Eyelash extensions are a fairly genius invention. One application and you get to wake up with Audrey Hepburn eyes for 6-8 weeks? Sign me up!
That was my mindset prior to experiencing the process for the first time. Magazines and friends reference eyelash extensions like they're any old beauty treatment. Friends would emerge at parties with longer-than-ever lashes and casually say, "Oh I got extensions!" when I'd inquire about their secret.
I actually thought getting them done was as simple as getting a gel manicure.
Turns out, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.
Since no one seems to talk about the time it takes, claustrophobia, and restrictions involved, I’m here to share what it's really like to get eyelash extensions.
If you've ever considered getting them done, click through the slideshow to read my tips and lessons learned.
When my technician told me she'd need to tape my eyes shut, sheer panic took over. I had no idea that was part of the deal. I'd just assumed I'd have to close my eyes. I don't even really consider myself to be claustrophobic, but the idea seemed terrifying.
The lash technician will place medical tape over both the top and bottom of your eyes, sometimes on top of gel pads, to make it possible to apply the extensions. Otherwise, your eyes could flit around and open involuntarily, which would place you at risk of getting glue in your eyes, or accidentally scraped by tweezers, or dropping an extension into your eye—the list goes on.
My heart was pounding for the first 10 minutes they were taped shut, and I kept fearing that I'd rip the tape open by trying to open my eyes. I knew it was temporary, and would be over soon (not really…more on that later), but it still felt restrictive to be lying on a table, conscious yet unable to see behind a black wall of tape. It was extremely hard for me to relax, and I had visions of just sitting up, taking the tape off, and giving up on the process.
I did relax a tiny bit as I got used to the sensation of my eyes being taped shut, and tried not to think about it. I tried to tell myself it was just like taking a nap, and was able to zone out a few times. But even with that initial adjustment, I remained tense and desperate for the tape to be lifted the entire duration of the process. Focusing on calm, even breathing helped.
It depends on how many lashes you want applied, but it generally takes two hours to apply a full set. My technician wanted to do a full set (about 60 lashes on each eye), which requires painstaking attention to detail. I remember trying to count the number of lashes she'd applied, but keeping awareness only makes time go slower, like checking the treadmill when you're running. When I realized how long it had taken to apply just 12 lashes, and how much longer I had to go, I was convinced I couldn't make it.
Luckily, she did both eyes at the same time, to keep things even in case I was too restless or claustrophobic to make it through a full set. (Technicians generally do a few extensions on one eye, then on the other, so that if the client needs to stop mid-session, they don't look like the guy from A Clockwork Orange). She checked in with me when I'd reached completion of a half set and asked if I wanted to stop, but I'd made it so far that I was determined to see the experience through.
Now that I know the anxiety I get from the tape and how long the process takes, I probably would have taken some kind of natural relaxant beforehand, like a cup of calming herbal tea, or maybe even a glass of wine. One thing to definitely skip? Caffeinated beverages.
Also, most technicians will tell you it's totally fine for you to just fall asleep. Mine kindly played ambient background music, so I wasn’t feeling pressured to chat for the length of a feature film while a stranger stood above my face delicately gluing tiny lashes to my eyes.
Let It Adjust
One thing I learned after my first experience with eyeIash extensions is that you do feel awareness of the physical change. It takes adjusting, and even weeks after they were applied it was still difficult for me to forget the existence of the extensions.
I personally am compulsive about touching and playing with things I'm not supposed to, and would constantly touch the extensions and feel the spot where they had been glued. I even pulled a few out (don't tell my technician, please). Obviously this kind of touching and pulling decreases the lifespans of the extension, and can also damage your natural lashes.
I also rub my eyes a lot (basically I'm the worst eyelash extension candidate ever), and my technician told me not to because rubbing your eyes also weakens the adhesive bond.
Additionally, if you sleep on your side you are prone to losing extensions sooner. I am side sleeper and would sometimes feel my extensions rubbing against the pillow, and be certain I'd wake up to a pillow full of lashes. Back sleepers, you're good.
I know that the whole point of extensions is to eliminate the need to wear mascara, but I was still surprised to learn that you're actually not supposed to wear it at all after getting extensions. The ingredients in mascara can undermine longevity of the extensions and cause clumping and tangling; and the makeup remover needed to remove it weakens the lash adhesive. If you do apply it, you're supposed to only put it on the tips of the lashes for a little extra length, and only use oil-free makeup remover.
I personally found eyeliner to be a bit tricky to apply with the extensions too, and removing it with makeup remover pads always tangled my extensions.
Having said all that, would I get them again? Absolutely. The length and fullness of my (faux) lashes were worth every second of horizontal and claustrophobic stillness. As they slowly started to fall out, I could see the difference between my real and false lashes clearly, and I mourned the loss of each one. They looked so pretty on a daily basis and I’m eagerly awaiting my next session (though I’ll probably hit up a wine bar beforehand).