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My lashes and I have a love-hate relationship. They’re long, which I know because every single makeup artist I've ever met has told me so, but they’re also stubborn and refuse to curl. No matter what mascara I use or which curling tool I purchase, they do not curl. Which is why I decided to give them the LVL treatment that promises to lift, volumize and curl stubborn lashes. I’m no lash-treatment novice—I’ve had them curled before and even became addicted to lash extensions for months on end (my bank balance didn’t look too healthy)—but I’d never tried an LVL treatment. One week after having it done, though, I’m pretty much hooked.
I’ve never seen my lashes look so lifted. Even without mascara, they actually look more lifted. It's safe to say I'm a total convert. I enlisted the help of Charmaine Kyriacou, head trainer at London/NYC salon Browhaus, where I had my treatment and Kenna Murray, national stylist for Amazing Lash Studio. Thinking about joining me in my LVL bliss? Read on for my honest review.
LVL stands for “lash, volume, lift," says Kyriacou. It's a lash-lifting treatment that works with your natural lashes to give the appearance of curl and volume. The results last up to two months with little prep or down-time needed.
What Is an LVL Lash Lift?
"Lash, Volume, Lift is like a perm for your eyelashes. It elevates and curls your natural lashes for four to eight weeks," says Murray. This is an approximately 45-minute treatment in which a lifting balm and volumizing fix are applied to your natural lashes (no extensions here!) to straighten and lift from the root of the hair follicle. It also involves a lash tint.
The treatment may differ slightly depending on the salon. At Browhaus in particular, they've renamed LVL lashes to Lash Curl Up (which goes for $84), and Lashgraphy (which costs $36) to give the technique a branded spin. These are around the median prices for the treatment, and you can even book just the perm or tint. At Amazing Lash Studio, "we follow our Lash Lift service with a deep-conditioning Keratin treatment, to nourish and strengthen your natural lashes," says Murray.
Benefits of LVL Lash Lift?
- Lifts, volumizes, and separates lashes without extensions
- Quick (most appointments last 45-minutes to an hour)
- Minimal preparation and recovery time
- Safe for lashes
- Lasts 6-8 weeks
- Mascara and eye makeup can be worn
- No eyelash curlers necessary
LVL Lash Lift vs. Keratin Lash Lift
How does LVL compare to popular keratin treatments for the eyelashes? There are many similarities. Both involve applying a serum and a curling device called a "rod" to your natural lashes, without adding extensions. They also both result in very natural wispy lashes, though the effect can be customized with the size of the rod For keratin lash lifts, the semi-permanent curling solution is, well, keratin-based. If your eyes are sensitive, LVL might be a better choice because keratin lash lifts can sting. They're also on the pricier side, at about $100-$200.
Sometimes the two treatments can be combined. "At Amazing Lash Studio we don’t differentiate between a lash lift and a keratin lift," says Murray. "The keratin process is part of our lash lift and we strongly recommend always including this nourishing part of the service."
How to Prepare for an LVL Lash Lift
The process actually starts 24 hours before you have your lashes permed with a patch test at the salon. I know, I know—it’s frustrating to have a patch test every single time you hit the salon chair, but it’s crucial to ensure your skin will take to the treatment.
I wear contact lenses, and I do wish I’d taken them out for the treatment. I was assured it was absolutely fine, but I was very aware of my lenses throughout.
Though I was slightly worried about the LVL lash treatment damaging my lashes, Kyriacou assured me that it wouldn’t. According to her, it depends on how often you have the treatment, so if you go back every three weeks or more regularly (which there's no need to), you could cause potential damage to your lash area.
A good time span between your treatments is about two months. This gives your lashes a chance to go through their normal growth cycle and prevent damage.
"The most important step you can take is to arrive at your appointment with freshly cleaned eyelashes," says Murray. Amazing Lash Studio does offer a service called a Lash Bath for those who want the full salon treatment, which includes a thorough, three-minute cleanse of the lashes using the salon's Foaming Lash Cleanser and Lash Bath Brush.
What to Expect During an LVL Lash Lift
A solid 24 hours after my patch test, I finally made my way back to Browhaus for the real deal. The salon has a reputation for being the boss of eyebrows, but it also offers a selection of lash treatments.
Upon arrival, I was taken downstairs to a private area and asked to lie down on the pre-made bed. The treatment started with the technician cleansing the eye area to ensure all traces of makeup were gone and then asking me what type of curl I would like. As I’d had my lashes curled previously (minus the tint) and been slightly disappointed, I decided to go full volume with a tight curl.
You can choose between a loose or tight effect, but l went for the tighter look. The technician then measured a small rod against my eyes. The rod sits as close to your lash line as possible on your eyelids—it’s what holds the curl as the bonding gels are applied. Next, she applied a lash glue to pin back my lashes to the rod.
Soon after, a perming lotion is applied to your lashes, which has to sit for around 20 minutes. I felt very relaxed; in fact, I definitely fell asleep. After the perming lotion had done its magic, the technician came back and applied a neutralizer, which was left on for another 15 minutes.
Finally came the tint. I went for black, as I wanted to be able to be mascara-free on a daily basis. You can cater the color to your own personal preferences, though. Part of the beauty of LVL lashes is that the tinting only takes around three minutes, as it takes to permed lashes much faster. The whole treatment is very safe, and I felt completely comfortable for the hour duration.
While lash lifts are pretty safe, it's important to heed the recommendations of professionals, get your patch test, and avoid getting them done too often (addicting as the results might be). "The active ingredient in this service is a perm solution that may cause dryness or irritation in some," notes Murray.
I did not personally experience discomfort or negative side effects from the lash lift, but if your eyes are more sensitive there's a chance you'll have some moderate discomfort.
Kyriacou recommended that I wait for around 48 hours before contact with water around my eye area. This is because the water can loosen the curl, as it needs time to set. You can wear eye makeup and mascara with the LVL lash treatment, but again, I had to wait for 48 hours (this was difficult—I won’t lie). But now I’m left with beautiful, fluttery lashes that need no eyelash curling and hardly any mascara. The dream.
According to Nouveau Lashes & Beauty, creator of the LVL system, your lashes should last between six and eight weeks. Certain things will cut this time down. The use of oils in your makeup and skincare products can seriously diminish the life of your new lashes, and should be avoided at all costs, even after 48 hours. You won't want to mess with eyelash curlers or perming equipment either, for the same reason. In fact, you shouldn't be manipulating your lashes much—if at all—and should be brushing through them with a spoolie every time you get them wet.
Before and After
This is me with mascara on, no joke. You can see that my lashes are long, but you can also see how straight they are. I wasn't lying about the fact they don't curl at all. Below, is the after.
Much more lifted and curled! You can really tell from this image how much more open my eyes appeared after the treatment.
The Final Takeaway
In short, I’ve become totally smitten with my new wide-eyed, fluttery lashes. I swear, it’s the best beauty treatment I’ve ever had. This long-lasting and relatively affordable/low-maintenance lash lift just might make me ditch mascara for good.