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My tale of DIY lash extensions began in tragedy, but it ended in sweet, budget-friendly harmony. First, the tragedy: One day, while hanging out with a friend, I noticed that she had these long, fluttery lashes that she didn't have the last time I saw her. I assumed they were extensions, but she told me they were false lashes that she'd applied with "permanent lash glue." As a beauty editor, I was ashamed that I didn't know such a thing existed, but nonetheless, I was intrigued and completely mystified.
But how do they come off? Can you shower with them on? How do you wash your face? I spat out questions like bullets from my mouth, but she took them all in stride.
Keep reading to learn exactly how these at-home lash extensions work.
What Are Eyelash Extensions?
Okay, so lash extensions aren't than much different that the typical false lashes. They are individual lash fibers bonded by medical-grade adhesive to provide length, fullness, curl, and thickness to natural lashes. The biggest difference is ultra-strength glue and special remover. "Eyelash extensions are when false lashes are glued to your existing lash to extend the lash’s length," explains celebrity makeup artist Ramy Gafni.
Apparently, the adhesive used to glue the lashes is so sturdy you can gently wash your face and get them wet without having to worry about rogue lashes falling off in clumps. The best part: They last for weeks. I've been dying to get lash extensions, but I haven't wanted to cough up the money, so DIY lash extensions sounded like the perfect alternative.
Benefits of DIY Eyelash Extensions
• Low-cost alternative to professional eyelash extensions
• Long, defined lashes
• No need to wear as much makeup
Salon eyelash extensions can be costly (think around $200 for a full set) and can actually wreak havoc on your natural lashes, interfering with your ability to apply eye and face creams. Professional extensions also require a lot of upkeep and can take as long as two hours to apply. DIY eyelash extensions, meanwhile, can be applied at home, with all necessary products available for under $20. They won't be quite as dramatic (more on that, below) but they still do lead to long, fluttery, defined lashes that a simple tube of mascara simply can't compete with.
What to Expect from DIY Eyelash Extensions
Watch Now: How to Apply DIY Eyelash Extensions
In an attempt to get the long, fluttery lashes of my dreams, I set out on my DIY eyelash extensions adventure. I contacted the lovely team at Ardell, and they sent me their permanent glue, LashTite Clear Adhesive ($6), and a friendly note saying that I needed to use the included LashFree Adhesive Remover ($5) to take them off, otherwise, my real lashes could come off with the falsies (yikes). I was cautious, but I was pumped.
I spilled a few drops of the LashTite onto a piece of foil as instructed on the box, and then I dipped an Ardell Individual Lash in Medium ($5) into the glue and applied it right on top of my own lashes.
Apply the lashes directly on your natural lashes, not onto the eyelid.
Things were going well until I decided the glue was looking clumpy and the lashes weren't sticking on well, so I washed my face to get all the glue and lashes off and start over again. Big mistake. The glue got in my eyes, and it stung like holy hell. With one eye open, I even googled "getting permanent lash glue in eyes going blind" and prayed that I'd wake up with my vision the next morning. It was bad.
Thankfully, the next day, I was fine (save for a minor headache), so I gave my eyes a rest for a few days and tried again. The second time around, I knew not to use so much glue and to work more quickly, as the glue tends to get tacky, and it dries fast while it's on the foil. I also applied a few of the shorter lashes toward the inner corner of my eyes. There was no clumping and no burning—just feathery, realistic lashes.
To create a more realistic lash look, apply shorter lashes toward the inner part of your eye and gradually increase the length as you move towards the outer corner.
Even though my lash experiment was a total DIY, I tapped into lash expert and Ardell educator, Mae Manalo for proper aftercare instructions to learn how to get the most out of my DIY eyelash extensions. "Don't rub your eyes when drying with a cloth, avoid waterproof mascara, and use a foam cleanser," Manalo suggests. In short, try to be as gentle with your lash extensions as possible for long-lasting results.
When it was time to take them off, I will admit the process took a bit of elbow grease and patience. Some of the lashes were stuck on like concrete, so I needed to work at them with both my fingernails and a cotton ball soaked in the LashFree Remover. This resulted in a few of my own lashes coming out (cries internally), but it wasn't noticeable or too heart-wrenching.
Above is a photo of me with the DIY lashes on one week after applying them and no mascara. The lashes aren't as long or as full as an actual set of lash extensions, but they work for me and the look I was going for. (If you want a more dramatic look, you can use the longer individual lashes or layer them for a thicker set.)
The Final Takeaway
It's important to note that DIY lash extensions require a lot of patience—and precision. In fact, they can be so tedious that some experts don't recommend DIY lash extensions at all. "Because it requires such precision I do not recommend attempting this at home," says Gafni. "Opt instead for great mascara and lash bases topcoats or False lashes that need to be reapplied daily."
Fortunately, I found the process to be fairly seamless—so much so that I would absolutely attempt DIY lash extensions again. Don't get me wrong, I have tremendous respect for lash-extension experts, and I marvel at the natural-looking, intricate work they're able to create. However, I don't have the budget to pay $130 to $200 for a full set, so I'm happy that I've found a solution that only costs me $10. Is it perfect? Are the bases of the lashes undetectable? No, but I didn't wear mascara to work for days after I applied them, which is something I've never done, and I still felt awesome, so I'm calling it a win. They also lasted me one-and-a-half weeks, and they probably could've lasted longer if I was a bit more careful when I washed my face and didn't thrash around while I slept. All in all, though, I'm in love with the look and the price.
Want to give these budget-friendly lashes an old college try? Shop the products below.