Everything You Need To Know About Eyelash Extensions

If you've always wanted to wake up with long, full, dark, feathery eyelashes — without having to paint on several coats of mascara — you may have already considered semi-permanent eyelash extensions, a trend that has risen in popularity over the past few years.
Going one step beyond falsies, these lashes last weeks. And while the trend has become prevalent in certain celebrity circles and big cities, you might still have questions about the safety, cost, comfort, and overall process. To help us suss out the real deal about lash extensions — the good, the bad, and the annoying — we talked to a few pros about what it takes to achieve your dream lashes.
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The Basics

Unlike gluing a strip of falsies to your lash line, the process of applying eyelash extensions is much more meticulous. First, a technician will walk you through the various lash extension options: fibre, length, and curl type. Most salons have a menu to help guide the consultation and determine the lash extension that will best fit your aesthetic.
Yes, you can just roll out of bed with thick, Kim Kardashian-inspired lashes, if that's what you want. But if you're trying to achieve a my-lashes-but-better look, where people might just think you were born with a soft, fluttery set? That's possible, too. With the growing interest in extensions, the process of application had become so advanced, the look is now completely customisable. At your consultation, you can explain your lash aesthetic to your technician — full, super-long, natural, and so forth — and they will help you craft your dream lash.
"Nowadays there are several different textures for lash extensions," explains celebrity lash expert Clementina Richardson of Envious Lashes. "You can go with a premium faux-mink fibre lash, which is flexible and light. Or, ultra-silk lashes, which are extremely soft to the touch, but create a more dramatic look than the faux-mink fibre, without causing any strain to the natural lashes. For clients going for a more natural look, I advise them to request a set of 80-90 lashes per eye, depending on the size of their eyelids."
Once you've found your desired lash look, the next step is the application — and don't expect this to be snappy. Your technician will be using a teeny-tiny, tweezer-like tool to precisely affix around 160 individual eyelashes to your eyes. They do this by gluing one false lash onto each of your own natural lashes, one tiny lash at a time. (When your natural lash sheds so do the extensions that are attached to it — that's why they must be redone). Understandably, the initial set will take upwards of two hours to apply. Since your eyes are taped mostly closed — warning: expect an awkward eyelid position that some find unnerving where your eyes are tapped slightly open — try to use the time to just relax and be with your thoughts.
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The Pros

If you've ever seen someone with distractingly long lashes, so luscious and fluttery that they couldn't possibly be natural, then you know the number one benefit of extensions: You get to walk around with the lashes you wish you were born with, no mascara or sticky lash glue required.
"One of biggest pros of eyelash extensions is you never have to wear mascara ever again," explains lash expert Skyy Hadley of Blink Beauty Boutique. "Lashes make your eyes pop, and actually help breathe life into an otherwise tired face.” Lash expert Asma Docrat of Boudoir Lashes agrees: "Getting an extra 15 minutes of sleep is worth the time spent on having eyelash extensions applied every few weeks. Most clients find that they start to wear less makeup because they look ‘done’ already.”
Tailor-made lashes sound great, right? But for every lash devotee out there, there's someone who'll be quick to warn you: extensions are not low-maintenance, sometimes uncomfortable, and can be expensive to maintain.

The Cons

There are some drawbacks to lash extensions that you should know about before assessing whether or not they're worth it for you. First and foremost, they're pricey. A full starter set can easily set you back between £80 and £150, depending on the type of lashes you want and your technician, Tirzah Shirai, founder of Blinkbar tells Refinery29. And that's not even considering the touch-up cost. You need to replace your extensions every two to three weeks, as the extensions will shed with your natural lash cycle, and those replacements cost another £70, minimum.
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“You may want to get eyelash extensions all the time after the first go, but I’d say it’s worth it,” assures Docrat.“For many people, getting lash extensions is like getting a wax or your nails done. It becomes part of your routine and monthly expenses. Overtime this can be costly, but in my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives." But for the bargain-hunters among us, Shirai warns: "beware of going to places that charge less."
She continues, “There are all these places that say they do lash extensions for £30 but typically, what you're getting is a cluster. A cluster is essentially a bunch of lashes that have been pre-glued together — and they're incredibly heavy. They'll completely destroy your lashes."
How? In short, these clusters each affix to a few lashes, making the shedding that happens later a bit of a mess: lash clusters stick to lashes that have shed and natural lashes that are still intact. It tends to leave clients in a lose-lose predicament: Leave the unsightly jumble on or pull it off.
But even when applied individually, skin-care expert Dr. Lamees Hamdan tells us that it's a good idea to only get extensions sporadically, like before a wedding or special occasion, as opposed to consistently. "Getting eyelash extensions regularly can, and usually does, lead to loss of your own natural lashes," explains Dr. Hamdan.
Even worse than destroyed lashes (which is pretty bad), would be the risk of icky infection that might follow a lash-extending procedure. "Many people don’t realise that there are definitely some hygienic factors that come with having lashes," Hadey tells us. "If the implements or the lashes themselves aren't cleaned properly, you face the risk of conjunctivitis."
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Dr. Hamdan echoes that you're putting your eyes and the surrounding skin at risk with lash extensions. Most often, it's not the lashes themselves that cause an issue, as they are designed to be lightweight and safe for the eyes. Instead, it's the glue that could potentially hurt your eyes.
"The lash glue is a chemical, and usually contains irritating chemicals that can potentially cause inflammation, irritation, allergic reactions, or dry eyes," explains Dr. Hamdan. To rule out possible issues, your technician should carry out a patch test before the glue gets anywhere near your skin or eye, just to make sure you won't have an adverse reaction. Also, it's important to recognise that this process involves sharp tools near your eyes for a prolonged period of time, so you have to consider whether or not that will bother you before you're in the chair.

Things To Keep In Mind

If you've considered the cost, and weighed your risks, you have to keep in mind the somewhat-annoying rules of lash care. First, like the major annoyance of getting a spray tan, you can't hop in the shower after you've had extensions applied to your lashes. "You should avoid steam and wetting your lashes for the first 48 hours after getting lash extensions," Richardson instructs. And, when you are able to shower, you'll have to blow-dry your sopping-wet lashes with a hairdryer, on the cool setting, and a little spoolie brush — something you've likely never done before.
Docrat adds, “Make sure the lash technician is certified, qualified and has insurance. It takes time, patience and practice to ensure you apply the correct lashes in the right place, not to mention getting the curl diameter, length and weight right for each individual client. No two client’s lashes are the same. Also, look at your technician’s work. Instagram is full of images and lash artists showcasing their lashes. Some can be extremely dramatic and some specialise in quite natural extensions, so pick an artist you like the look and feel of.”
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Speaking of scary eyelashes that somewhat resemble long, thin spider legs, even dry, your eyelashes will end up looking a little creepy as they grow out and fall out. Because your natural lashes shed at different rates, so will your extensions, which means that after just two or three weeks, you'll likely be left with a wonky lash line that's full in some spots, but sparse and short in others. And because you can't remove your extensions on your own (because you'll risk pulling out your natural lashes in the process), you'll have to book another appointment at the salon for a lash refill, or to have the straggling extensions removed by a pro.
The longevity of your lashes depends on how well you follow the aftercare and also the set you have had applied, explains Docrat. “You must ensure your lashes stay dry for a period of 24-48 hours post application. How long they last also depends on your sleep pattern, lash growth cycle, daily routine, exercise and makeup application techniques. There are quite a few different factors of keeping your extensions intact, but if you follow the aftercare, you’ll be fine.”
"You need to avoid using oil-based products and heavy creams around eyes — and you should not apply any mascara to the lashes," adds Richardson. The oils and cream will loosen the lash glue and cause the extensions to fall off faster, while mascara will add weight to the very-delicate lashes and could cause breakage.
Basically, the most important thing to remember with eyelash extensions is to be extremely gentle. You can't stumble home at 2am rub your tired eyes with the back of your hand and fall asleep face-first on your bed. You must treat your lashes like the investment that they are. "Rubbing your eyes at all will result in immediate lash breakage," warns Richardson. She also recommends investing in a silk pillowcase, as sleeping an ordinary cotton sham can cause drying or lash snagging.
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From minding how you sleep to what you're putting near your eyes, it's clear that maintaining eyelash extensions is a delicate art. And if you're feeling overwhelmed by the upkeep and the cost, maybe consider starting small, with a lash conditioning serum or a lift and tint. Docrat also suggests a lash perm or even humble strip lashes.
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