When Lundberg went with the cheaper option, she walked away with itchy, red eyes.

"Around my eyes, like right around where my eyelashes connect to my skin, that was itchy, but also my eye itself was itchy," Lundberg said.

Then, when she tried to have the false lashes taken off, her eyelashes broke off completely.

“It took weeks and weeks and weeks for them to grow back to normal," Lundberg said.

Ophthalmologist Mark Mifflin says Lundberg's experience is pretty common, as many experience things from minor issues like itching and redness to a serious corneal infection.

"An abrasion on the cornea, which is like a scratch, but sometimes those can actually become infected and that can lead to scarring," Mifflin said.

Dr. Mifflin said scarring on your eye can threaten your vision.

Even Consumers Reports is telling its readers to stick to mascara.

Marisa Kelly opened up Entice Lashes & Brows three years ago, and she says those issues can be prevented.

"All of those can be prevented by proper application, by your artist knowing what they’re doing," Kelly said.

Since opening Entice Lashes & Brows, Kelly has seen her business double in size every year.

"I feel like we've just barely hit the tip of it," Kelly said.

Over the years, Kelly has heard all the horror stories, but she said her clients aren't experiencing them. She said some issues are caused by using the wrong material around the eye.

"When they're taping down the bottom lashes to keep those out of the way, they are using tape, which can really irritate the eye," she said. "It’s got that sharp edge on it."

Kelly said some other horror stories are caused by using the wrong type of lashes.

"Losing all of your lashes, that happens if your artist is putting too heavy of a lash onto your natural lash," she said. "Your natural lashes can’t support that weight, so it will in time become very fragile and break."

Other issues are caused by using the wrong glue, some of which are formaldehyde based. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and toxin known to cause allergic reactions. Kelly says that type of glue is the cheapest option and when it comes to lash extensions, you get what you pay for.

"If you're paying $30 for a full set, they're probably not using the proper products," Kelly said.

Dr. Mifflin recommends women have the extensions put on a by a reputable professional, but he still has an important warning.

"Even if you start to have mild side effects, it’s probably not safe to use them," Mifflin said.

After her traumatic experience, Lundberg decided long, luscious lashes weren't worth the risk.

"That's what I guess I learned from all of this, is just be comfortable with who you are," Lundberg.

Lundberg ultimately decided she’s unwilling to compromise her eyesight for the eye-popping look.