It was probably the “eyelash mites” email that sent me over the edge. But truth be told, even before receiving the news last month of an alarming rise in Demodex blepharitis, a condition in which zillions of microscopic bugs have a veritable party around our peepers, I’d grown increasingly skittish of products, tools, and in-office treatments designed to enhance eye beauty.
Would I be trying the new-to-market Olaplex LashBond Building Serum? No, not after all those #olaplexlawsuit TikToks. Despite the fact that Olaplex CEO JuE Wong has vehemently denied that the brand’s flagship Intensive Bond Building Hair Treatment causes hair loss—and the fact that LashBond has been rigorously tested and is actually getting great reviews—I, personally, am not itching to roll the beauty dice on it.
Here's another hot new eye enhancer I’m wary of: CurrentBody Skin LED Eye Perfector, the eyes-only version of its wildly popular, sanctioned by Emily in Paris LED Light Therapy Face Mask. And after chatting with Oakland, New Jersey-based board-certified ophthalmologist Diane Hilal-Campo, who recommends light-blocking lead eye shields for anyone considering LED treatments to soften those pesky crow’s feet or blast sun-induced brown spots, I feel somewhat vindicated.
Granted, when it comes to eye enhancers, I’m unusually wary. That’s primarily because, after stupidly waiting until my late 40s to get my first-ever proper eye exam, it was determined that all was not well. Evidently, I have an enlarged optic nerve that puts me at risk of glaucoma. And because of this condition (which may have existed from birth, but who knows, because, as I’ve said, I neglected my vision health for decades), I go to the eye doc for a battery of tests every six months, and I take prescription Latanoprost drops daily.
So maybe, when I reach out to Hilal-Campo and another eye specialist, Los Angeles-based LASIK surgeon and cornea expert Neda Shamie, it’s with the hopes they’ll validate some of my concerns around not only growth serums and LED masks, but also professionally applied lash extensions and the ludicrously lengthy falsies I see all around me on women of all ages. In doing so much to make our eyes look youthful and gorgeous, are we taking unnecessary health risks?
Hilal-Campo believes so strongly that we’re harming our eyes in the name of enhancement that she’s created her own brand, Twenty/Twenty Beauty. Comprising just five products— Full Brows Tinted Gel, Clean Sweep Mascara, Visionary Eye Shadow Stick, Get Growing Lash & Brow Serum, and Easy on the Eyes Calming Face Mist with Hypochlorous Acid—the line is crafted without the 60+ ingredients Hilal-Campo considers harmful to the eyes.
“I've been in practice for over 20 years, and I constantly see patients with ocular health problems caused by a variety of beauty treatments and products, whether it’s corneal abrasions caused by lash extensions, dry red eyes from over-the-counter lash serums with undisclosed prostaglandin PGF2 alpha analogs, or blepharitis and Demodex from poor hygiene techniques or old makeup,” says Hilal-Campo. “You shouldn't have to sacrifice the health of your eyes to enhance your natural beauty.”
In her practice, Shamie has seen patients with issues tied to everything from toxic false eyelash glue and ancient mascara wands to overly aggressive eyelid lifts and permanent makeup, specifically what she calls “tattooed” liner. “There are a lot of problems that can come from putting too much toxicity around your eyes,” says Shamie, a partner of the Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute. “Eyes are very sensitive.”
Rather ghoulishly, I initially called Shamie to get her take on Demodex blepharitis, the eyelid-mites situation I used to kick off this cheery beauty tale. Among the symptoms it generates are irritation, dryness, itching, and contact lens intolerance—in other words, a lot of the stuff we readily write off as seasonal allergies.
“Demodex blepharitis, or DB, is definitely growing in prevalence,” says Shamie. “Over 25 million Americans suffer from these symptoms and yet it’s not being recognized.” But thankfully, like the condition itself, correct diagnosis—typically made via what’s known as a “slit lamp” examination by an eye doctor—is also trending in an upward direction.
Still, for now, there’s no outright cure, although there are treatments, such as the topical application of prescription ivermectin and over-the-counter Cliradex wipes, to keep the condition under control.
While Shamie doesn’t believe cosmetic enhancements cause DB, they can certainly exacerbate the problem. “I’ve seen patients who have baseline Demodex blepharitis, they get false lashes and the Demodex blepharitis mites love it because they can really have a party around those false lashes,” she says.
“The mites can proliferate, and it’s pretty gnarly, actually,” Shamie adds. “’Gnarly’ isn’t a medical term, but I’d like it to be when it comes to these things.”
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