When you've been born with lashes that can't possibly compare to the models in magazines, it's common practice now to head to a beauty clinic for a treatment to enhance your eyelashes. The days when we relied just on finding that miracle mascara are out the window.
Eyelash extensions are extremely popular right now. However, it's important to properly research it first as there are cons to the procedure as well as pros. I've spoken to an eyelash beauty expert to get the lowdown on eyelash extensions, as well as information on some alternative treatments. Kate Walters is a Beautician and Eyelash Technician from Beckenham.
What exactly are eyelash extensions and are they safe?
KW: Not to be confused with strip lashes or cluster 'party' lashes which add definition on a temporary basis, semi-permanent eyelash extensions are individually applied to natural lashes using a specially formulated glue that lasts anything from 2-4 weeks; longer if sets are infilled on a regular basis. From a natural every day look, to full on glam, there is a set of amazing lash extensions out there for everyone.
It's a misconception that lash extensions cause damage to natural lashes. If applied correctly by a certified lash technician, they can be worn continuously without a break. When deciding to get lash extensions, it is imperative to do your research and choose a technician who is fully qualified, experienced and who considers the health of natural lashes to be of the utmost importance - ensuring the extensions used are not too long nor heavy; which over time could cause premature breakage.
Are they suitable for everyone?
KW: Lash extensions are suitable for everyone; regardless of age. Even those with fine, sparse lashes can have them, as long as there are natural lashes to attach the extension to. With correct eye styling, extensions can create a more youthful 'eye-lifting' effect for older clients, as a hooded eye can be disguised. However, it's important to remember your lash technician has to work with what you have and despite coming close, they cannot work miracles, for the safety of your own lashes.
Contact lens and glass wearers can wear a set of extensions, as can those who have recently undergone an eye operation or cosmetic eye surgery as long as the eye area has completely healed and medical consent is given if necessary. It is also essential to wait for any conditions or eye infections such as conjunctivitis or styes to clear before booking your appointment, as these may contraindicate lash application.
Whilst wearing extensions you are advised to avoid rubbing your eyes, therefore if you are prone to frequently rubbing or touching your eye area due to sensitivity or allergy, or you are prescribed medicated eye drops which may coat the lashes with frequent use, then extensions are probably not for you. If you are unsure of your suitability for lash extensions, I would suggest contacting a certified lash technician who would be happy to discuss your enquiry and individual needs and should offer a free of charge consultation and patch test to determine your suitability.
What types of lash extention are there and what is the treatment process?
KW: The most common are made from a synthetic material (known as synthetic mink or silk ) which replicate the look of a natural lash with a tapered end, and come in varying lengths (7mm to 16 mm), thicknesses (0.03mm to 0.3mm) and curls (J curls being the least curled to D curls being the most curled). It is possible to mix lash lengths and curls to create unique looks with technicians even cleverly mixing classic and Russian/volume lashes together known as 'hybrid' sets. You may also come across cashmere, flat or elipse extensions which have a slightly oval shape (as opposed to being rounded), which means they still create the thickness of regular extensions, but are not as heavy.
The application of a classic set of lashes involves the client lying with their eyes shut and an eye pad placed under each eye to separate the bottom lashes from the top, whilst extensions are applied on a one-to-one basis to natural lashes (never the skin) using two pairs of finely pointed tweezers; one to isolate, one to apply. For Russian/volume/xd/mega volume lashes, the same process is followed, but instead of applying a single extension to a natural lash, the skilled technician makes a hand crafted fan using anything from 2 to 16 extensions of a much finer density (depending on the strength and condition of natural lashes).
For a classic set, expect your appointment to last approximately 1-2 hours; for Russian volume expect 4 hours or more depending on the number of natural lashes and expertise of your technician.
Can you put mascara on eyelash extensions?
KW: The beauty of lash extensions is that they remove the need to wear mascara and therefore can dramatically reduce your daily 'grooming routine', meaning extra valuable minutes in bed! I advise my clients against using mascara, and it's a definite no if wearing Russian volume lashes as your delicately hand-crafted fans will get clogged and ruined; resulting in a time-consuming clean up.
Although some lash technicians say non-waterproof mascara or a specially formulated type for extensions can be used, even a small amount of the black stuff on a classic set of lashes will be difficult to remove completely and can encourage a breeding ground for bacteria and possible infection, so keep your extensions make up free and save your mascara for your bottom lashes only.
What things should people consider before getting lash extensions?
KW: There are several things to consider before getting lash extensions, the first of which is that you must factor in a patch test 48 hours before your initial appointment, whereby the technician will apply several lashes to each eye including all of the products used during application to ensure no adverse reaction occurs. A reaction is rare but can happen, and so this precautionary step acts as a safeguard against the swelling, soreness and itchiness which could occur.
Other factors to think about include the maintenance which comes with extensions, required approximately every 2-4 weeks depending on how effective your after care is and how quickly your natural lashes shed. This can take anything from 1-2 hours and is financially costly but worthwhile when you consider the time lash extensions can save you, the cost of mascara and strip lashes and not to mention the feel good factor of waking up glamorous.
Oil found in most face and make up products, is the arch enemy of lash extensions and should therefore be avoided at all costs. This may mean you may have to rethink your current skincare/make-up routine and purchase oil-free eye make up remover, eyeliner and lint-free cloths (cotton wool and cleansing wipes contain fibres which can get stuck-in and damage extensions). Also, a change in your sleeping position may be necessary if you like to sleep face down on the pillow. Whilst lash extensions can get wet and it is important to keep your lash line clean with regular cleansing, you should not expose your new extensions to water, heat/steam (from sunbeds, saunas, or jacuzzis etc) for the first 24 hours after application. If you have very fair natural lashes, you may also consider tinting them first; a step which is also known to improve retention.
What other options are available for boosting lashes?
KW: If you do not feel ready to take the plunge into the world of lash extensions just yet, other options are available. It is surprising the difference a simple lash tint can make in darkening fairer lashes; removing the need for mascara, but this is even better alongside a 'lash lift' aka LVL.
This treatment enhances and volumises natural lashes; replacing the outdated lash perm by using a shield to lift rather than a rod which did not always produce the desired curl. Described as a 'push up bra for lashes,' different sized shields are available depending on how much oomph and drama you want to create. Results from this approximately 45 minute treatment last 6-8 weeks, making it a lower-maintenance alternative to extensions - perfect for regular swimmers, gym bunnies and yummy mummies with little time on their hands.
If you are thinking about getting any treatment on your lashes, make sure to research and choose your salon or clinic carefully - looking at photographs and reviews of their previous work.
Main Image - Kent Larsson via Flickr