6 Popular Beauty Treatments That Could Harm Your Eyes

Don’t inadvertently compromise your vision in the name of looking good. A few simple precautions will have you walking out of the salon spiffed up and safe.

Woman getting beauty treatment

No optometrist wants to stand in the way of your favorite beauty treatment. Facials, spray tans, lash extensions, brow work — procedures like these can be key parts of a good self-care routine.

But eye doctors do want you to remember that some of these treatments are done close to the eyes, which could increase your risk for infection or irritation.

And who wants to walk away from an appointment meant to make you look good with a side order of red, runny, and irritated eyes?

That’s not to say skip the salon.

“Don’t be afraid of these beauty treatments,” says optometrist Astiney Franklin, O.D., who practices at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Greenville, South Carolina. “Eyes are resilient — they have mechanisms in place that naturally protect them.”

Instead, book your appointment — but use this guide to the eye concerns of six popular beauty treatments and ways to keep your eyes safe. Then review our pre-treatment checklist of simple precautions — so that you’re still sitting pretty when the primping is done.

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What to Know Before: Lash Extensions

These long, individual faux lashes, which are glued onto your own lashes and can remain in place for weeks, are generally safe.

Concern No. 1 for your eyes: If you wear contact lenses, the procedure can temporarily cause a burning sensation.

“I’ve gotten these myself, but I made the mistake of wearing contacts when getting them done and found my eyes burned a bit,” says Dr. Franklin.

Eye protection tip: To be safe, Dr. Franklin recommends removing your contacts before your service. Also keep in mind that the glue used could cause an allergic reaction to the lash line, she says.

Concern No. 2 for your eyes: When you have extensions, you can’t remove eye makeup or cleanse your eye area as thoroughly — at least not without compromising the longevity of your new lashes. This is something Dr. Franklin says she learned from experience.

Not taking proper care of your eye area can open you up to a stye if one of your oil glands — which are located near the lash line — becomes blocked, she says.

Eye protection tip: Rather than continually going in for lash extensions, give your lashes a break every few weeks, Dr. Franklin recommends. Or try volume-boosting mascaras or magnetic lashes to give the eye area an opportunity to be clean and moisturized.

What to Know Before: Eyeliner Tattooing

In this procedure, your aesthetician tattoos ink into the skin right at your lash line. The result is an eyeliner effect that’s as close to permanent as eye makeup gets. It can last as long as a few years.

The concern for your eyes: “Since the tattoo is applied at the base of the lash, you’re more prone to eye infections following the service,” says Dr. Franklin.

Eye protection tips: Be sure to choose an experienced provider for your service. (Read “3 Must-Dos Before Your Beauty Treatment” below for more.) And call your optometrist if you notice any signs of an eye infection, including:

  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensation that something is in your eye
  • Increased redness and/or irritation
  • Discharge
  • Sores on the eye or eyelid

Dr. Franklin advises using artificial tears the first week after treatment. Replenishing the moisture helps wash out any impurities that may get into your eyes during the healing process, she says.

What to Know Before: Eyebrow Tinting

Just as you can dye your hair, you can also dye your eyebrows using a semi-permanent dye that lasts weeks.

The concern for your eyes: Dye, which contains peroxide to activate it, can accidentally drip into your eyes. Not surprisingly, this will cause an immediate burning sensation, warns the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Eye protection tip: Whether you’re getting it done by a pro or doing a self-tint at home, Dr. Franklin advises keeping saline solution close by. If dye does accidentally get into your eye, immediately rinse it with saline until the sensation is gone. (Water is the second-best option, she says.) Follow up with your optometrist as soon as possible to rule out any serious complication.

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What to Know Before: Laser Facial Treatments

Cosmetic laser facial resurfacing treatments aim to address pigmentation, redness, and wrinkles.

The concern for your eyes: The risk to your eyes is greatest during treatments that target the skin near the eyes. The laser may inadvertently injure your eyes, particularly the cornea, if you’re not offered — or don’t properly wear — adequate eye protection during the procedure.

According to a 2018 review of case reports published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, eye injuries occurred either because patients opted to forgo eye protection or removed their protective glasses mid-treatment to allow the technician to better target the eye area.

Eye protection tips: It’s important to see a properly trained technician or dermatologist for a laser treatment. If your eye area is being treated, the authors of the study recommend making sure that one of the following operates the laser: a board-certified dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or ophthalmologist or otolaryngologist with training in cosmetic surgery and medicine. During your consultation, ask who will be performing the procedure (see “3 Must-Dos Before Your Beauty Treatment” below for more).

Equally important, wear the eye protection that’s provided during the entire service. If you do end up with an injury to your cornea, consult your optometrist immediately. The 21 patients in the review were treated with steroids or antibiotics.

What to Know Before: Spray Tans and Facials

These popular beauty treatments promise a quick, albeit temporary, glow.

The concern for your eyes: While product could stray into the eyes, spray tans and facials pose minimal risks, according to Dr. Franklin.

Eye protection tips: Simply make sure you keep your eyes closed and you’re good to go, she says.

“Even if you do get something in your eyes, your eyes will tear up in response to an irritant, which is a great protective mechanism,” Dr. Franklin says.

Do you have dry eyes that need a little help with tearing? Now’s the time to use artificial tears, she adds.

What to Know Before: Soaks in the Hot Tub

The concern for your eyes: Any time you’re in water, whether it’s a hot tub at a spa or a pool at your gym, you’re exposing yourself to various microbes, including bacteria, that can cause an eye infection, says Dr. Franklin. The risk is especially potent for contact lens wearers.

Eye protection tip: Remove your contact lenses before entering the hot tub. If you wear dailies (aka single-use contact lenses), she says it’s okay to keep them in — as long as you have another pair to change into after your soak.

3 Must-Dos Before Your Beauty Treatment

1. Know who’s doing your treatment: As we’ve mentioned, your first move to protect yourself is to make sure the professional you’re hiring is appropriately certified and/or licensed, advises Dr. Franklin.

Before booking the actual treatment, schedule an in-person consultation first. Ask:

  • What are their credentials?
  • How many procedures of the kind you’re considering have they done, and/or how often do they do these?
  • What is their success rate?
  • What is their safety record — specifically, how often have complications occurred during the procedure you’re considering, and how are those handled?

Also ask to see before-and-after pictures of actual patients. Anyone who has the right credentials will be happy to provide these answers.

2. Use artificial tears before your procedure: Lubricated eyes are more comfortable — and more protected against impurities you may encounter during these beauty treatments. Dr. Franklin recommends five brands to her patients to use during and after treatments: Systane®, Refresh®, Blink® Tears, TheraTears®, and Biotrue®.

3. Watch for reactions: Call your optometrist right away if you notice these signs of an adverse reaction:

  • Itchy or burning sensations
  • Excessive watery eyes
  • Discharge
  • Excessive redness
  • Pain that doesn’t diminish

Also stay alert for signs of an infection in the first few days after a procedure. When in doubt, go ahead and call your optometrist.

Related reading: 

The Dos and Don'ts of Wearing Eye Makeup

Are Eye Creams Safe? 

What to Do if You Have Soap or Shampoo in Your Eyes