I Got A Lash Lift, and I'm Swearing Off Extensions for Good


I Got a Lash Lift and I'm Swearing Off Lash Extensions for Good

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I’ve had a love-hate relationship with lash extensions since my first encounter.

Once I turned 40, my naturally long and fairly voluminous lashes seemed to morph overnight into a mess of twisted, do-nothing, hold-no-curl stubs. To make my lashes look halfway decent, I would pump my Shiseido Eyelash Curler to no avail and even blast my lashes with a shot of air from my blow dryer. But in minutes, they would fall flat and straighten out completely — even with a few layers of mascara. So I decided to put down the tools and give my amorphous eyelashes a new lease on life with lash extensions.

For the most part, I love how they instantly create a glam look with little to no effort required. I also like how extensions accentuate my eye shape, so they look more defined. But like so many, I'm not fond of the time required to keep up with them — not to mention the financial commitment.

So it goes without saying that I haven't always had the best track record with extensions. It's been an on-again, off-again relationship. Over the past few years, I have had my share of amazing lash extensions, decent fringes, downright terrible lashes, barely existent ones, and sets that were so over-the-top-elaborate (not at my request) that my lashes looked like they were going to take off for flight.

It wasn't until I met celebrity lash expert Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes, which has locations in Manhattan and Miami, that I finally experienced my first set of genuinely excellent lash extensions. I mean, downright fabulous ones. Richardson's work is so good; she created a lash pattern that gave my eyes more of an almond shape and my lashes the perfect amount of flair. For six months, I trekked to Richardson's Miami studio to have her magical hands beautify my lashes.

Fast forward to this past summer. After recovering from COVID, I was heading west for the summer and needed a fresh set of lash extensions. Unfortunately, Richardson and her team were booked (I called 48 hours before hopping on a plane). So, I made an appointment at a local salon on a whim. That was mistake number one.

I had apprehensions as soon as I walked into the salon. But two hours and $250 later, I emerged from the treatment room looking like there were butterfly wings glued onto my eyelids instead of the natural-looking extensions I was accustomed to. They were too long, too thick, and too curly, and the shape and placement were off. I was appalled. I told myself this was the last time I would wear lash extensions, no matter what.

Five days later, I sat at my kitchen table staring at the mountainside and picked out every extension and plenty of my natural lashes (that was unintentional). Of course, I know ripping out extensions is a no-no. Still, I could not bear to look at myself for another day with these extensions that made my eyes look squinty and pulled down. I didn't even look like myself.

As my lashes began to slowly grow back in the coming weeks, thanks to  GrandeLASH-MD Lash Enhancing Serum, I started researching lash lift treatments. I knew I still needed help in the curl and length department, but I wanted a low-maintenance option. 

Lash lifts are relatively quick, and I knew wouldn't leave my lashes looking like a tangled web of plastic wisps hanging off my upper eyelids. Also, before going in, I thoroughly explained to the tech what I wanted, and what I didn't. I left pleasantly surprised.

All it took was one 60-minute treatment, and I was hooked. The process was simple and painless (no tugging on my lashes), and my lashes emerged looking nearly twice as long as usual and with a perfect glossy curl. I couldn't believe how good my lashes looked bare — they were 10 times better with mascara. After a few weeks, I thought the curl would start to fade and my twisted, straight lashes would reemerge. But they didn't. I'm almost three months from the lift, and I can't wait to get it done again.

So, if you're deciding between lash extensions and a lash lift, or want to take a break from extensions and let your natural lashes thrive, here are all the ins and outs of the treatment.

How Lash Lifts Work

A lash lift is a semi-permanent treatment that enhances and curls the natural eyelashes upwards. "A lift makes the lashes more visible from the front, which frames the eyes," Richardson says. In addition, the treatment, often combined with a lash tint to darken the eyelashes, creates separation and uniformity between each lash when done correctly by a professional.

When it comes to choosing the right treatment for you, just know that several types of lash lifting products exist, including keratin lash lifts and lash perms. Samantha Susca, a licensed esthetician at Casa Cipriani in New York who performs lash lifts, says the different ingredients in the solutions produce different results. "Lash lift formulas contain keratin to deeply condition, restructure, and fortify the lash, making them a good option for someone with weak to normal lashes that wants a natural-looking curl. Lash perms are more involved and contain ammonium thioglycolate, which provides a more dramatic, longer-lasting curl. They're better for someone with naturally long, strong lashes that can support that strong curl," she says. 

In a nutshell, a lash lift utilizes two different chemical solutions in two steps. The first step curls the lashes by breaking the outer cuticle of the natural lash and forcing them to bend upwards. The second step fortifies and sets them. The treatment temporarily changes the shape of the lashes with a curling rod and keratin or chemical-based solution.

While the curl is why most people book a lash lift appointment, the natural volume it gives is unparalleled. "Lash lifts are great for giving the illusion of wider, brighter, and more awake-looking eyes by lifting and separating the lashes uniformly," Susca says. "Plus, the enhanced curl of the lashes creates an optical illusion of an upward direction, which gives the appearance of longer lashes." There's also no heavy look of clustered lashes, which can be common with eyelash extensions.

"Whether you have short or long lashes, you will see a dramatic difference," says celebrity eyelash artist and YUMILashes USA CEO Elysee Zhadikpur. I've even had friends ask what brand of false lashes I wear. When I tell them it is just a lash lift topped with one of my favorite mascaras — YSL Radical Volumizing Mascara, L'oreal Telescopic Mascara or Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes! Mascara — their mouths drop. They want to know every last detail about the treatment.

What's the difference between a lash lift and lash extension?

Extensions bring the drama and allow your lashes to look "done" without having to put on a stitch of makeup. Applying individual synthetic extensions to the root of each natural lash with a special bonding glue adds volume, length, and density. Richardson says that lash extensions can be used to contour the shape of the eye, add volume, length, curl, and density. The extensions move along the length of the lash, so as your natural lashes grow and shed, the extensions fall off.

Although lash extensions can let you somewhat go eye makeup-free, they do have their downsides, like daily brushing and fills every two to three weeks. Heavy extensions can also pull on your natural lashes, make the eyes look droopy and even cause lash loss. There's also the chance you will need to revamp your eye and makeup products and routine since oil-based products are off-limits (they can break down extension glue). Plus, extensions are expensive — some lash stylists charge upwards of $450 per set.

However, extensions work for all natural lash lengths and thicknesses, and so does a lash lift. "As long as the lashes can adhere to the shield, they can be lifted (at least four millimeters). However, you can still get great results with short lashes," Zhadikpur says.

Unlike lash extensions, lash lifts are maintenance-free — you can use any makeup and skincare products, and the treatment does not need to be repeated often. Whether you enhance your lifted lashes with mascara or not (the choice is up to you), a lift may save you a few extra minutes in your get-ready routine. "A lash lift (and tint) will curl your natural lashes upward, but it won't give that "wow" factor as extensions do," Richardson says.

Most lash stylists do not recommend opting for a lash lift while wearing extensions, but it is okay to get fresh extensions about one week following a lash lift. Richardson has a few clients with extremely turned-down eyelashes who do this because they want a more lifted look with the extensions. 

How is a lash lift is performed?

Before you arrive at your appointment, there are a few things your lash technician will instruct you to do at home to prepare for the impending lift. For starters, avoid using oils or oil-based beauty products (they can break down the lifting solutions and result in half-curled lashes), eye creams and lash serums for 12 to 24 hours pre-appointment. Richardson also recommends that those whose natural lashes are not in great shape use a treatment product, like Envious Lashes Lash Conditioning Serum, for a few weeks before the treatment to help strengthen the lashes.

Once you arrive at your appointment bare-faced (you won’t be able to wet or wash your face for the first day), your technician will have you lie down on the treatment bed, analyze your lashes, and cleanse them thoroughly. Next, an adhesive pad is placed under the eyes to protect the lower lids and keep the lower lashes out of the way. Then, a small curved silicone rod (it resembles the rubber cushion pad inside an eyelash curler) is placed on the upper eyelid at the base of the lash line. The lashes are carefully separated and then adhered to the rod.

From there, your lash tech will apply two different solutions. First, a keratin or perming solution is brushed through the lashes, which curls them. "It breaks the lashes' bond, penetrates the hairs, and allows the stylist to safely manipulate the hair follicle direction without damaging the natural lashes," Richardson explains. Breaking the bond also gives the lashes their newly curled shape. The solution sits for about 10 minutes before removal. 

Next, a neutralizing setting solution is brushed onto the lashes to lock them in place. Then, the lashes are brushed again, and a coat of a conditioning keratin serum is swiped onto the just-lifted lashes, giving them a glossy finish while protecting the eyelashes. Lastly, the rods, under-eye patches, and any tape used to hold them down are removed. From start to finish, the entire treatment takes about 45 to 60 minutes tops.

What results should I expect?

After my lash lift was complete, I looked at my lashes in the mirror and was enamored. Unlike extensions, which always made me look more done up, the lash lift left my lashes soft and wispy with the perfect amount of curl, separation, and elegance. Immediately after the treatment, my eyelashes looked like they were sporting a few coats of the glossiest black mascara, which was really just the fresh effect of the lift. Plus, dialing up the volume on an as-needed basis fits my lifestyle perfectly. I can go bare and natural for pilates or layer on a few coats of mascara for a glam look for a night out. 

How long will results last?

Susca says your lashes will likely stay lifted for four to eight weeks, if not longer, depending on the condition of the lashes and post-care routine. As the lifted lashes go through their normal growth cycle, they may start to straighten out and even fall out. New lashes will replace them that resemble what you started with. However, they won't look sparse or patchy like they can when extensions shed with natural eyelashes.

However, Zhadikpur cautions not to be overzealous and have too many lifts done too close together. "With a YUMI lash lift, you can get a lash lift every eight weeks. If you get it done any sooner, you can risk your lashes becoming over-processed." Overdoing it with too many lifts can cause the lashes and lash tips to break off. 

What to Know About Aftercare

Once your lashes have been lifted, it’s vital to keep them dry for the first 24 to 48 hours. That means no sweating, saunas, face washing, or wearing makeup. "During this time, the product is still actively working, so doing any of that can cause adverse results," Zhadikpur shares.

Most lash experts recommend applying a conditioning lash growth or strengthening serum daily, like Agent Nateur Lash & Brow Serum, or even coconut or olive oil to keep the lashes strong. While it's not imperative to brush lifted lashes as it is with extensions, it won't hurt them either.

Can I still use mascara?

Mascara is not mandatory post-lift, yet plenty of women choose to layer it on. "You can use mascara or opt for a makeup-free look and still look bright-eyed and awake," Susca shares. Any type of mascara and eye-makeup remover is compatible with a lash lift.

For the most get-up-and-go, fuss-free option, pair a lash lift with a lift tint to darken the lashes, which Richardson says makes the lash lift even more impactful. "Some clients have naturally dark lashes, so they don't need a tint." Adding on a tint was out of the question for me due to an extreme dye allergy. So instead, I pile on a few coats of mascara daily to make my lashes pop.

How much does a lash lift cost?

Depending on where you get your lash lift done dictates the price, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $200 for a lash lift. And if you add a tint, that can run you another $50 or more. So, while the treatment isn't necessarily cheap, the results are worth the price — and less expensive than extensions.

The Bottom Line

No beauty treatment is without its risks, so while there are plenty of pros, it's still important to keep a few things in mind if you're going for a lash lift.

For starters, the processing time is vital. If the solutions are not left on long enough, they won’t work as intended. On the flip side, leaving the solution on the lashes for too long can over-process the hairs, causing them to take on a frizzy or curly look. 

You’ll also want only a licensed professional trained in lash lifts to perform the service. "The solution should never get close enough to the eye to get into them. If you're concerned about a potential allergic reaction, I recommend doing a patch test of the solutions before applying them near the eyes," Susca says. 

However, if you go to a trained professional you trust, the results will be more than worth it.

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