More and more women are lashing out these days.

Indeed, eyelash extensions have become so popular in recent months that the Utah Department of Commerce considers it a public health issue. The department’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) has issued a warning about the potential health risks associated with using unlicensed providers for the cosmetic procedure.

“It’s one of these services that has become very popular, and we just want to make sure people are safe,” said Francine A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “From a female perspective, this is the wedding season, and a lot of young people want to look their best.”

Eyelash extensions are a “semi-permanent” cosmetic procedure in which artificial lashes are glued — one by one — onto a person’s natural eyelashes. Giani says the combination of working so near the surface of the eye, combined with the use of adhesives that are often formaldehyde-based, can be a recipe for disaster if not applied by someone who knows what they’re doing.

“The human eye is a very sensitive place to be messing around with,” Giani said. “Think about it, when you get just a little eyelash in your eye, how much of a problem that is.”

Fake lashes 2

An example of an allergic reaction, the result of eyelash extensions applied by an unlicensed provider. This photo was provided to the Utah Department of Commerce by the National Eyelash Education and Safety Association.

Giani said many eyelash-extension providers claim to be “certified,” but this type of cosmetic procedure requires a cosmetology or estheticians license issued by the state.

Tara Hernandez, owner of Bountiful Lash at 273 W. 500 South, No. 21 in Bountiful, is a licensed master esthetician. She’s been applying eyelash extensions for about seven years now. She calls it a “very low maintenance” alternative to cosmetics, providing longer, fuller lashes.

“Basically, it’s like another form of mascara,” Hernandez said. “With lash extensions, you don’t have to put on makeup every morning.”

An initial set of eyelash extensions at Bountiful Lash is $110, Hernandez said. Then, every two to four weeks, customers return for a $45 “fill,” to replace lashes that have fallen off or grown out with the natural lash.

There’s another eyelash extension option called “volume lashes,” which are extremely thin bundles of three or four artificial lashes that are attached to each natural lash, Hernandez said.

“It creates a more feathery look,” she said.

Cost for the volume lashes at Bountiful Lash is $130; $55 for a fill.

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Giani said that, from time to time, her department sees trends that raise a red flag — and unlicensed lash applications are one such public health trend. According to her office, since Jan. 1, 2015, DOPL has issued 67 administrative citations for unlicensed eyelash and eyebrow applications.

“That’s a lot,” Giani said.

In that same time period, according to DOPL statistics, seven of those citations were issued to individuals or businesses in the Standard-Examiner’s circulation area — including three citations in Ogden, and one each in Harrisville, Clearfield, Farmington and Bountiful.

Two of those citations involved Bountiful Lash. On Sept. 30, 2015, Hernandez was fined $400 for “knowingly employing any other person to engage in or practice or attempt to engage in or practice any occupation for which a license is required,” according to records obtained from DOPL. Also that day at Bountiful Lash, Jennifer Baldassaree was fined $200 for providing eyelash extensions without a license.

Hernandez said Baldassaree was her apprentice at the time, and that the woman has since earned her state license.

Her business can barely keep up with all the eyelash extensions these days, Hernandez said.

“We’re really busy, all year round,” she said. “Clients, once they find somebody they like, they’re pretty loyal.”

Hernandez said she performs about 45 fills a week, and she has two other employees who each do about that many as well.

“And we’re pretty booked up,” Hernandez said. “We’re actually looking to hire one more person.”

The Utah Department of Commerce offers four tips for consumers seeking eyelash or brow extensions:

  1. Use a licensed cosmetologist or esthetician, and ask to see a state-issued DOPL license. Certification is not the same thing.
  2. Make sure the lashes are applied in a professional environment, not just someone’s kitchen or basement.
  3. Make certain the environment is clean. Are the lashes being applied in a dedicated esthetician area free from airborne particles like dust or fingernail shavings? Otherwise, there’s the possibility for infections or allergic reactions.
  4. Basically, you get what you pay for. Carefully research providers, and understand that a low price may mean additional risks.

To verify a license or file a complaint, go to the DOPL website at www.dopl.utah.gov, or call 801-530-6626.

Giani said she hopes most Utahns haven’t had bad experiences with eyelash extensions, but she knows that many have. She’s not saying consumers should avoid extensions, just that they should use a licensed professional.

“We just want people to understand that it’s a popular thing occurring now, and don’t be distracted by using a provider who’s not licensed,” Giani said. “We don’t want young people to end up with any kind of eyesight problems.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.

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