What to know before you get eyelash extensions
Long, full lashes no longer have to be something you're born with. Lash extensions have now gone mainstreamBy Doris Montanera
Once associated with celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, lash extensions are now appearing on spa menus with mani/pedis and waxing—and salons specializing in lashes are popping up. Individually glued to each one of your existing upper eyelashes with a cyanoacrylate-based glue, which is similar to a surgical adhesive, extensions add length and fullness to your lashes, minimizing the need to apply makeup. Old-fashioned false eyelashes have met their match. Says Veronica Tran, owner of Toronto lash and beauty bar Pretty in the City, “Lash extensions shouldn’t look fake.”
So who can wear them? As long as your own lashes are at least three millimetres long, you can get extensions.
Cost and materials: Prices range from approximately $75 for a “flirty” set of 25 to 35 lashes per eye, to $300 for a full set of 60 to 80 lashes per eye. Most lashes are synthetic mink made of polyester. You can get authentic mink that is harvested by brushing the animal; this looks and feels the most natural, but it is also the most expensive and doesn’t last as long as synthetic. “Polish” lashes, named for their black shine, are the least natural looking.
Lengths: You can double the length of your lashes. But any longer and the extensions and your natural lashes may fall out faster, cautions Mylinh On, owner of Sparks salon in Toronto. Lashes come in widths of 0.10 to 0.30 millimetres, but Tran doesn’t recommend anything over 0.20. “If your natural lashes are weak, it will damage them.”
Process: You should be lying down, with pads placed over your lower lashes, eyes closed. Using fine tweezers, the technician dips a fake eyelash in adhesive and then applies it to a natural lash, one millimetre above the root of your lash. A full set for both eyes’ upper lashes takes about two hours. For best results, lashes should be applied individually. If the esthetician does it in an hour, or makes you sit up, she’s cutting corners by “stacking,” a technique that glues on three or more lashes at once, says Tran.
Safety: Some people might be allergic to the glue, which can cause redness and swelling. And if not applied properly, there’s a risk your eyelids could get stuck together, says Health Canada media spokesperson Leslie Meerburg. Health Canada has a guidance document on training and certification of technicians using cyanoacrylate for applying eyelash extensions. However, “the licensing and regulating of individuals working in salons or spas falls under provincial jurisdiction,” says Meerburg. Extensions pose no known health risks if they are applied professionally, says Halifax ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Rafuse. But if they get in your eye, they are more irritating than natural lashes, says Joan Hansen, an optometrist in Tsawwassen, B.C.
Results: You should be able to comb through your lashes with a clean mascara wand. And you shouldn’t be able to feel them. “I’ve seen them at the skin of the eyelid, digging in,” says Tran, which is painful. If that happens, have the extensions removed.
Upkeep: Extensions can last a month; they simply fall out when your natural lashes do. Oils from makeup will shorten the life of the glue bond, as will rubbing, which might pull off your natural lashes, too. You don’t need to curl them or even wear mascara, but if you want mascara, apply a water-based one to the tips only (don’t use waterproof). “Use water- or gel-based cleansers and a sponge-tip applicator or lint-free cloth to remove makeup around the eye,” says Paula McFarlane, owner of Lash Envy in London, Ont. You can also use a baby wash to keep your lashes clean, suggests Tran. Keep lashes dry after application—no sweat-inducing exercise for the first 24 hours, and avoid swimming, and saunas, for the first 48.