I've never considered myself a lash extensions person. The first issue is that they can't get wet for at least 24 — sometimes 48 — hours post-application and unless I start wearing goggles in the shower, that's nigh on impossible for me. In my previous experience, they've also felt heavy and are often so long that they appear unnatural most of the time. Unless, of course, I wear a face of full-glam makeup (which I don't do very often).
I won't lie, there's a small part of me that's envious of the dedicated few who commit to the falsie lifestyle. Lash extensions really can elevate any beauty look, and they can make you feel 'done' with minimal effort (and makeup) required. So when an email dropped into my inbox about Gel-Lys lashes, a service offered by eyelash artist Camilla Kirk-Reynolds of Camilla Lashes (who counts everybody from Renée Zellweger to Tessa Thompson and the royal family as clients), I was intrigued.
"Camilla is one of only a limited number of lash specialists who use revolutionary gel eyelash extensions which last up to seven weeks," read the subject line. I replied almost immediately, booking myself in for an appointment the following week. Here's everything I want you to know.
What is Gel-Lys for lashes and what are the benefits?
A new patented technology, Gel-Lys is a gel curing technique that bonds and cures false lashes to the natural ones using a safe, low-level LED light (much like the light delivered during professional facials or from at-home LED face masks). Similar to the way LED light is used to cure gel nail polish, it's a method that Camilla came across around three years ago. Even now, there is only a limited number of technicians who are trained and qualified to use it. The Gel-Lys claims are impressive to say the least: not only does it supposedly reduce the usual 24 to 48 hour curing time required for traditional lash adhesive but it also increases lash longevity by up to 30%. That means clients can book in every seven weeks or so for infills, although Camilla says that some of her clients have had their lashes last up to 10 weeks.
What is the Gel-Lys process like?
I began by telling Camilla what I wanted to achieve with the extensions so she could give me a set of completely bespoke lashes. I told her I was generally quite wary of extensions thanks to previous experiences where my lashes ended up being too long and too obviously fake-looking for my liking.
"Throughout my entire career I've always been known for longevity, safety and for creating a natural look," Camilla said. "I completely get it. I personally struggle with lash extensions, too." It's a fine line between lashes looking real and looking fake, said Camilla, "so I think it's better for you to go for classic lashes rather than volume." Classic lashes use one extension per natural lash, while volume requires multiple lashes per natural lash. Camilla explained that opting for classic lashes will make it look like I have one or two coats of mascara on. While I initially said I liked the idea of having a few longer lashes in the outer corners, she said that this could bring my eyes down and she would rather open them up.
The treatment begins with a thorough lash cleanse. "I always say to my clients that seeing me is a bit like going to the hygienist for your teeth," said Camilla. "Lashes get neglected and they're never usually cleansed properly." Photos were also taken because Camilla thinks it's always good to have a record of the starting point.
Once the consultation is over, it's time for the lashes to be diligently applied. This requires patience. Gel-Lys is a lengthy process which takes longer than traditional treatments. Camilla dipped around 150 individual lashes into adhesive and applied them on each eye. You might feel a little warmth where the LED light is concentrated. "Every lash is individually cured after application for between five and seven seconds using an LED light built into my tweezers," explained Camilla. "I turn it on and off so it does slow me down a little bit compared to regular adhesive, but it's worth it. The difference is significant."
In order to maximise treatment time, Camilla also uses either a hand or neck and décolletage LED mask on her clients that will stay on throughout the whole process. This is a thoughtful idea — so much so that I found myself falling asleep (and subsequently waking myself up with a snore) halfway through.
What's the difference between Gel-Lys and 'normal' lash extensions?
Aside from the longevity and the lack of curing time (no need for goggles in the shower here), the main difference is in the aftercare. "You can put mascara on your lashes with no issues," said Camilla, "and when it comes to cleansing, oil-based removers won't break down the bond so you can use them if you want to." Personally, Camilla doesn't like to use oil-based cleansers on extensions in order to protect them for longer. "The most oily I will go is with Lancôme’s Bi-Facil Makeup Remover, but I would never use it directly over the eyes as it could cause oil and debris to be held between the extensions. That's because they're so tightly packed in." Instead, Camilla recommends using micellar water on a lint-free cotton pad.
Another big difference I noticed is the feel of the lashes, although that’s more to do with the product that Camilla uses rather than Gel-Lys itself. She enlists specially designed extensions that are lightweight and therefore virtually undetectable to the wearer. "To create a depth of colour in classic lashes, you usually have to use a thicker lash, which means a heavier lash," said Camilla. "But mine are 53% lighter than extensions of this thickness would usually be." They're more expensive to buy but Camilla says it's worth it.
How much does Gel-Lys cost?
A full set of Gel-Lys lashes with Camilla in her studio (she has two in London: one in Notting Hill and the other in Chelsea) will cost £490, with infills priced at £310. In general, a good set of lash extensions (not using Gel-Lys) can cost you upwards of £150. In other words, they're definitely an investment and they require regular upkeep. For that reason, it's worth speaking to an expert about what you might be able to afford and commit to in the long run.
How long does Gel-Lys take and how long does it last?
My treatment took two and a half hours from start to finish (including the 10 minute chat we had at the beginning), with lashes said to last at least seven weeks before needing infills. That said, I'm hoping mine will stretch to around 10 weeks.
I have to say that I'm very impressed with Gel-Lys. As promised, I can barely feel anything despite knowing I'm wearing hundreds of lashes. I've also not noticed any fallout, and I got caught in a torrential downpour about 10 minutes after I left Camilla's studio (talk about baptism of fire). Everything still looks as it should. The lashes themselves aren't too long and although they're heavier than I'm used to, I still think they look natural enough that they aren’t overly obvious when I'm wearing makeup. When I am wearing makeup, they make me look like I've made more effort than I have.
The real test will come down to their longevity. I really hope I can get a full 10 weeks out of them because affording infills (or a whole new set) is a different matter altogether.