If you’ve noticed that your eyelashes aren’t as lush as they used to be, you aren’t imagining things. Thinning lashes are as much a part of the aging process as those pesky chin hairs that keep popping up. Like many bodily changes associated with aging, thinning, brittle lashes can often be attributed to hormonal fluctuations, specifically a decline in estrogen levels. However, other factors may come into play with lashes, including years of rubbing, scrubbing, and eyelash curling.
Growth serums and DIY falsies can help, but many women turn to lash extensions for eye-popping effects for instant gratification and longer-lasting satisfaction. Before heading into the local lash studio, it is important to do your homework. Not all extensions are created equal. Some, like those made from mink, are designed for dramatic fullness. Others, like the silk variety, create a more natural appearance. Determining which one is right for you comes down to lifestyle, desired effect, and personal preference.
For a full, fluffy look that won’t weigh down your natural lashes, think mink. Taken from the tail of the animal, mink lash extensions are thin and lightweight from roots to tip. Because they are so light, multiple extensions can be applied to one lash to achieve mega volume without additional heaviness.
“When you use an extension that is too heavy or long for your natural lash, you can cause damage,” explains Dana Aguirre, a certified lash stylist and licensed ethician in San Antonio, Texas. “You have to make sure that the natural lash can support the weight of the extension.”
But while they may be gentler on the natural lashes, mink extensions have raised eyebrows among animal activists. Because they are taken from a live animal, they are considered ‘natural,’ but not cruelty-free. In addition to the ethical issues, mink extensions can be problematic for people with animal allergies. To combat both problems, many companies have begun offering faux mink lashes. This synthetic blend offers a similar fluffy look that is friendlier to your eyes and the animals than real mink lashes.
If the high-drama, Kardashian vibe is what you’re looking for, silk eyelash extensions are your best bet. Designed to mimic the natural lash, these synthetic extensions are thicker at the base and taper to the tip. This design gives the illusion of a darker lash line without applying heavy liner. Unlike the more delicate mink extensions, the silk variety is chemically treated to last and hold its shape, making it easier to maintain.
When caring for your extensions, the same rules apply regardless of which type of lash you choose. The first, and most important rule, is to avoid wetting lashes for several hours after application, and only oil-free cleansers should be used to remove any makeup.
“Oils can break down the adhesive and cause the lashes to shed more quickly,” says Aguirre, who also recommends exercising caution when blow-drying hair, opening the oven, or standing over a grill.
“Exposure to excessive heat can burn the lashes,” she explains.
To extend the life of your extensions, avoid picking and pulling at them. Instead, gently comb through the lashes daily to prevent tangling and clumping. Most technicians send clients home with an eyelash wand that does the job without damaging the lashes.
With the popularity of lash extensions comes an abundance of lash studios and technicians, but you don’t want to trust something this delicate to just anyone. In the wrong hands, your lash extensions could have you seeing red due to infection or damage. At the very minimum, the lash tech you choose should be a licensed esthetician who has completed a training course in lash extensions. But your best bet comes from someone who has taken the training a step further and become a certified lash technician.
“A certified lash technician has demonstrated mastery in all areas from proper application to completion of a full set in a designated time frame, says Aguirre. “The tech also understands how to avoid using any techniques that could cause damage.”
If you are new to the world of extensions, a good tech will provide a thorough consultation and perform a patch test by applying a few extensions and waiting 24-48 hours to see if you have any reaction. Although rare, allergic reactions to adhesives can occur and cause itching and swelling around the eye area. If there are no issues with the patch test, the tech can proceed with the lashes. Depending on whether you want silk or mink, classic or volume, you can expect to spend at least one and as many as 3-4 hours and upwards of $200 on your initial visit. After that, fills take about half the time and are approximately half the price. During fills, your tech will clean and prime the lashes, removing any debris, oil, and overgrown extensions before applying new extensions to areas where the lashes have grown out.
When properly cared for, Aguirre says both silk and mink lash extensions will last approximately 2-3 weeks, although some of her clients can go longer between visits.
“Every client is unique,” she says, adding that lifestyle and environmental factors can play a role in longevity. “Things like stomach or side sleeping, excessive sweating, using daily eye drops, and seasonal allergies can all affect the lash shedding frequency.”
Long, lush lashes can make a woman feel pulled together with, or without, additional makeup. Many women forgo mascara and liner altogether when wearing extensions, shaving valuable time off their morning routines. That convenience, combined with the youthful appearance full lashes create, makes it easy to see why extensions have grown in popularity.
“It’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down,” says Aguirre. “It’s an easy way for women to look and feel their best.”