eyelash extensions

Eyelash extensions are a popular approach to making the eyelashes appear longer and fuller.

When applied correctly by a licensed professional, eyelash extensions can provide safe, beautiful results. However, using the incorrect glue or trying DIY lash extension may cause lash pain, infection and loss.

What are eyelash extensions?

Eyelash extensions are semi-permanent fibers that are glued to your natural lashes to make them appear longer, thicker and darker. The goal of lash extensions is to give the eyes a made-up appearance without the use of mascara or other eye makeup.

While false eyelashes can also achieve this look, there are some key differences between false lashes and eyelash extensions.

False eyelashes usually come in strips that you glue across the top of the natural lash line and remove at the end of the day. Eyelash extensions are individual fibers that are attached to each natural lash, one at a time. Once applied, eyelash extensions should last the average lifespan of natural eyelashes, which ranges from six weeks to two months.

The type of eyelash extension varies depending on your budget and what lash studio you visit. Eyelash extensions can be made of different types of material, including

  • Silk
  • Mink
  • Synthetic, such as faux mink or plastic fibers

Fibers can come in different lengths, tints and levels of curl to meet most client preferences.

To get the best results, the lash technician should use a medical-grade glue to attach the extensions. Medical-grade glues are fragrance-free; sweat, water and oil-proof; sensitive to most skin types.

Pros of eyelash extensions

If you’re trying to decide whether or not eyelash extensions are right for you, it’s wise to weigh the pros and cons of having lash extensions applied. Some of the perks of eyelash extensions include:

  • They look beautiful – When done correctly, eyelash extensions will make your lashes look long, full and fluttery at all times. Unlike with strips of fake eyelashes, with lash extensions, you can wake up every morning with princess lashes with no effort.
  • You don’t have to wait for them to work – You walk into your lash extension appointment with sparse, weak lashes and you walk out looking like a superstar. The instant gratification of having beautiful lashes after only one appointment is definitely appealing.
  • No more mascara – That’s right. No more smudging, flaking, running or stressing that one eye’s lashes always look better than the other. With lash extensions, mascara is a thing of the past, which will also save you the time of applying and removing product from your lashes.
  • They’re customizable – Whether you’re a natural honey or a dramatic diva, your lash extensions can be customized to fit your desired look. Talk to your technician about your lash goals, and they will tailor the length, color and curl pattern to meet your preferences.
  • They can last a long time – As time goes on, your eyelashes’ natural shed cycle will cause the extensions to fall out along with your natural lashes. This typically starts to happen a couple of weeks after the first appointment and will continue until the cycle is complete (four to ten weeks). However, you can get regular “fills,” which will keep your lashes looking lovely indefinitely.
  • The process is painless – If applied properly, you should never experience any pain with the application or wear of eyelash extensions.
  • They can withstand water – After having the last extensions applied, you will have to keep the eyes and lashes dry for 48 hours. Once that time has passed, you should be able to swim, sweat and shower with your extensions, although keeping them dry will help them last longer.
  • The process is (normally) safe – Experts, including dermatologists and estheticians, explain that having lash extensions applied by a licensed professional is safe, though there are risks involved.

Eyelash extensions can make short, sparse eyelashes look thicker and longer. But there are risks.

Cons of eyelash extensions

While the perks of eyelash extensions are many, including the potential to complement or improve your appearance, there are also downsides to having extensions applied to your lashes.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, some dangers of using eyelash extensions include infection or swelling of the eyelid, infection of the cornea and temporary eyelash loss. Some of the more common drawbacks include:

  • Irritation and infection risk – If proper sanitation and application requirements are not met, it’s possible for irritation or infection to occur. Most lash technicians should do a “patch test” with the glue before the extensions are applied. A patch test will let them know whether you’re allergic to the glue they plan to use.  Sometimes, even if an allergy is not present, the chemicals in the glue can cause irritation on the eyelid. The area around your eyes and eyelids is very sensitive, which means the weight of the glue can also tug on the eyelash hairs and cause irritation.
  • The financial investment – As with most things, the price of eyelash extensions depends on where you get them done. The average cost for the initial visit ranges between $100 and $500, while refills cost anywhere from $50 to $150.  If you follow the recommended refill schedule of every two to four weeks, you’re looking at spending $650 to $3,900 on fills alone. The cost of mascara doesn’t seem so high once you consider this.
  • Maintenance – Because extensions are so expensive, preserving them between fills is important. However, maintaining lash extensions can be a hassle. How you sleep, shower, wash your face and other usually-simple tasks must be done carefully to keep your lash extensions unbothered, which can become a chore after a while.

Find more tips for preserving and caring for lash extensions below, under “Caring for lash extensions.”

Who should avoid eyelash extensions

If you plan to have a medical procedure that will affect the eye, such as LASIK, chemotherapy or radiation, you should consult with your doctor before having eyelash extensions applied.

Additionally, those with the following conditions should talk with their doctor before considering eyelashes extensions:

  • Trichotillomania – Trichotillomania is a stress or anxiety-induced urge to pull out your hair, including your eyelashes.
  • Eyelid dermatitis – Eyelid dermatitis is a skin condition that causes eyelid skin to burn, and be red and itchy.
  • Blepharitis – Inflammation of the eyelids that causes red, swollen eyelids and crusty eyelashes.
  • Alopecia areata – Condition that causes full or partial hair loss on the scalp and may affect the eyebrows and eyelashes.

Do eyelash extensions ruin your natural lashes?

Even if you have your lash extensions applied by a high-level lash artist, there is a chance that your natural lashes will be damaged in the process.

Just like with the hair on your head, your lashes  grow away from the root. As the lash extensions grow farther from the root, the weight of the extension can put pressure on the natural lash. The natural lash may not be able to support the weight of the extension, which can cause breakage.

How eyelash extensions are applied

The number of extensions you want (how full you want your lashes to look) determines how long your first appointment will be; however, it’s recommended to block off two hours for the appointment.

Here’s what you can expect during your lash extension appointment:

  • The technician will ensure you’re comfortable before gently cleansing both of your eyes.
  • Your lower lashes will be taped to your skin using surgical tape. This keeps the technician from accidentally gluing your lower lashes to the upper ones.
  • Using tweezers or a similar tool, the lash specialist will separate and isolate your natural lashes.
  • A single artificial lash fiber will be dipped with a tiny bit of glue and attached to the top of the isolated natural lash.
  • The process just outlined will be repeated for the entire eyelid of each eye.

The eyes will remain closed for the entire process and possibly a few minutes afterward to allow the glue to thoroughly dry. During your appointment, your technician may have music playing in the room, or you can choose to pop in your earbuds and listen to your favorite music or podcast.

Is it safe to do your own lash extensions?

While it may be possible to achieve the look of eyelash extensions using a DIY method, it is not recommended and can seriously damage your eyelashes and eyeballs.

When you have a professional apply your lash extensions, your eyes are closed the entire time to ensure precision of the application and the safety of your eyes. When applying lash extensions yourself, fumes from the glue can irritate your eyes before you’re able to attach the fibers to the lash.

It’s also common in DIY lash extension kits for clumps or clusters of lashes to be provided. Applying several false lashes onto one natural lash can cause irritation, breakage and trauma to the lash follicle.

If you want eyelash extensions, please make sure they are done by a certified professional. Saving money isn’t worth losing your natural lashes or harming your eyes.

Caring for eyelash extensions

As mentioned before, taking care of your eyelash extensions can be quite the undertaking. To ensure the longevity of your lash extensions, it’s best to use the following care practices:

  •  Use caution when washing your face, especially around the eye area. Any movement of the lashes can cause them to get tangled or fall out.
  • Avoid using oil-based cleansers, makeup removers or other facial products. Oil will cause the lash glue to break down.
  • Do not use mascara with eyelash extensions, especially waterproof mascara. Removing the product from the lashes will tug on them and cause them to fall out prematurely.
  • To clean eyelash extensions, use a gentle foaming eyelash extension cleanser to make sure the eyes and lashes are not holding onto bacteria.
  • Brush the lashes several times daily with a spooly brush (similar to a mascara wand that is clean, dry and free of product).
  • Avoid letting water from the shower fall directly onto your face, as the water pressure can cause the extensions to loosen.
  • Do not rub your eyes with a towel or sleep in a way where your pillow presses on the eyes.

Please be advised that practicing these care techniques does not guarantee your lash extensions will last longer than the average lifespan or protect your natural lashes from breakage. They just increase the likelihood of a long, successful, beautiful wear.

How to remove eyelash extensions

If you have the eyelash extensions and decide — for one reason or another — that you want them removed, what do you do?

While a quick search on YouTube will produce hundreds of DIY videos for eyelash extension removal, the truth is that the safest way to remove the extensions is to let them fall out on their own.

In an interview with Oprah Daily, celebrity lash expert Clementina Richardson says that trying to remove the lashes yourself can pull out the natural lashes and lead to bald spots, which may or may not grow back.

Instead of trying to pluck the extensions off, continue to take care of them by brushing them and keeping them clean. Usually within six to eight weeks, the extensions will naturally fall out on their own. You can also try to speed up the process by using oil-based cleansers or eye creams to help loosen the lash glue, but this is not an immediate solution.

The takeaway from this is that eyelash extensions are an investment and a commitment. Doing thorough research and understanding the pros and cons of lash extensions, will help you make an informed decision before spending the money.

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