If you’d trust a professional but complete stranger, to tape your eyes shut during an hour-long procedure that lengthens your eyelashes, then this is the experience for you.
We’re speaking, of course, about eyelash extensions. The lengthening, volumizing treatment can make serious strides in a department that nature may have given you the short-end (or eyelash) of the stick. And an addition as small as a few lashes can seriously save you time in the morning, and make you look exponentially more awake.
We employed our email marketing manager, Hayley, to head to Envious Lashes in New York, which just so happens to be the go-to place for badass women like Naomi Campbell and Mary J. Blige.
Hayley sat down for the treatment with founder Clementina Richardson, who turns eyelash extensions into a art with her extreme precision and attention to detail. (Good enough for Naomi, good enough for us!) Within an hour, Hayley had an entirely new set of eyelashes.
Here’s what happened, and what you can expect when getting it done the first time.
Before you go to a specialist, have an idea of what you want your extensions to look like, or what you want to avoid, and bring photos of what you’re looking for. For your first time, it’s probably ideal to stick to a more subtle look, so it’s not as if you are, as Richardson says, “walking lashes.”
Your technician will sit down with you for a consultation to analyze a few things: daily skincare and makeup routine, your natural eyelash shape, as well as your end goal. Hayley told Richardson that she wanted a natural look, with a slight boost in volume and length.
But using the phrase “natural” isn’t specific enough, because that word can mean something different for each person, warns Richardson. The way she explained their agreed upon final look to Hayley was that the extensions were going to make her appear as if she just applied her mascara absolutely flawlessly. That’s it, nothing too bold-looking.
After they agreed on a look, but before the treatment begun, Richardson went through a large amount of before-and-after photos with Hayley to make sure they were on the same page for volume, length, and shape.
To say Richardson is an artist is no exaggeration, she looks at each eye as an opportunity to not only extend the eyelashes, but also to improve upon your natural eye shape and look. With Hayley, she noticed that her right eye’s lashes naturally point more down than her left’s (just slightly!), and she corrected this when applying the extensions, deliberately placing the lashes to correct a slight difference. “Sometimes I have a vision in my head, I can see the eyelashes on you first, and can shape the eye differently. It’s like contouring your cheeks or nose—you can contour your lashes.”
All this said, make sure you go to a pro. This is not an opportunity to save some money and find the cheapest option. It involves your eyes—a very delicate and sensitive part of your body. Can’t make it to Envious Lashes or another beloved spot near you? Richardson advises to make sure you find an expert that cares about the health of your natural lashes first and foremost. Not just one that will give you any look you’re aiming for.
Your bottom lashes should be—and kind of have to be—protected. Richardson uses professional (yet comfortable, said Hayley) eye pads (they are kind of mix between tape and an eye mask) that cover the bottom lashes. This is super important because you keep your eyes closed during the entire treatment, during which your bottom and top lashes touch, which would then cause the gluing on the top of the lashes to stick to the bottom lashes, gluing your eyes basically together—which can happen, warns Richardson, if your technician isn’t trained properly or the eye pads aren’t applied properly.
Richardson tells us that you should always determine what type of eyelash shape you have with your technician, and then determine from there what look you’ll be going for. Cat eye, where the lashes are longest at the end, is the boldest look. A more natural look is achieved by mimicking the natural growth of your lashes. For Hayley, Richardson purposely placed the longest length being used in the center of her eye to lift the lashes. For each eye, Richardson will use between three different millimeter sizes to match naturally occurring variations in lash length.
Hayley has naturally strong, healthy lashes, but Richardson says to be realistic with your desired outcome if, for example, your lashes are weaker or have breakage. If you want a bold look, but aren’t coming with healthy lashes to begin with, the extensions will weigh down your weakened lashes, causing even more damage.
Each lash is applied individually, which is why it usually takes one to two hours to complete both eyes. A single natural lash is located and isolated with a set of special angled tweezers, then the single extension lash is dipped in clear glue, and attached to the base of the lash.
Hayley got 90 lashes per eye. Each lash must go on straight and as close to the root as possible, while taking into consideration the final desired look and shape. (Which gives you a sense of how time consuming and detailed this type of lash work can be.)
Expect your eyes to feel a bit different until you adjust to the length and slight weight difference on your eyes. “My eyes felt a little heavy, and I was constantly reminded throughout the rest of the day that something had been done to my eyes,” says Hayley. “But my eyelashes looked bomb every time I looked in the mirror. The heaviness went away after the end of that first day, and then I got used to it. I got tons of compliments in the days that followed and loved how they looked.”
As the weeks go on, the lashes will grow away from your root naturally, and begin to fall off. Within about two or three weeks, you should have about 50 to 80 percent still attached. This is the ideal time to come in for a refill if you want to keep the lashes on. If you don’t want to maintain the look, it can take about six to eight weeks for the lashes to entirely fall out. (This is an important point: if a salon says their lashes last six to eight weeks, that’s not a full set, that’s usually a reference until all lashes fall out.)
For Hayley, the ‘fallout’ stage began around the two-week mark. “Once they started falling out on their own,” says Hayley, “I wanted them all off so badly, I started pulling out some of the rest, which didn’t feel great at all but I’m like that—if my gel manicure on one nail starts to peel off, I’ll go to town until all my nails are bare and on the verge of death. I think I was back to my real lashes by the three-week mark.”
Just like peeling your gel off is bad for your nails, plucking your lashes off is very bad for your eyes, so don’t do this! You’ll risk damage and fallout even further doing this.
It’s super important to not get the extensions wet immediately after, for up to 24 hours, while the glue is still setting. It takes about 48 hours for the glue to completely cure. After that, getting your lashes wet is just fine.
You also should avoid all oil-based products while you have extensions. Oil based makeup removers and cleansers will make your eyelashes fall off very quickly. “Instead of them lasting five to eight weeks like they should, they’ll last maybe five days, if you’re lucky,” says Richardson.
“And, you do not want to apply mascara,” she adds. “If you feel the need to apply mascara, that tells me you need to go for a fuller look.” Your extensions should entirely replace mascara, which is exactly why Hayley wanted this treatment, to save time and effort when getting ready in the morning.
The worst thing you can do for lash extensions? “Rub your eyes,” says Richardson. “If someone is an eye rubber in general, I tell them eyelash extensions aren’t for them, they’ll be bald in days.”
You can condition your lashes, before, during and after extensions, to assure that the quality of the natural lashes are maintained, and even improved. Envious Lashes even makes their own conditioner that’s safe on extensions. For Hayley (famously low maintenance) this extra step was a little tiresome. For someone with a longer beauty regime, this probably won’t be an added difficulty.
It’s also recommended that you don’t press your face, and therefore your lashes, into your pillow when you sleep. Hayley sleeps usually on her stomach, and tried (as much as one ever can monitor their sleeping positions) without much luck. “I was encouraged to sleep in a position where my lashes didn’t end up being pressed against a pillow, but I only sleep on my stomach, and push the pillows away because I like to be completely flat.”
Would Hayley recommend getting lash extensions?
Yes, but you have to be the type of person that’s used to daily maintenance. “I probably could’ve taken care of them a tad more than I did, but I definitely wasn’t used to having to ‘take care’ of my eyelashes so it was a strange adjustment to have to make.” But, a few months after the extensions, Hayley can officially say she had very little damage to her natural lashes, which tends to be one of the biggest worries for first-timers.
Still want lashes, but don’t love this best-of regime? This is a great choice for an event or couple day events are grouped together, like an out-of-town wedding or reunion. You have a bolder eyelash look, but won’t have to worry about applying or smearing mascara.
Also, price is a major factor here. For Hayley’s set, with a master stylist, it will cost you around $350 (but around $175 for the trained stylist). For more subtle to exaggerated extension sets, they can begin at $105 and reach upwards of $450.
Have you tried eyelash extensions? What was your experience? Tell us more in the comments.
Keep on reading about treatment’s we’ve tried:
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