It seems like aeons since it first hit the press that J.Lo was having individual mink hairs glued to her lashes. How extra, we all thought. Well, forward to now, and it might feel like you’re the only one who isn’t sporting your very own set of fluttery, voluminous lashes. So, in the name of beauty, you understand, it seemed only right that I take one for the team and find out everything you need to know about lash extensions - what exactly is involved, whether they’re worth the time and expense, how safe they are, if I think you should do it, and would I do it again?


What do I need to do before my lash extension appointment?

It’s more about what not to do, in that (a) you shouldn’t wear makeup to your appointment, particularly any eye makeup, if only to cut down on what is already a pretty long time in the chair, and (b) you can’t have had a lash lift in the six weeks prior. If you feel like doing some homework, you could bring pictures of any lash looks you like, to show the therapist how natural or how dramatic you want to go. Debra Sloane of Love Those Lashes warned that it is useful to do some research before committing to a particular salon, and not to be swayed by pricing, as a lower cost option may mean that either the technicians aren’t insured, or are still learning. She also suggested that before you commit you ask to see some photos of their work, make sure you will receive a thorough consultation, and to check if the lash extensions are guaranteed not to harm your natural lashes.


How much should I budget for lash extensions?

This depends on whether you want a your-eyes-but-better look, or full va-va-voom intensity, and your preference for the type of hair used (options range from fox, to human, to synthetic, with the most popular being silk). Pricing starts around $100 and can climb to over $300, depending on the volume and material you choose.

Deb took us through the different looks generally available, to help you with your choice. “A natural set of lashes should look like the wearer is blessed with beautiful lashes, and you shouldn’t be able to tell that they are fake. This involves gluing one extension at a time onto every few real lashes, and is most suitable for people who wear little to no makeup, or are over sixty and may experience some sagging in the eye area. The next step up is a classic set of lashes, which is more noticeable as an extension is glued to almost every lash. This look suits clients who wear makeup every day and like the look of mascara.”

She continued: “A hybrid set of lashes includes a natural set, plus handmade ‘fans’ (each made up of 3-5 extensions) applied to all the remaining lashes. This gives a full, fluffy look which is very noticeable, and has become very popular with all our clients. These were designed for those who generally wear a full makeup look. Finally, the Russian Volume lash set was designed for young women, usually under 35, who wish to make a statement, and is a very dramatic look as each lash has an entire fan applied.”



What to expect when getting lash extensions

Browco Brow & Lash Bar has 10 salons throughout New South Wales and Queensland, so it’s a slick operation run by experts who know exactly what they’re doing. I experienced my lash application at the Chermside salon, which features a very ‘gram-friendly flower wall, complete with floral-festooned swing (the ideal location for a quick pic featuring your newly glammed-up brows or lashes), and fuschia neon lights declaring ‘let the brow magic begin’. Colour me excited! My appointment lasted about two hours, and began with a detailed consult about my natural lashes, any eye or skin sensitivities, and what look I would like to achieve. It’s worth noting that if 90 minutes spent solely on your lashes sounds like torture to you, appointments can take as long as three hours for sets involving fans, which was one of the reasons I didn’t want to go any fuller than a classic set. While lash extensions aren’t generally considered dangerous, any beauty procedure undertaken so close to the eye area should only be performed by a technician who you are confident is extremely experienced. As an example of the possible, if fairly unlikely, dangers, I was asked to sign a waiver releasing the salon from liability if the process blinds you, so when Deb advises to choose an experienced technician and a reputable, insured salon, don’t take this lightly. Browco’s professional approach and expertise in all things lashes made me feel comfortable signing away and getting ready to be beautified.

What does it feel like to have lash extensions applied?

After the consult, my chair was reclined to a completely horizontal position so the lash application process could begin, beginning with a thorough cleanse. Deb explained to us that this is usually a two step process, where firstly lashes are cleansed of makeup, oil, and debris, and then a protein remover is applied which will help the glue to bond to the lashes. After this cleansing, my Browco technician applied soft, pre-soaked pads underneath my lower lashes to protect them, which she said some clients can find irritating to the delicate under-eye skin, although it didn’t bother me. Then, one by one, she began applying individual extension to my lashes, working thoroughly and carefully as she went to check they were evenly spaced and creating the shape we had discussed. The only part of the process my own fairly sensitive peepers didn’t love was after the extensions had been applied, when I opened my eyes and was first exposed to the fumes from the glue, but I was warned to expect that and it dissipated quickly.

What to do while you’re having lash extensions applied (you’ll have your eyes closed for an hour, so no phone for you)

I took the hour in the chair as an opportunity to ask my technician all the questions I had for this piece, but presuming you’re not planning to write about your own experience, unless you’re a raging extrovert I’d strongly recommend taking headphones and zoning out with a podcast. Deb notes that many of her Love Those Lashes clients fall asleep during the process, which may have something to do with the beds (complete with electric blankets and faux fur throws, if you don’t mind) her treatments take place on. Overall there is zero pain or discomfort during the application process itself, it just takes  time, so accepting that you’ll be there for a long time and just relaxing is the best way to get through it.



How to care for your lashes

The key rule to follow? Do not get oil anywhere near your lashes – so you’ll likely need to rethink both your eye makeup and eye makeup remover. Given so many of the cleansers we rely on for thorough makeup removal these days are oil-based, I plumped for the oil-free and pleasingly inexpensive ‘Simple’ one from the chemist. I soaked a cotton pad in this each evening and applied that gently to both the top and underside of the lashes, holding it there for a few seconds to take the day’s grime off them. Browco supplies each client with a cute pink and white mascara wand to brush them through regularly, and I found this a fun and satisfying addition to my morning and nighttime skincare routines – it takes almost no time at all and suddenly they’re even and fluffy again.

Having asked friends and my beauty-obsessed colleagues what they like so much about extensions, one of the key reasons mentioned is the time and effort they save by negating the need for any eye makeup, certainly mascara, which you’re banned from using and would be entirely pointless, anyway. After all, mascaras promise to lengthen and thicken, which is exactly the job of your extensions!


How long will my new lashes last?

I found my lash extensions were perfect for about a week, and for the second week still looked just fine – as in, it was probably only me, staring close up in the mirror at them twice a day, who could notice the odd wonky or missing one. After two weeks, they started to get a little sad, and by the end of the third week I’d had enough. Having said that, I am a side sleeper and toss and turn a bit at night, so they were likely more roughed up than if I were an angelic back sleeper.

I found it was really down to luck as to where along the lash line they first fell out and therefore how noticeable it was that some were missing. Mine were a cat eye shape, so losing some of the longer ones at the end affected the overall look much more than when I lost the shorter ones in the middle.


SOS! Aka what do I do when my lash extensions start falling out?

You can either have refills applied, or opt to remove them entirely, and either way your best bet is booking in to see a professional. Having said that, I must admit that I was naughty and did remove them myself. If you also feel like going rogue, and accept it is not the recommended path, then if, and only if, you meet two of my strict criteria, you could try DIY-ing. First, you must be extremely patient and gentle (be honest with your self-assessment here, please, fellow naughty ones ­­– you can’t get sick of it two minutes in and start yanking away), and secondly, you need to be used to the process of removing eye makeup with an oil-based balm cleanser. You’ll need to keep reapplying your balm, and use lots of ‘softly softly’ gentle fingertip massaging over the lashes as the oil breaks down the glue’s bonds. Think of the process of safely removing false lashes, though with more time and more effort. If the phrase “safely removing false lashes” is foreign to you, either because you don’t wear them or you blithely tear them off when you get home from a night out, please get thee to a salon for their removal instead. You can do serious damage to your own natural lashes ripping out the extensions – remember, each one is glued onto one of your own lashes! A final option is just waiting until all of the extensions naturally fall out, but depending on how intense the look you chose in the first place was, this may lead to a week or two where you end up looking a little bizarre.


Will extensions harm my own natural lashes?

As long as you have seen an experienced technician for application and removal, and followed the rules of care while wearing them, your own lashes will be the same as they were before you had extensions applied. Deb told us the most frequent comment she hears after she has removed a client’s extensions is ,“The lashes extensions have made my natural lashes shorter, they never used to be this short”, when really there’s no damage done to the natural lash (she assured us she has been wearing extensions for over a decade, with zero damage). Deb explained that after they’ve been removed it takes a few days to realise our lashes weren’t that long or thick to begin with, it’s just that we’ve gotten so used to seeing ourselves with extensions, which I can definitely attest to. My technician at Browco noted that, to ensure optimum lash growth, you can apply specialist lash growth serum either after removal or even while the extensions are on.



Would a beauty writer recommend lash extensions?

There’s no denying that lash extensions are both expensive and time consuming to have done, and they’re not entirely effortless once you leave the salon, either. I came to think rather fondly of them as little pets that needed their daily cleaning and brushing, but if you’re completely low maintenance and prefer to have days where you don’t even think about what your eyes look or feel like, you might find that an annoying commitment. The other downside for me was that I am a skincare obsessive and absolutely love giving myself a proper facial massage using an oil-based cleanser at the end of the day, and this was suddenly rendered illicit. I resented having to give that up entirely, both for the enjoyment factor but mainly because, without my proper double cleansing, I consequently never felt quite clean the entire time the extensions were on. Having said that, I honestly felt more glamorous the entire time I had them on, whether barefaced in trackpants on the couch, or as a flirty addition to full makeup for a swanky dinner out.


Should I get lash extensions?

Hand on heart, I can say absolutely! There’s nothing quite like coming over all Sophia Loren from the first time you look in the mirror in the morning, even while dealing with bed head and puffy eyes. It’s basically an in-the-know, behind-the-scenes way of looking consistently lovely and groomed for a couple of weeks, with minimal effort on your part beyond the trip to the salon. Think of the overall effect on your psyche and appearance that a spray tan or a great blowdry might have, though lasting longer than either. Even if you’re not sure you’d commit to having lash extensions applied regularly, it’s certainly a fun procedure to try, especially before party season or holidays, whenever they return again, though I promise, you really don’t need an excuse to get fluttering.

Story by Zoe Briggs. Images via Instagram. Main image via Instagram @joansmalls.

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