Recently, before my summer wedding, I got eyelash extensions for the first time at the recommendation of my favorite makeup artist. She said that semi-permanent lashes would pop in photos and stand up to wedding day ~emotion~ better than mascara. She was 100 percent right, and I felt totally glam on my wedding day.
But as someone who can’t be trusted to cut her hair more than once a year, I didn’t expect to be so into my new look that I’d want to continue getting lash extensions after my wedding. Plus, I had no idea how much the habit would cost me in terms of cash, time, and my health.
Here are some things I wish I knew before getting (and totally falling for) eyelash extensions:
- Semi-permanent eyelash extensions are way different from temporary strip or individual lashes. Semi-permanent ones are applied by hand one lash at a time by a technician who glues extensions on top of your actual lashes. They can last for six to eight weeks with proper care and remain on your natural lashes until they naturally fall out, as all lashes do.
- Eyelash extensions aren’t a one-size-fits-all-eyes situation. After you decide to get extensions, you have to make a whole lot of other decisions, beginning with the lash material, such as mink, silk, or some other kind of synthetic. (Mink is usually pricier, feels softer, and looks more natural; however, some synthetics, which are highly customizable, can also look and feel natural and end up costing as much as or more than mink.) Then, you’ll have to pick your density (more lashes create a fuller look); curl (the steeper the slope, the more dramatic the effect); and length (a matter of personal preference, really).
To complicate things even more, every place offers different lash and application options, so your best bet is to show your technician a photo of the look you want, and talk through options and costs.
- The longer the extensions, the more lashes you’ll probably need. Super-long lashes appear to spread as they extend away from your lid, which can make them look less full than your natural lashes. It’s why I thought my first set looked sparse and spidery, so I went back to my technician two days before my wedding to get 30 more lashes per eye at $0.50 a piece. But when I opted for slightly shorter extensions the second time around, I got away with purchasing fewer of them.
- You have to lay low for at least 12 hours after application. Most technicians will tell you not to sweat, cry, swim, or wash your face for at least 12 hours after getting extensions to give the glue a chance to dry. When glue doesn’t dry, it can dissolve and invade your eyes, or vaporize in response to your body temperature. These scenarios can trigger eye redness and irritation that’s unflattering and uncomfortable.
- Extensions are expensive and time-consuming to maintain. While extensions are typically dramatic enough to give you the same effect as mascara, which isn’t recommended for use on top of extensions because it can damage them, don’t kid yourself into thinking extensions will save you money on makeup in the long run. In New York City, a basic set (typically 70 to 80 lashes per eye) can put you back at least $100, but upward of $400 for application by the most experienced technicians. And then you also have to tip. Plus, the entire experience can take up to two hours.
But the high-maintenance fun doesn’t stop there. Because eyelashes grow and eventually fall out, you’ve also got to go back every few weeks for fill-ins, which can cost anywhere from $50 to $165, depending on how many new lashes you need.
PSA: The longer you go between fill-ins, the more lashes you’ll need, and the more it will cost you. Also, beware that some technicians won’t fill in lashes after a certain point because it’s easier to start from scratch (i.e., take the lashes off using a special solution that dissolves the glue), and more lucrative to charge you for a brand new set of extensions than a fill-in.
- Extensions make everyday eye makeup pretty much unnecessary. When I first got extensions, I knew they’d stand in for mascara, but didn’t realize that the base of each extension would create the illusion of eyeliner too. I’ve never worn a ton of makeup during the day, but I stopped wearing eye makeup altogether the day after my wedding. I still felt selfie-ready every second of my honeymoon, and still feel pretty stellar whether I’ve just rolled out of bed or gotten back from a run. And TBH, feeling just a bit more put-together during my early morning barefaced gym sessions is a major perk.
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