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UPDATED Thinking About Eyelash Extensions? Six Answered Questions That Could Save You Time, Money and Pain
Bat Your Lashes, Big Time
Why bother with eyelash extensions?
They're costly and uncomfortable to apply. They require maintenance and--no kidding--lifestyle adjustments (I'll explain that later).
But they can be gorgeous. Like my friend Heather said, "After I had them done I felt like I had lost five pounds."
There are lots of great reasons (excuses) to go all Betty Boop.
Now that I've had extensions done three times, by three different salons, I can tell you there are some mighty good reasons to avoid them entirely (and, if you have enough patience) there's a decent alternative.
If, after you read this entire post, you still want extensions, I'm sure you will find a way to justify your big move.
First, let's go over the advantages of extensions:
1. I am over fifty, and I cannot believe that I still have oily skin. Nearly every brand of "waterproof mascara" is a joke: by the end of a work day, I get raccoon eyes. (I did find one brand, Serges Lutens, from Barney's, that I dubbed 'nuke-proof mascara', but, along with the REQUIRED remover pads, it cost $100 a tube, I kid you not--and the stuff is so adherent that it scared me).
Besides, I felt like I had a good mascara, not that I had great lashes.
2. My daughter got married!
The big day justified a certain amount of irrational exuberance. I wanted to look nice for the wedding, and I am sure I'm going to cry through most of it, so it's eyelash extensions or makeup all over my face.
3. I was in New York City.
Some areas of the country are less progressive than the Big Apple. I knew I could find a salon with plenty of experience, and hopefully a competitive price.
4. My friend Heather claims that you can spend up to $600 for a new set of lashes from some of the Upper East Side salons, so I was relieved to hear that her favorite place, recommended by the wife of a plastic surgeon, was much more reasonably priced.
5. The place where I had mine done, BlingLash, had lots of Yelp! feedback, a professional website, and a list of discounts--first visit, referral and cash discounts all applied.
6. There was also an active Groupon, but the way I figured out my discounts, I didn't need it.
7. BlingLash on 23rd Street is only three blocks from my NYC apartment. It was like the eyelash angels were smiling on me.
BEFORE You Go, You Should Know...
Hey, I thought I'd make an appointment, get my lashes, and be done with it.
NOT SO FAST.
There are decisions to be made, and they are best made before you go in. Like many eyelash studios, BlingLash employs skilled technicians, but the woman who helped me was not equipped to give me thoughtful options. It was basically, "What do you want?"
At my second eyelash appointment, the woman gave me some helpful feedback. Instead of twenty beds in two rows (Bling Lash has a sort of eyelash factory), this woman had her own business in downtown Chicago.
The skilled operator was appalled at the length and heaviness that BlingLash used, I'd loved the dramatic lashes, but I noticed them ALL THE TIME. Every blink. Sure I got used to them, but the woman who did my major "fill" pointed out that I'd lost a lot of lashes. My lashes weren't all that strong to being with, and making them carry extensions was simply too much.
The Chicago operator was right. I'd lost a lot of lashes in one month--not all of them were extensions, either (gulp).
What Material, Length, Curl, Color and Style is Best for Me?
There are four major variables for eyelash extensions.
First, what material? Synthetic mink (whatever THAT is) is the default choice. There's also real mink (please, say NO to fur!), faux fox, silk, even human hair...You need to read up on these materials to see which works for the desired effect and your budget.
Next, consider length. I know, I know, you want to go all out...but I'm warning you. Long lashes aer not the best for long-term wear. Do you wear glasses? You don't want to rub your lashes the wrong way. Plus, the laws of physics will not be defied: longer means heavier, and unless you want to shower with your eyes shut, think twice about ANYTHING over 12 mm. (that's what I got from Bling Lash. The Chicago gal went down to 10 mm., and they were quite a bit thinner).
Third, consider curl. There's a J curl and a C curl. Get ready to decide which consonant looks better on your face. The C curl is advertised as firmer, more glamorous and dramatic, where the J curl has a more flattering side and oblique profile. I also think a C curl makes you look faintly surprised. When I was unable to decide, my technician advised a compromise JC curl. If your technician offers, that, it's what I'd recommend.
Color: I was offered brown, dark brown and black, and every time I got these done, I chose the dark brown (which looks black).
Finally, what style? Natural, Cute, Sexy, or Cat Eye? Don't just point and grunt at this option. Take your face shape into consideration, and whether or not you just want to look better or have someone say, "Whoa, look at those fake lashes."
I made a tactical error here. I have a long face, so I picked the Sexy Eye, which flares at the outer ends. I thought it would counterbalance my long face. While the physics were logical, I think, if I had this to do again, I would pick Natural, which is what the Chicago operator inisisted upon, the second time I had these done.
Do I have Allergies or Itchy Eyes?
Caution: If you rub your eyes out of habit, eyelash extensions are a bad eyedia (sorry, irressistable).
If you suffer from allergies, don't do this in the season (or location) where your allergies are likely to flare up.
If you are chemically sensitive, I'd stop by the eyelash extension place and ask them to daub a little of their glue in an inconspicuous spot a day or two before your appointment: you wouldn't want to realize you have a problem with a surgical adhesive in the middle of this process, trust me.
Many salons offer a 'sensitive' option, but the 'sensitive' glue is not as good. You'll lose those false lashes more quickly if you choose 'sensitive' glue.
How do I Sleep, Shower, Sweat (and More)?
If you are a belly sleeper, don't bother with these lashes. Also, try to change your sleep position--your back will thank you later in life, I promise.
AFTER I had my lashes applied the first time, I was handed a half-page slick flyer that said "Do not sleep on your side or your belly."
I am a side sleeper. I figured a work-around that's a little easier because my eyes are a tad deep-set: I sleep on an ergonomic pillow inside a SATIN pillowcase (to minimize friction, a satin pillowcase is a good idea for anyone concerned about wrinkles, etc.). i'm sleeping on the very EDGE of the pillow, with my cheek supported, but my eye does not touch the fabric (at least most of the time).
NEVER rub your eyes. This is a great discipline for someone who is trying to be more vigilant around the delicate eye area anyway.
AVOID oil-based eye makeup and oil based eye makeup remover. PERIOD. The oil can loosen th glue bond.
BE CAREFUL washing your face. Instead of splashing my entire face, I've learned to separate forehead washing.
In the shower, you will want to avoid a direct spray. And because you will need to rinse your eyes to keep them clean, just be careful. I positioned my shower stuff in a row so I know where to grab, with my eyes shut, and I toss a clean washcloth over the edge of the glass and daub my eyes when I need to open them.
Avoid steam showers for the first 24-hours, I was warned. Unless I was congested or sore as hell, I would not take a steam shower with these babies on my eyes. Ditto with steamers and saunas.
What About Maintenance?
My technician at BlingLash was ready to schedule a fill in two weeks. I declined.
Not only was I planning to be in Montana at that time, but I also tried these lashes as a 'dry run' for my daughter's wedding. Even the salon's website says lash extensions should be removed at least once a year, and the natural lashes allowed to grow back normally.
UPDATE: It's been a month and I STILL have basically lovely lashes. They are, however, growing out and (gulp) falling off. I've taken great care of them: no mascara, no eye makeup remover--in fact, I found I need NO EYE MAKEUP, PERIOD!
Some of my lashes, though, are A HALF INCH LONG and the lower ones are starting to look a little wonky. Because I'm back in NYC, I decided to get a fill, and grow them out over the summer. I'll let you know how the technician deals with my too-long lashes..check back, okay?
2016 Update: Neu Lash
The gal in Chicago, before she did my lashes, made me promise to go to a high-end departent store and buy a product called "NeuLash." That meant, on top of the $200 for my replacement lashes (done in time for the wedding), I'd have to invest another $150 in a product to strengthen my lashes.
There are other brands, but I stuck with the NeuLash, which I bought at Nordstrom's.
I waited until after the wedding to break open the NeuLash. I noticed right off that the 'fallout' was decreased, and even after I lost all the extensions, I felt that my lashes were not as devastated as they were after my BlingLash experience.
I started out using NeuLash every night, and I've cut it back to every other night. My natural lashes look pretty darn good! And if I use a lash primer and then mascara for an evening out--va VA VOOM!!! My natural lashes look terrific.
Neu Lash vs. Extensions
I would still go with the extensions for a milestone event (my daughter's wedding). Now that my lashes are stronger, I'd try to find a specialist.
If you've never had extensions and you want them for a special event, I'd try to find someone who will counsel you, and not just apply extensions.
If you are under forty, have strong lashes, and just want the drama, I'd be okay with BlingLash. But if you are mature, and you are the 'careful type', I'd call around and find someone who'll answer questions to your satisfaction.
If you must look like a sex kitten 24/7, you can't beat extensions.
If you are the sexy librarian type who can let your hair down once or twice a week, go with NeuLash and a good waterproof mascara. That Serge Lutens stuff is the BOMB, but after you lay out $200 for mascara and remover on top of the $150 for NeuLash, and...well...
If You Go for Extensions, Here's What to Expect
Scroll down to find out how to deal with the process, if you go for extensions.
What's The Process, Step by Step?
If you are freaked out by shutting your eyes for, oh, an hour or two, and letting a complete stranger meticulously glue on something you can't see, well...you are not a candidate for this procedure.
If you are just a bit nervous, I have some tips.
BRING ALONG earphones attached to an iPod, radio, etc. You will not be allowed to readjust the station or mess around with it, so set yourself up on 'shuffle' or put on a podcast and enjoy a couple of episodes of This American Life or Freakonomics Radio.
Pee before you start.
Sleep if you can.
Be ready to face your own morning breath afterwards. There's something about this process that had me mouth-breathing for much of the time, and from the bottle of Listerine by the sink in the loo, I can guess I am not alone.
Bring an umbrella if it looks like rain, and sunglasses if you tear up on windy or very sunny days.