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Thinking about getting eyelash extensions? Everything you need to know before you go

Are lash extensions safe? Definitely: Just make sure you're doing your homework

Photo provided by Amanda Whiteing/Adore Lash Studio

Remember when selecting the right mascara used to be a big decision?

For some people, maybe it still is. For others, now they just leave their eyelashes to the professionals.

And if you opt to get lash extensions applied by a pro, you don’t even have to wear mascara. Well, some people still do, but you're really not supposed to. And it's unnecessary. With lash extensions, it’s a whole new world out there, makeup and beauty lovers!

Eyelashes have definitely been gaining popularity these past few years. It seems as if every time you open Instagram, there’s an influencer or celebrity sporting some luscious, thick, voluminous lashes that miiiight not have been in place a few weeks ago. Some of these looks would make Bambi himself, the original lash icon, insanely jealous -- if fictionalized cartoon deer could feel such an emotion, that is.

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So it only makes sense that more and more lash artists seem to be popping up, too, to meet this relatively new demand. It generally costs about $150 for a full set to be applied, and then around the $45 to $60 mark for fills, which are similar to how you might get fills at a nail salon.

It's the wearer's responsibility to keep up with maintaining the look -- for aesthetic reasons and to keep the natural lashes healthy. But if you know what to do, it's pretty low-maintenance.

By the way, those price estimates listed above are incredibly general. Some lash artists might charge closer to the $100 mark for a first set, and some might be more in the $200 range. The same goes with fills, and the price also depends on what kind of lashes the person is requesting. Some artists offer classics, volumes, mega-volumes, mixed sets or some combination of those options.

Eyelash extensions aren't just for people who want over-the-top dramatic lashes. When done correctly, there's an option for a more natural look, as well. Photo provided by Amanda Whiteing/Adore Lash Studio

 

But getting back to the basics, these lashes are on trend, and they can really take someone’s look to the next level. People can still wear other eye makeup, such as eyeliner or eye shadow, but they find they might not need to: the eyelash extensions do so much for your overall look, it’s almost overkill to go any further. Editor’s note: Can confirm!

So, what’s it like to get lashes?

Well, before we get into all of that, let’s just square away one quick note: We’re not talking about buying a pack at the drugstore and applying them ourselves. That’s a bit different, and those aren't considered professional lash extensions, so we’ll touch on that in a bit.

When you get your first set of lashes put on by a pro, you'll sit with this person -- well, you’re lying, and the artist is sitting -- for at least an hour, or often two hours, as they work in close contact with your eye, applying each individual lash.

Needless to say, this is why you’ll want to pick a lash artist who’s comfortable in this role, who has experience and expertise. A popular misconception is that lash extensions are bad for your natural lashes. But that’s not the case if they’re applied properly by the right person with the right training.

When done correctly, application doesn’t hurt. Really, nothing should ever hurt! Fills are less of a time commitment than the original application, and oftentimes, the wearer can just zone out for a bit and wake up glamorous.

The inside of Whiteing's lash salon. Photo provided by Amanda Whiteing/Adore Lash Studio

Oh, and lash extensions are applied to the lash itself, not the skin. When your lash artist finishes up, your eye might feel a little different, as the look takes some getting used to, but you shouldn't feel as if the extensions are too heavy or bothersome. Your eye will likely adapt in about a day, tops. The whole process should seem like no big deal.

Meet Amanda

Lash artist and Michigan salon owner Amanda Whiteing, of Adore Lash Studio, has seen a lot. (That's her salon in the picture above, by the way).

Whiteing has also seen what can happen when someone doesn't take care of her lashes, or when someone isn't using the right products to apply lashes for other people.

And this is why you don’t want to let your cousin’s friend’s sister serve as your lash artist -- unless your cousin’s friend’s sister happens to be licensed and certified, and you feel comfortable with the situation.

In Florida, the state does not require a specific certification for applying eyelash extensions, but it does require someone to obtain a cosmetologist, esthetician, full specialist, facial specialist or medical license. An aspiring lash artist can then take a certification course to fill the knowledge gap specific to eyelashes where those programs leave off, according to this website.

This step matters. You want to find someone's who's licensed and certified.

Whiteing reiterated that lash extensions are perfectly safe, but she recommends the following:

  • Look for that cosmetology or esthetician’s license right off the bat -- “no matter what, 100%.”
  • Get someone who’s certified in lashes, as well, because a person could just teach herself off YouTube and then start offering the service. Just because someone is licensed to practice beauty on others, doesn't mean he or she has experience or the best credentials to offer lash services.
  • If you’re on the fence about an artist, ask to see some examples of that person’s work. And ask for close-ups, Whiteing said. “A lot of people will take a full-face picture, which shows nothing. It doesn’t show the quality of the product. It doesn’t show what could be lingering at those bases, like too much glue. You want to see close-ups.”

Health and safety

Although Whiteing is not a doctor and cannot, and will not, diagnose anything, when asked about whether she’s seen an infection, she said it was pretty likely.

“We’ve turned clients away because they have an unhealthy lash line," she said. "For instance, a few weeks ago, we had a client with damage and buildup and redness and just lashes piled on there. We removed them, cleansed really well, and we’re giving her a three-week break to get back on track with healthy lashes, before we go and apply any weight to them. We don’t want to cause any further irritation. It’s a case-by-case basis. If we can tell the cause and start over, we will. If there’s too much damage, redness or puffiness, it’s a no.”

Here's an example of an up-close shot your lash artist wouldn't love to see: poor application, poor stacking, lash damage and even lash mites. Photo provided by Amanda Whiteing/Adore Lash Studio (although this is not the studio's work).

How does irritation or likely infection happen, anyway?

Improper application is one reason, Whiteing said.

Some of the people offering this less-than-stellar work will use either too much adhesive or the wrong adhesive. Clients will come in with hair glue on their lash lines, and that’s not right.

There’s a specific adhesive on the market that’s been formulated just for eyelash extensions, Whiteing said. You don’t want a product made for other hair.

Speaking of that, now let's touch on the drugstore variety.

“The problem with the drugstore ones (is), they’re fine for temporary use, but a lot of people don’t like to take them off and redo them,” Whiteing said. “So what happens is, it’s a cluster of eyelashes, and when people use them at home, they’re gluing them to multiple natural lashes. So it’s not giving those lashes a chance to grow and shed naturally, so when one lash or two lashes try to grow, it’s going to pull those ones next to it out, when they’re not necessarily ready to come out or grow that quickly.”

Again, extensions, when properly applied, are one extension per natural lash. And then as they grow and shed, they can do so with nothing hindering them or holding them back at the lash line, Whiteing said.

Make sense?

Best-case scenario

So by now, potential lash clients probably know what they don’t want: dirty lashes, untrained technicians or the wrong glue, to name a few things.

Here's another example of an up-close shot your lash artist wouldn't love to see -- photo provided by Amanda Whiteing/Adore Lash Studio (although this is not the studio's work).

So what’s ideal?

You want the lashes applied properly with the right amount of glue and the proper weights, based on the wearer’s natural lashes, Whiteing said. You don't have to worry much about this part; your lash artist will do the heavy lifting, so to speak.

A good lash artist will look at your lashes' strength, length and thickness and go from there.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to this type of work.

Yet it is tempting for people who are gravitating toward lashes to think they just want the most bang for their buck.

Whiteing said it isn't entirely unfamiliar to get a client who wants the heaviest and most voluminous lashes at any cost, but it also doesn’t happen often. She said she doesn’t like to get into specifics with clients about what is or isn’t possible, until she sees that person’s natural lashes under the lights, up close and personal.

“If I take a look and their lashes seem brittle, short, very fine or like they won’t hold a lot of weight, I’ll just talk to the client, like, ‘This is how your natural lash line looks. I don’t think the look you’re going for is possible, given your natural lashes,’” Whiteing said.

Sometimes she’ll chat with that person about other ways to strengthen their lashes, for example, one way might involve using an over-the-counter serum.

“I give them real expectations based on their natural lashes,” Whiteing said. “I’ll never say, ‘You want thick and full? You got thick and full.’”

These are your eyes we're talking about!

For the most part, it doesn’t always seem that people are doing their homework.

“I think that they look at a picture on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook and then they assume that look can be applied to them and they go from there, and they just choose the person who basically has provided that look for someone else,” Whiteing said.

Another editor’s note: I overlooked the same thing. It’s easy to scope a photo on social media and say to yourself, “Let’s do it.” Not so fast!

Photo provided by Amanda Whiteing/Adore Lash Studio

But when it comes to finding the person who will work in such close proximity to your eye, it’s worth the extra effort. It’s a little like finding the right nail technician or hair stylist. If you know hair color is a priority for you, you find an excellent and up-to-date colorist. Similarly, if you know you want volume lashes, you find a certified, experienced lash artist to apply your volume set. (Worth mentioning: there’s a special certification just for artists who work with volumes).

You want to find someone who takes pride in his or her work and who keeps safety and cleanliness top of mind.

 

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People do seem to be receptive to advice and feedback once they learn more about the specifics.

Take, for example, the client mentioned above who only wants the thickest, fullest lashes, but who doesn’t have the best natural lashes as a base.

Does that person usually take what’s recommended, or say “My way or the highway"?

“If we fully educate them, they don’t want to damage their natural lashes,” Whiteing said. “We let them know what will cause damage. I have had a couple, in (my experience), maybe a handful, who are like, ‘No. I just want the person who’s going to apply the look that I want,' which is totally fine. We’re just not the place to cause that sort of damage and know that we’re doing it.”

So now the next time you hear about or see a friend with eyelash extensions, we hope this answered some of your questions. Now get to Googling, so you can find the lash artist who's a perfect fit for you.

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