I have patches under my eyes and my lash lines have only just fluttered shut when I hear the magical sentence: "Most people don't wear makeup after this," says Jay Escobar, an esthetician and brow and lash expert at Rob Peetoom in Williamsburg. I'm laid back in a white leather recliner where I'll be for the next 45 minutes, chatting with Escobar while she perms my eyelashes.
The treatment is a keratin lash lift, technically, but Escobar tells me that a lot of people have taken to calling it a lash perm — though she's quick to add that she's not using the same chemicals as a hair perm. It is, however, the same idea: to get your eyelashes to hold a permanent curl. Well, semi-permanent. "It lasts eight to 10 weeks," Escobar says, "that's longer than extensions."
I've never done eyelash extensions and this is my first time getting a lash lift. What brought me here? I hate, hate wearing mascara. Really, the only reason I do is because my natural lash hair is a light, strawberry blonde colour that makes them disappear into my eyelid skin. For years I've done the routine that I see everyone else doing: pinching my lashes with an eyelash curler (I was once told by a cousin that this looked like a torture device), before blinking them through a skinny spoolie coated in a tubing mascara.
I can totally go without the eye makeup, and I often do, especially working from home. But ideally, my lashes would just exist less crooked — have you ever looked at your lashes in a magnifying mirror and seen them kind of criss-crossed over each other? — and tinted darker, so I can see them.
"I always tell people that this isn't as dramatic as makeup," Esobar adds as she coats my closed lashes with a perm solution that breaks down the molecules in my lash-hair follicles to make them moldable. "If you're used to wearing eye makeup every day, this is definitely a more natural look — though most people are good with that."
Mm hm. So if you're looking for a dramatic lash look, this might not be the treatment for you. I'm curious, too, are there any other bad candidates? "If your lashes are really, really short," Escobar tells me. (Your esthetician should know if your lashes are too short for the service.) "Or, if you have an eye inflection," she adds, "that would be an obvious no. Also, I sometimes get eczema on my eyelids, and so when that flares in the winter, I don't get my lashes lifted because it could irritate it."
The treatment itself is not at all uncomfortable. I don't love not being able to see for almost an hour, but Escobar tells me exactly what she's doing. At the present moment — I'm guessing is about 10-15 minutes into the treatment — she's brushing through my lashes to make them adhere to the flexirod that's will create the structure of the curl.
This second solution is to set the shape, and it will also sit for another 10 minutes. She warns me that it might be a little smelly, but I don't notice. I ask Escobar about her other lash-lift clients. "It's becoming more popular and I've done it on every age" she tells me. "Even a 70-year-old man, he had some crooked lashes and just wanted them corrected. But it's a mix. Mostly working people who want an easier routine and don't want to have to do much [to their eyelashes]. People who are about to go on vacation — a lash lift is really great for them."
Once the lift has processed, it's onto the tint. Escobar uses Refectocil, a cream dye I actually bought on Amazon to have at home if I ever need to DIY a lash or brow tint. It will essentially function as my mascara for the next three months. "The tint sets very fast after the lift," Escobar tells me. "With someone with naturally light lashes, like you, this is going to make a huge difference. I mean for everyone, [lashes will] look thicker and longer. Even if you think you have dark lashes, they can be a little sun-bleached, but we don't really notice until they're all dark and uniform."
For aftercare, Escobar tells me, it's nothing too crazy. "You don't want to get your lashes wet for 24 hours," she says. "Like a perm, you can't get it wet right away. After that you can put makeup on it or whatever." I don't plan to, but I do use an oil-based makeup remover, which Escobar recommends I bag. "Oil wears down the effect," she explains. "If you're using oil in your cleanser or makeup remover, the lift will wear off faster. So, I recommend a micellar water or a milk or cream cleanser."
I open my eyes — which are a little bit sensitive to the light — but Escobar tells me my lashes look amazing. I take a handheld mirror and examine the results. It's somehow better than I thought it would be. My lashes look long, thick, dark, separated and the best part: there's nothing gloopy or clumpy stuck to them. "You have long lashes," Escobar says. It's one of those things I never really knew because my lashes have never been so meticulously curled or tinted fully, like root to tip.
The cost is a lot more than a tube of mascara, though. My lash lift is about $165 ($247 AUD), and that's before the tint, which adds another $30 ($44 AUD). Still, for me, someone who does not like eye makeup, the lash lift has done what people have told me it would: made my life a lot easier. I haven't worn mascara once in three months, and my eyelash curler looks more like a torture device now than it ever has before.
Like a brow lamination (which I'm also very into) this is the epitome of a high-maintenance to be low-maintenance treatment. I plan to book in for another lift and tint seasonally. At the very least, I'm definitely getting another one before the summer. While I will always love facials and manicures — and I have recommendations — if I have to name my most worth-it beauty treatment of the year 2022: it's the lash lift.