There are realistic dreams and there are unrealistic dreams. A (somewhat) realistic dream of mine would be to one day start my own line of niche fragrances. An unrealistic dream of mine would be to suddenly develop a talent for rapping in Korean and eventually become the newest member of Blackpink. Being the owner of naturally-thick, fluffy, and long lashes has always fallen squarely in the second camp for me—until now. My lashes are best described as lackluster, and they’ve been that way for most of my life. They’re thin, and more importantly, stick-straight—no amount of curling with an eyelash curler will make them curl upwards and outwards mascara ad-style. Instead, they’ll stay curled for a few seconds, then eventually droop down depending on what mascara I’m using. It’s an annoying conundrum: since my lashes are thin, I prefer volumizing formulas, but those tend to weigh down my lashes and remove any semblance of curl.
Thus, I faked it. I got lash extensions a few years ago and reveled in my suddenly-thick and curled lashes. Sure, they looked slightly unnatural and they were annoying to take care of, but it didn’t matter! I finally had the fluttery lashes of my dreams. After a year and a half, I decided it was probably time to give my lashes a break (in other words: my bank account was begging for me to take a break). The only thing was, my extensions had snapped all my natural lashes off. My eyeballs were bald. My natural lashes were little stumps, sticking up in whatever which way. I screamed—then immediately asked for another round of extensions. (According to Courtney Buhler, founder of Sugarlash PRO, lash extensions shouldn't damage lashes if they are applied correctly—apparently, I didn't go to someone who was trained properly. The more you know.) Eventually, I discovered something that helped me grow my lashes noticeably in just a few weeks: GrandeLash ($65). I’ve tried a lot of lash serums, and this one is the best one that’s worked for me. I’m impatient, and I swear I’ll see results from GrandeLash in just a few days. It’s what eventually grew my lashes to a place where I could actually brush a mascara wand through them without shouting, “CURSE YOUUUUU!” into the mirror.
So now my lashes were back to their natural state—fairly long, but still stick-straight and wispy. I happened to be in Los Angeles and makeup artist Jenn Streicher invited me into her studio STRIIIKE to get a lash lift. I had just been in Cabo with her and her sister Ashley, and had marveled at their lashes—they were so fluttery and curled! They told me their secret was something called a keratin lash lift. I was intrigued—I had heard of the treatment before, but I was skeptical it would work on my thin, barely-noticeable lashes. But Jenn promised me I’d love it, so I went in. The whole process took about 45 minutes. You have to sit there with your eyes closed as the lash specialist works their magic—if you’ve ever gotten lash extensions, this is a similar process to that, but slightly condensed. When Jenn peeled off the tape and showed me my new lashes, I was happy to see they were lifted, but I wasn’t blown away. They weren’t suddenly thicker, or miles-long—they just looked more lifted, which was nice, but they weren’t necessary that much more noticeable. Jenn told me to leave them dry for 48 hours, then I could put mascara on them.
And that’s when the transformation happened. That’s when this treatment honestly changed my life. As I brushed my mascara wand through my lashes, I suddenly noticed my lashes were staying extremely perky and lifted—like someone had put an invisible push-up bra under my lashes. My lashes were suddenly peppy cheerleaders, waving at the world with their legkicks flying high. They looked longer, thicker and fluffier than they ever had—and the best part was that no matter what mascara I used, they continued to look luscious.
This curl lasted about eight weeks, then faded back into their natural relaxed state. I wasn’t sure where to go in New York for another lash lift, so I somehow convinced myself that perhaps it wasn’t as life-changing as I gave it credit for. If I heated up my eyelash curler before curling my lashes and used the right mascara, I could get a similar effect! (Or so I told myself.) I went back to my wilted lash days and told myself it was okay—the difference wasn’t that noticeable. Everything felt mundane again. Six months of my life went by in a gray haze.
Then, last week, I got invited to get another lash lift with Sugarlash PRO founder Courtney Buhler. I went with low expectations—I didn’t want to be disappointed if I had built up the final effect in my head. Turns out, I didn’t. My lashes have never looked better—not when I had extensions, not when I wore extensions, not when I used Latisse back in the day. The curl that the keratin lash lift gives my lashes has made such a big difference—namely, that they make my lashes actually visible. After two experiences, I can honestly say that a lash lift is a treatment that I will absolutely consider a non-negotiable part of my beauty regimen (if my bank account allows). The two-step process of getting a lash lift and using Grandelash every day has helped me get the lashes I've always envied. Dream big, kids.
I asked Buhler all my pressing lash lift questions below--from how they work to how much they cost.
What exactly is a keratin lash lift and how does it work?
“A lash lift is a new, modernized way to perm or lift lashes that is safer, more gentle, and more effective than the old-school perms of the past. First, we assess your lashes and determine the shield size/curl for your lashes. Next, we determine whether or not to add any specialties to the service, like a tint, plump, or glaze. Once we have our game plan for the lashes, we cleanse the lashes, apply gel pads to the lower lashes and apply the shields to your eyelid using skin-safe adhesive.
The same adhesive is applied to the top of the shield and natural lashes are brushed up onto the shield. Once the lashes are fixed and arranged into perfect place, we apply the perm solution on the base of the natural lashes. It sits for 7 to12 minutes, depending on hair density. It softens the hair in order for it to take the shape. It's important to keep the perm solution at the base instead of the entire lash to avoid damage.
Next, we remove the perm solution and apply a setting lotion over top. This hardens the hair back up, so the shape is locked in.
Are there different types of lash lifts beyond keratin?
“'Keratin’ is a buzz word in the lash lift world. Most systems have some form of keratin in them whether it’s the nourishing oil or an after-lift mascara. Just because a lift isn’t called a ‘keratin’ lift doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain steps with keratin in it. It’s just a very small part of the service.”
Is there any instance when a lash lift could be considered unsafe?
“Yes. There are many systems on the market that are too fast. The faster they perm, the stronger the solution is and we all know what can happen when hair gets over treated—it can get brittle or damaged. Sugarlash PRO lifts are definitely not the fastest in the industry, but our formula is unable to damage the hair structure—and we keep it at this level so that the procedure has longevity and is sustainable long term.”
How do you know if you're a good candidate for a lash lift vs. extensions?
“If you are happy with how your natural lashes look when they are curled and a single coat of mascara, then lift is for you! If you need more drama, or a more customized look, lash extensions are definitely the way to go. When done by a reputable provider, neither will ever cause damage.”
How long do lash lifts usually last?
Is it possible to damage your lashes by getting too many lash lifts in a row?
“Only if you go too soon and lift lashes that are already lifted. We recommend lifts every 7 to 9 weeks. If you’re going every 4 weeks, that would be stressful to the hair. Also note that there is no mandatory maintenance with lifts, but we so recommend a lash conditioner or an oil on them before bed to keep them extra supple."
What is the average cost for a lash lift?
“$75-135 per treatment.”
Click here for the three things no one ever tells you about lash extensions.