Once you go extensions, can you ever go back?
I have a confession to make.
I’m a 32 year-old ex-beauty editor who’s never, ever had lash extensions. Not even for a special event.
The reason I never took the plunge? I was terrified of looking like a drag queen. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that look, if that’s what you’re going for.) I also had serious reservations about the possibility of ending up with an eye infection, losing all my natural lashes, and my ability to lie still long enough for anyone to actually get more than a few lashes in, leaving me with lopsided peepers. Above all that, as someone who’s transitioning to living a more cruelty-free lifestyle, I was concerned about the potential of using animal hairs (mink fur is the most popular faux lash source).
So it was with equal parts curiosity and genuine terror that I decided to bite the bullet and lose my lash virginity at Sydney’s cult eyelash extension boutique, Lady Lash. Here’s what I learned…
1. It makes a big – like BIIIG – difference who you go to.
“A good lash stylist must have many skills – from design and consultation, knowledge and experience to solve problems like complicated eye shapes like drooping or deep set eyes, and to be able to work magic for clients with issues like sensitivities or frail, gappy lashes or twisted lashes,” my lash technician, Charlotte explains.
“They must know about how different weather factors affect glue curing speeds, and which glue is ideal. Not only that, they have to have incredible attention to detail and hand-eye coordination, so that every single lash is completely isolated, and the extensions are placed correctly.”
For this reason, you’re unlikely to end up with damaged, mangled natural lashes if you do your research first, like I did, and go see a real pro.
2. One lash size DOESN’T fit all.
I’d tried strip lashes before and hated the look. They didn’t seem to flatter my eyes at all, and I was fearing the same would be true for my extensions, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Before beginning my treatment, my lash technician spent a good 15 minutes going through every detail of what sort of look I was after, then carefully examining my eyes and natural lashes before pointing out a few suggestions on a chart demonstrating every possible volume, length, curl and shape variation.
I ended up opting to go for dramatic 3D Russian Volume lashes (if I was going to do this, I might as well go all out), which require a specialist style of application involving fanning out multiple individual lash extensions and meticulously embedding each ‘fan’ along the lashline until the ideal fullness has been achieved.
2. You can get realistic extensions without supporting animal cruelty.
Eyelash extensions are typically made predominantly with a synthetic material called PBT, and are classified as either ‘silk’ or ‘mink’, depending on the finishing processes used. Whilst real fur (sourced from cruel mink fur farms) is commonly available, not all salons use it; it just takes a bit of research to find an ethical one.
“Our salons don’t use it; we’re against animal cruelty, and also believe that the synthetic mink, referred to as ‘faux-mink’, version is superior in every way,” explains Charlotte.
3. Allergic reactions are incredibly rare.
If you visit a reputable salon that does their due diligence before applying product, Charlotte advises it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll walk away from your treatment with a case of zombie apocalypse eyes.
“Like most cosmetic preparations, there is the possibility of allergic reaction, however we find they are quite rare. The adhesive is not applied on the skin, so whilst there is no direct skin contact, it is fairly close, and if you are unlucky enough to have an allergy to one of the ingredients, then there is a chance you might react. Patch testing can be done to help rule out reactions too.”
4. The application process takes a LOOONG time (so bring headphones).
Clear out your afternoon if you’re planning on getting a full set of extensions applied, particularly the more dramatic Russian Volume variety, because the process can take up to two and a half HOURS. Yup, Audrey Hepburn-worthy lashes weren’t built in a day. As someone who’s always secretly suspected I have ADHD, this kinda freaked me out. Thankfully the salon’s bed was super comfy like a real bed, and I was able to wear my headphones and listen to my iPod the whole time, so I was surprisingly relaxed. I may have even dozed off for a minute…
5. It ain’t cheap.
A set of 3D Russian Volume lashes like I got will set you back anywhere between $200 to $300, and they require topping up every three weeks to avoid looking ratty or having to start from scratch again.
“It can depend greatly on how well after-care is followed, as well as factors such as oil content in the wearer’s skin and hair, and what type of set has been applied. Shorter, finer lashes tend to last longer than longer, thicker ones. Volume lashes – because they are so fine, and we apply so many – usually last a little longer than the classic type,” says Charlotte.
6. The financial investment isn’t the only one you’ll have to make when you get extensions.
You’ll need to clear a lot more time on your schedule if you plan on maintaining your new lashes. My lash technician advises me that once they’re on, I must avoid absolutely any exposure to oil near my eyes (farewell, under-eye jojoba oil, my fave eyeliner, and my oil-based makeup remover), use only Q tips (dipped in oil-free makeup remover) to remove eye makeup, avoid mascara, rubbing my eyes and sleeping on my stomach. I was also instructed to gently brush them out daily to stop them from getting messy.
7. But HOLY CRAP, is it WORTH IT.
To say I was impressed with the results of my eyelash extensions would be an understatement. When my technician finally held up a mirror and asked me what I thought after two and a half hours of listening to Beyonce’s Lemonade album on replay, I was blown away. I looked like a new, better me. The full but surprisingly realistic looking lashes even seemed to make my eyes look bigger and my other features daintier. I walked down the street afterwards, completely eye make up free (something I never do) feeling like a new woman. For the weeks following, I received a stream of compliments from coworkers, friends and strangers alike, all telling me how great I looked, but not quite being able to put their finger on why.
8. It’s extremely addictive.
A week in with my new lashes, I’d already booked an infill follow-up appointment. I know at some point I’ll have to go back to my natural lashes (if only to save a small fortune in maintenance costs), but for now, I’m completely hooked on waking up looking glam and getting random compliments from strangers on my look. It’s fair to say any reservations I had before losing my lash extension virginity have well and truly been quashed.
Comment: Have you had lash extensions before? What was your experience like?