Hollywood lied to me in a lot of ways as an adolescent. It told me that all interpersonal disputes are best solved with a public, shouting, crying-in-the-rain showdown (they aren't), which would immediately be resolved by a declaration of love (it won't). It told me that your best friend is usually in love with you, that achieving one goal completes your life, and that makeovers that would really require at least three professionals and a day in the salon are achievable with a shower and a lick of blush. But if there was one lie that was really pervasive for me, it was that waking up looking glamorous was not only possible, but the norm.
Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with how I look without makeup — I'm just aware that, without the magic of eyelash curlers and concealer, I look like all the things I'm trying to cover up. Tired. Sloppy. Puffy. Normally that's not an issue, but there are times when you might not really want to bother with makeup but still be around people, so you start to ponder what you can do to neaten things up a bit.
It was ahead of a trip to Italy that I knew would involve hot sun, early starts to explore the cities, and having to share mirror space with a man fond of steaming the place up that I started longing to wake up a little more polished. Midway through a typical morning Instagram scroll, it hit me: Why didn't I just get my lashes done?
Plenty of my friends have had lash extensions done for a special occasion like their wedding day, and I even know women for whom lash maintenance is as de rigueur as a root touch-up. After a few assurances from a faux-Bambi-lashed pal that it would be totally worth not being able to rub my eyes for a few weeks, and that it wouldn't make all my natural lashes fall out, I found myself lying prone on a bed in a spa-like room in Harvey Nichols, trying to choose between different lengths and textures of falsies.
If you follow Kylie Jenner or any of her ilk on Instagram, you're probably familiar with how lash extensions look: impossibly long, brow-tickling, and very obvious, in a way that makes the wearer look permanently doe-eyed. That's not what I wanted. My natural lashes are actually pretty long, they're just blonde at the tips — what I was after was volume, and lots of it.
After chatting with A-list lash extension specialist Daxita Vaghela (seriously, her Instagram page is a veritable who's who of Tinseltown), we decided only to use lashes the length of my natural ones, to avoid them looking too artificial. Daxita told me about a technique called Russian Volume, sometimes referred to as 3D Volume, wherein instead of applying one false lash to every real lash, up to eight are glued onto each natural lash for a seriously full look — and the amount of buzz this specific technique has gotten lately, with a 700% increase in Pinterest searches this year alone, made it all the more appealing. Because I wanted to keep mine relatively low-key, Daxita glued four lashes to each real lash.
The process itself isn't painful at all — you're aware something's going on, but it never reaches uncomfortable territory. Russian Volume is understandably an intricate process, and a full set can take up to three hours. Daxita prides herself on being one of the fastest in London — I was out in just under an hour.
Initially, I was shocked. There's no denying that they're dramatically different, even when you choose to keep them shorter like I did, which is perhaps why Daxita held off on letting me see myself in the mirror until she explained it'd take a minute to get used to them. And get used to them I did: By the time I'd made it back home, they already felt like an extension of myself. My usually eagle-eyed boyfriend didn't even notice they were fake; instead, he just wondered aloud if I'd tried a new mascara.
There's no denying that even when done subtly like mine, they're utterly fabulous. I could wake up, board a crusty Ryanair flight, step out of the shower with wet hair, and roll out of bed to breakfast or laze by the pool, all while feeling Sophia Loren-levels of glamorous. You can wear eyeliner with the extensions on but I didn't feel the need to, as the roots of the lashes gave my eyes definition. Not wearing liner also made cleansing easier, which can be tricky with extensions. Using my usual favorite oil-based cleanser would have eaten away at the glue, so I switched to the Daxita-approved Simple Cleansing Micellar Water. My makeup routine was streamlined to sunscreen, bronzer buffed all over, and lip balm most days, and I still felt like the most put-together woman on the Amalfi Coast.
Other than switching my cleanser, upkeep was relatively easy — a brush through with a spoolie every morning and evening and taking care not to scratch or rub my eyes was all it really took. The only problem set in when we moved to the hotter climes of Positano: Under the sweltering sun, the glue started to lose its grip and my lashes began to fall out quicker than I'd anticipated. Normally, lash extensions can last up to six weeks if you take good care of them, but because I'm such a perfectionist, I wanted them off altogether once they started to fall out and removed them once I got home to the UK, after about two weeks.
As for damage to my natural lashes — some fell out during the removal process. It's impossible for them not to, really. No matter how gently you touch the eye area, there's going to be some disturbance. I can't say I'm really concerned, as I know given a couple of weeks they'll be back to normal (and I'm using RapidLash in the meantime to help them along). I can see how you'd get hooked, as they really don't have to look comically long and thick — you can even just have little clusters applied to the outer corners of your eyes if you want.
I promised myself I won't do it again — they don't come cheap at around £325 (or $435 USD) for a full set — but there's a ski trip next year that's making me wonder if I can really be bothered with mascara...