A Newbie's Guide to Eyelash Extensions

They're so good, you might give up mascara forever.

lash-extensions
Photo by Jenny Jin

Full disclosure: I am quite possibly one of the only—or one of very fewbeauty editors who doesn't give much thought to my eyelashes. I rarely wear mascara because nothing I’ve ever tried gives me fluttery-enough results to justify adding another step to my makeup routine. But when my boss, a former lash extension addict, gushed about how faux fringe allowed her to skip eye makeup altogether (and that's saying something for someone who wears no fewer than three shadows, top and bottom liner, and three coats of mascara daily), I promptly booked an appointment with Soul Lee, owner of Beautiful Soul Makeup Studio in New York, and a respected lash guru known for her light-handed esthetic.



I had so many questions: How many lashes will she be applying (75 to each eye!). How did she arrive at that number? (It depends on how many natural lashes you have to work with, as the extensions are attached to the base of your own hairs). What are the lashes made of? (A mix of synthetic and silk fibers because they are lighter, and thus, more comfortable). Is the glue safe? (Yes, it’s a medical grade adhesive that is tested specifically for use on lids and lashes). What if I have really sensitive eyes? (Consult with your lash technician beforehand. They can attach 15-20 extensions as a test to see how your eyes react before committing to a full set). Is it ok to get them wet? (Yes, the glue is water-resistant, but don’t go chasing waterfalls—or, you know, standing directly under the shower nozzle). How long will they last? (Up to 2-3 weeks before you need to go back for removal—if you decide they're not for you—or to fill in the ones that have grown out).

Satisfied with my answers, I was ready for my new lashes. First, she applied gel patches under both eyes to keep the bottom lashes out of the way while she went to work. I closed my eyes and began to drift in and out of consciousness, as she carefully applied each lash with the steady hands and precision of a surgeon. This went on for quite some time—two hours to be exact—and I finally woke to a cool blast of air on my face signaling the end.

I opened my eyes expecting to feel the weight of strip lashes (of prom yore), but was surprised that I barely felt anything at all. She handed me a mirror and I blinked back at my reflection. It was subtle. It was pretty. It was, I feared, a burgeoning addiction. Unlike when I bleached and dyed my hair grey, only a few discerning colleagues noticed—again, a testament to how natural it looks. "You can only see it when you blink or turn to the side. It gives you a little unexpected glamour," said one. Unexpected glamour? I could get used to this, I thought, while batting my newly lush lashes.

A week in, I’ve picked up a few do’s and don’ts that will hopefully help should you decide to get lash extensions:

  • The first 24-48 hours are crucial. Avoid steam from showers, facials, saunas, and swimming pools, as any excessive moisture will break down the adhesive.
  • The less you do, the longer your extensions will last—meaning forgo the mascara (especially waterproof kinds), lighten up on the shadow and liner, and ditch the lash curler. Lash curlers, in particular, “are very damaging to extensions and can lead to breakage,” says Lee.
  • If you decide to wear any shadow or liner, use an oil-free makeup remover or wipes, like Almay Oil-Free Makeup Remover Towelettes ($6.50, ulta.com) to take it off. “Wipe upwards towards your brows instead of down. Basically, you want to avoid getting too close to the lashline,” says Lee.
  • Pick up some disposable mascara wands for daily cleaning and maintenance. Brush the tops of your lashes to remove any lint or dust. Then, work the brush through from mid-lengths to ends like you would when applying mascara.
  • If you tend to curl up onto your side when sleeping like I do, just position your head on the pillow so your face—and lashes—aren't smushed against it. If you're a chronic stomach sleeper... you might want to reconsider getting extensions.