The truth about eyelash extensions

"Your lashes are so long!" That's what everyone wants to hear, right? Lush, long lashes are one of the most desired traits and are difficult to come by naturally. When someone compliments my lashes, I exclaim, "Oh, they're extensions! I can send you to my lash place if you want!" It's true: I am an eyelash extension addict.

Now, I'll admit, I was blessed with naturally long lashes. You should see my dad's, they're insane. But I'm not a morning person and I hate taking too much time to get ready. I also have oily skin, and while I know tricks to stop mascara from running under my eyes, sometimes it's unavoidable. I don't particularly love wearing a lot of eye makeup either, so lash extensions are my saving grace.

I've been wearing lash extensions for years, worked at a salon that did them, and my best friend, Meredith Borodina of Lash L'Amour in Boston, is a master lash specialist. So if you're looking for information on eyelash extensions, you've come to the right place.

What are eyelash extensions?

They are semi-permanent extensions adhered to your natural lash. There are many different types of extensions from real mink fur to silk. They come in various lengths, and your lash technician will determine which lashes are best for you. Borodina explains that not everyone's natural lashes can handle the weight of really heavy or long extensions, so it is best to listen to your technician's recommendation.

How do they work

Your eyelashes are each on their own growth cycle, hence why they don't all fall out at the same time. So when you have extensions, you get them filled in every few weeks as the extensions will fall out with your lashes that are already shedding. I'm more aware how much shedding my lashes do when I'm wearing extensions because they're longer and more noticeable, but it's nothing alarming. Most people get fill-ins every three weeks, though Borodina says she has clients who come in every week because they desire a very full look. It's up to you, but if you go past four weeks, you'll likely have to pay for a new full set.

There are different styles

In addition to various types of extensions, there are also different styles. You can get a natural, more modest look. You can get a sultry, voluminous cat-eye where your lashes fan out on the ends. There are also volume sets, which Borodina loves. "Volumes are the best," she says. "It's basically two or three extensions adhered to one lash. They actually last longer, too, because the extensions are so light, since you have to put multiple on one lash." Talk to your technician beforehand to determine what style you want. I like my lashes super long and very dramatic, but many people prefer a more demure look. It's totally up to you.

How to care for them

If you do get extensions, it's important to care for them properly. Borodina recommends cleaning them with baby shampoo, as it's gentle and won't ruin the adhesive. It's important to clean your lashes to avoid any buildup, which can lead to irritations and even infections like congunctivitis. If you wear eye makeup, make sure you do not use an oil-based makeup remover because this will destroy the bond and make your extensions fall out. Borodina also says to make sure you don't touch or mess with them too much and to avoid pulling them off. If you want your lashes removed, go to your salon and have them removed properly. Pulling off your extensions can actually pull out your own lashes, which is not good. Not to mention, it's painful.

You shouldn't wear mascara to your appointment

Borodina tells me, "I hate it when people have on mascara when they show up for appointments. It's difficult to get it all off." She recommends that you don't wear mascara for 24-hours before you get extensions. And there's no reason to wear mascara when you have extensions, although apparently some people do. If you do wear mascara before an appointment, Borodina says you should clean them as thoroughly as possible because "mascara residue can weaken the bond of the adhesive." Translation: your extensions won't last as long.

How much do extensions cost?

Honestly, eyelash extensions are not cheap. Your first appointment for a full set will be the most expensive, but many salons run specials for new clients, and you can often find coupons on deal sites like Groupon. Full sets can range anywhere from $100 to $350, depending on the style and type of lash. As you'd expect, real fur lashes are the most expensive. Fill-ins are typically priced by the week, ranging from $40 to $50 at two weeks, $50 to $75 at three weeks, $75 to $90 at four weeks, and so on. Each salon is different, though, so I'd recommend doing research in your area to find a place that fits into your budget.

You can be allergic to extensions

Unfortunately, some people are allergic to eyelash extensions or the adhesive. If you're thinking about getting them, but are concerned you might be allergic, ask the salon what's in their adhesive and see if they will let you do a patch test first. It's difficult to know until they are applied, but if both eyes swell and get red, you likely have an allergy. If you think you have an allergy, take an antihistamine and call your salon to have them removed. In most cases, removing the lashes will solve the problem, though if you're still irritated, you should call your doctor. Longtime extension wearers can develop contact dermatitis. Sometimes my eyes get a bit dry flaky after an application, but typically it's from the tape used to hold down my bottom lashes. Borodina recommends taking a break from extensions if you notice flaking, redness, or swelling to prevent developing an allergy.

Benefits of extensions

Aside from making you look like a beautiful goddess, eyelash extensions can make you look more awake and alert. They're also known for taking years off of your face as they instantly making you appear younger. I can attest that lash extensions are also incredibly convenient. I wake up and look like I have makeup on when I don't, which is amazing and saves tons of time. I rarely wear eye makeup at all now because my lashes make me look done up so while I pay for extensions, I don't buy mascara or other eye makeup products.

Try them

While no one needs eyelash extensions to look gorgeous, they are a great and convenient way to feel good about yourself. You're beautiful with your natural lashes, but if you're looking to add a little oomph to your look, desire waking up bright eyed, or want to ditch your mascara, give extensions a try!