There's a new craze on the rise, and it's widening eyes left and right, from Queen Bey to your BFF to your bank teller. Many salons worldwide are adding the service of semi-permanent eyelash extensions performed by in-house lash artists to their respective repertoires. If you're on the hunt for a hands-down, weeks-long, woke-up-like-this cosmetic revolution but are a skeptical first-timer, here's everything you need to know about getting eyelash extensions.
How do they work?
Unlike false eyelashes, which are self-applied in strips or small clusters directly to your eyelid, semi-permanent eyelash extensions consist of single lash fibers being adhered one by one to your individual natural eyelash hairs about one millimeter away from your eyelid, for a finished look that mimics natural lash growth without any visible glue glops or gaps. They come in several thicknesses, lengths, and curl grades to custom create a variety of looks, from natural to wowie-zowie.
What should I do to prep?
- Do your research. Lash artists are fairly ubiquitous nowadays, but credentials are not necessarily, requirements vary state-to-state, and training isn't always compulsory in beauty school. Locate a salon with an in-house lash technician who is certified in the procedure and who, ideally, is also a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist. Reference personal recommendations, yes, but dig a little deeper, too.
- Set aside time. It takes an average of about two hours for a full set of eyelash extensions to be applied. If you're getting a thicker fringe, the process could exceed two hours. If you're getting a half set or a more minimalist look, it could be less. Case in point: this isn't something you should try to squeeze in on a lunch break. Pick a day with little to no other obligations, accounting for time spent admiring yourself in the mirror afterward. Wink, wink.
- Supply tunes. Your technician may have headphones handy, but it's good practice to arrive prepared with your own set plus your playlist so you can zen out for the duration.
- Bring pictures. Just like when you visit your hair stylist or colorist, it helps to supply a visual reference of the look you're going for. In the case of eyelash extensions, it will help your technician determine which length, thickness, and curl grade are best to achieve your desired look.
- Make sure your natural eyelashes are healthy enough. If you're unsure, it wouldn't hurt to first set up a consultation appointment with the lash tech. Ideally, your eyelashes should be at least 3mm in length and have consistent growth. Eyelash extensions are not recommended (and may not be possible) for people who have patchy or no natural eyelashes.
- Invest in a new eye makeup remover. You don't need to change up your entire skincare arsenal or regimen to accommodate your new lashes, but since oil-based products on or around your lash area are strictly verboten (we'll get into why momentarily), we suggest using a gentle cleanser in lieu, like Dermalogica's pH-balancing Special Cleansing Gel. Micellar water comes highly recommended for eye makeup removal, but wipes (like Comodynes Micellar Solution or Klorane Biodegradable Wipes) will become your savior during the life of your extensions due to the spot-cleaning accuracy they lend.
What should I expect during the process?
- Duration. As mentioned, two hours is the average time of any eyelash extension appointment, barring any unforeseen delays or expediencies. Additionally, you will be required to remain relatively motionless in a reclined position with your eyes closed the entire time. For the fidgeters, Type As, and movers-and-shakers among us, this may pose a challenge, but for others, snoozes have been known to occur.
- Some new sensations. The lash artist will begin by placing adhesive patches on your under-eyelashes to hold them down during the procedure, which might feel strange but is painless if done correctly. Throughout, you will feel light, intermittent contact as your tech places each lash strand atop your own eyelashes.
- You'll be recumbent. If you have a physical condition which prevents you from remaining comfortable in certain reclined positions for extended periods of time, you may consider bringing a support or pillow along with you.
- If you're a contact lens wearer and are plagued with dryness when your eyes are closed for extended periods, come equipped with your contact lens case and solution so you can take them out, then pop them back in when your appointment is over.
- Eyelash extensions should absolutely not hurt. If they are applied correctly by a legitimate, certified, trained technician, you should experience no adverse physical response. If at any point during your procedure you notice teariness or discomfort, alert your tech immediately so the cause can be determined and diffused.
How much do they cost?
The price of your lash service will vary depending on the type and quantity of lashes used, and where you live. On the low end, you should plan for about $100 (not including tip), and as much as a few hundred dollars for a top-of-the-line set. Followup fill appointments may set you back anywhere from $50 to $70, or possibly closer to $100 in more metropolitan areas.
- Mink extensions are the most natural-looking lashes. They are the thinnest, lightest-weight, and longest-lasting. They are also the most expensive, require some maintenance (they can lose their curl if they get wet), and are not ideal for those with animal allergies or cruelty conflicts of interest.
- Faux mink closely imitate the look of natural mink lashes, are less expensive than mink, retain their curl, and are cruelty-free.
- Sable extensions are not as widely available as the others. They are the thinnest of all lash extensions but pose the same animal allergy risk to sensitive parties. They fall within the same price range as mink lashes due to their natural derivation.
- Silk requires very little maintenance and is a happy medium between fur and synthetic extensions in terms of diameter, realism, and cost. Their thicker base with a more pronounced taper creates a more dramatic lash line. Silk lashes are less expensive than both mink and sable.
- Synthetic (polyester) lashes possess wow-factor but are intended more for those who are not so concerned with a natural lash look. They are heavier than other lash extensions and so a bit less comfortable, but are the least expensive option.
Are there any risks involved?
Your certified lash tech will use utmost care and be trained in handling any irritations that could arise during the procedure, which are uncommon and typically occur in returning clients when there's been a change-up in material brand or adhesive since their previous visit. If you are prone to eye infections, or have any skin sensitivities or allergies, do let your tech know about these conditions ahead of time. Even with your lash tech's use of hypoallergenic materials, if you have acute animal allergies, you are best advised to opt out of mink or sable. If your lash tech doesn't offer it, request a patch test prior to your procedure if it puts your mind more at ease.
Lash maintenance: What should I avoid?
Some extensions require more maintenance than others. For example, mink lashes are made from real fur, and so are subject to the same natural changes and manipulations as the hair on your head. Silk lashes, by contrast, hold their shape much better and withstand showering, swimming, and athleticism much better than other (fur) types.
- Avoid water for 24 hours after your extensions are applied. That includes washing your face, crying, sweating, etc. Your technician may nebulize your lashes at the close of your session to cure the adhesive, but it's still good practice to avoid moisture for at least a full day afterward.
- Avoid steam for 48 to 72 hours after your procedure. That includes piping hot showers, saunas, hot tubs, etc. Steam can weaken the adhesive, causing your extensions to fall off prematurely.
- Avoid any oil-based products around your eye area indefinitely. That means moisturizers, soaps, and cosmetics—even eyeliner and mascara. The oily compounds in many of these products can break down the adhesive, causing your extensions to fall off prematurely. One of the perks of eyelash extensions is that the need for mascara is basically negated, but if you are so inclined, use a non-waterproof mascara applied only to the outermost tips of your lashes with a very light hand. When removing, do so gently with an oil-free cleanser or makeup remover. In lieu of liquid or pencil eyeliners, try applying a dark powder shadow with an angled liner brush for a similar effect.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes or pulling at your lashes. Hands off. Tugging or pulling can cause your natural lash to come out with the extension it's attached to. Overexposure to the naturally-occurring oils in your fingers could break down the lash adhesive, causing lashes to fall off prematurely. Some shedding over time is normal, so don't be alarmed when you see a random one or two lash fibers in your bathroom sink, but take care not to exacerbate the process with excessive contact or manipulation.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Even silk and synthetic lashes could bend or curve outward, inward or under for a wonky look upon waking, so getting in the habit of falling asleep on your back will help keep renegade lashes from marching to the beat of their own drum overnight.
How long do they last?
Just like the hair on your head, your eyelashes go through growth cycles and inevitably shed. Since lash extensions consist of individual fibers being attached to individual eyelashes, they will remain attached to your natural lash through the duration of this growth cycle and, when your eyelash sheds naturally, the extension will shed with it. This process takes about six to eight weeks, but to maintain a full lash fringe, it is recommended that you get fills every two to four weeks, depending on how rapid your growth and shed rates are. If you allow your extensions to grow out any longer than that, your technician may feel it necessary to start from scratch, setting you back the original amount spent for a full set.
Can I remove them myself?
It is recommended that you do not perform lash extension removal on your own. If for whatever reason you grow weary of having them, your lash tech can remove them for you. If you're down to a few stragglers, gently rolling the lash between your thumb and index finger will often set it free without pulling out your natural lash. Applying a light amount of coconut oil or Vaseline (taking care not to get any in your eye) will help break down the remaining adhesive.
Should I go for it?
What we do know is this: you are beautiful just the way you are. Eyelash extensions should be approached with intent to give yourself a special treat, a momentary pleasure, an experimental adornment—not to fix something that isn't broken to begin with. Maybe these personal accounts of extension veterans will help you decide.
Posted by Katy Kirkpatrick