Most women don't have the time or patience to apply fake eyelashes every day. (We barely have enough time to use an eyelash curler!) So it's no surprise that lash extensions have become increasingly popular in recent years.
But to what lengths are you willing to go for a sexy flutter like Adele or Katy Perry have? Actress Kristin Chenoweth had an allergic reaction to lash glue that contained formaldehyde, and she ended up with "eyelid lips." Ouch!
Feeling a bit apprehensive about trying this beauty treatment? We asked lash expert Courtney Akai to debunk the myths of lash extensions.
What are the most common types of lash extensions?
There are three types of lash extensions: synthetic, silk and mink. Lengths of the lashes range from 6mm to 17mm. Once selected, the lashes are applied one at a time using a specially formulated, semi-permanent glue that will not irritate the eye or damage the natural lash. However, since allergic reactions are possible, there are different types of glue based on one's sensitivity.
How long does it take to apply lash extensions?
Applying a full set of lashes takes about two hours, and can be maintained year-round with touch-ups that are recommended for every three to four weeks. A half set of lashes is an economical alternative to achieve a similarly dramatic effect, applied as filler to thicken natural lashes, or applied outward from the eye for a specialized look.
Everyone has different lashes, and depending on the condition of your own natural lashes, lash experts can only go a certain length or thickness. (This is to ensure that your own lashes remain healthy.) For example, if your natural lashes are on the shorter, thinner side, you won't be able to get a crazy, dramatic Kim Kardashian look, because it won't last. It's better to start out with a half set (50 to 60 percent of your top lashes) if you aren't sure or it's your first time. It’s easier to add more than to remove lashes!
What happens if glue gets in your eyes?
Since your eyes are shut the whole time lash extensions are being applied, no glue should ever get into your eye. To avoid any irritation, however, the first safety precaution you can take is to be sure that the glue is safe for your eyes and doesn't contain anything that can harm them, like formaldehyde.
Additionally, it's important to understand the difference between an allergic reaction and an infection. A licensed and experienced lash technician will not let an infection occur, but if you're allergic to the glue, you're still going to be allergic -- this doesn't mean the glue is inherently harmful.
Can you go blind?
No. Your technician should be trained properly to apply the adhesive and lashes in a way that is completely harmless. Your eyes are closed the entire time of the procedure. No matter how bad an allergic reaction may get, you will never go blind. The worse case scenario is that you need to go to the eye doctor to get specific eye drops to treat an allergic reaction.
What happens when you cry during application?
If you experience any burning or discomfort during the procedure, causing your eyes to tear or make you cry, this is a huge red flag and you should certainly speak up. You may need to have your technician change the glue. Getting lash extensions should be a completely pain-free experience.
What are the pros and cons of wearing mink lashes like Beyoncé's?
People want all different kinds of looks -- some people go for drama, and some opt for something more natural. The benefits of mink lash extensions are that they are more feathery looking and lighter in general, so they put less pressure on your lashes. Mink lashes also come at a higher cost.
How often do you need to get lash extensions redone?
Lash extensions last through a full growth cycle of natural eyelashes, typically six to eight weeks. That said, because each person’s lash growth is somewhat variable (just hair growth), I suggest light lash maintenance every three to four weeks to maintain a full look.
Do lash extensions fall out over a certain period of time?
Since each lash extension is attached to a single eyelash, they will fall out naturally along with the natural growth cycle of each lash. We recommend a touch-up every three to four weeks.
When an inexperienced professional applies lashes, he or she often applies one synthetic lash to three to four natural lashes, causing clumps or the lash to break and fall out. In addition, your lashes might fall out if you pick at them or try to pull them out yourself, which is a big no-no. But if you avoid those two problems, your lashes should stay intact.
Can you shower or swim right away? Are there products you should absolutely avoid?
Keep water away from your lashes for the first 12 to 24 hours after application or touch-ups. Water can weaken the adhesive before it is set and cause lashes to fall off. The after-care varies depending on the glue used. For instance, with glue for sensitive eyes, oil-based products or makeup removers around the eye area are not recommended. Using water-proof mascara on the extensions is not recommended for any type of glue, as it is hard to remove and can actually pull off the lashes prematurely when trying to take it off.
Is it OK to also wear mascara?
If you are planning to wear mascara in addition to the extensions, only use it on the tips of the extensions and with a very light hand. This will be enough to give your eyes that "pop" along with the extensions. Using mascara at the base of the extensions will get very clumpy.
Will your natural lashes get harmed or damaged?
The biggest myth is that lash extensions ruin your own lashes. They do not. If applied correctly and properly, they are safe and do not ruin the health of your natural lashes. Be sure not to rub your eyes or tug or pull on the extensions because this can cause lash loss and even damage to your natural lashes. If lashes are applied properly and to each individual lash, they won’t fall out.
What questions should you ask when searching for a reputable salon or professional?
Because of the sensitive nature of the lashes and the surrounding area, finding someone who is certified to apply the lashes is definitely a must. Professionals use professional products and have been properly trained to apply the lashes without damaging your natural lashes or more importantly, your eyes.
Just like you would with a hairstylist, research who you want to go to and how long they have been working as a technician. Look at before-and-after photos, read reviews and always make sure they are licensed and lash-certified.
This feature was originally published on May 17, 2013.