I had an eyelash lift that I vowed never to extend

Ever since I first encountered eyelash growth solution, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my lashes.

When I turned 40, my naturally long and voluminous lashes seemed to turn into a bunch of twisted, do-nothing, uncurled lashes overnight. To make my lashes look good, I would pump them with my Shiseido eyelash curler to no avail, or even blow air out of my lashes with a hair dryer. But within minutes, they would flatten out and straighten completely – even with several coats of mascara. So I decided to put down the tools and use lash extensions to give my amorphous lashes a new lease on life.

For the most part, I love how they instantly create a stunning look with little to no effort. I also love how the extensions accentuate the shape of my eyes, so they look more defined. But like many people, I don’t like the time it takes to keep up with them – not to mention the financial commitment.

So needless to say, I don’t always have the best track record when it comes to extensions. It’s an on-and-off relationship. Over the past few years, I’ve shared amazing lash extensions, decent edges, downright awful lashes, barely-there lashes, and overly elaborate sets (not my requirement) where my lashes look like they’re about to take off.

It wasn’t until I met celebrity lash expert Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes, with locations in Manhattan and Miami, that I finally experienced my first truly excellent set of lash extensions. I mean, downright fabulous. Richardson’s work was great; she created a lash pattern that gave my eyes a more almond-like look and made my lashes exude perfection. For six months, I trekked to Richardson’s Miami studio to have her magical hands beautify my lashes.

Fast forward to just this past summer. After recovering from COVID, I was headed west for the summer and needed a new set of lash extensions. Unfortunately, Richardson and her team were booked (I called 48 hours before boarding). So, on a whim, I made an appointment at a local salon. That was the first mistake.

As soon as I walked into the salon, I had concerns. But two hours and $250 later, I came out of the treatment room looking as if there were butterfly wings stuck to my eyelids instead of the natural extensions I was used to. They were too long, too thick, too curly, and in the wrong shape and position. I freaked out. I told myself this was the last time I would wear eyelash growth solution, no matter what.

Five days later, I was sitting at the kitchen table, gazing at the mountainside, picking out every single lash and a plethora of natural lashes (that were unintentional). Of course, I knew removing extensions was a no-no. Nonetheless, I couldn’t bear to look at myself for another day with these extensions that made my eyes look squinted and down. I didn’t even look like myself.

Over the next few weeks, as my lashes slowly began to grow back thanks to GrandeLASH-MD Eyelash Enhancement Serum, I began researching eyelash enhancement treatments. I knew I still needed help in the curl and length department, but I wanted a low-maintenance option.

The lash lift was relatively quick and I knew it wouldn’t make my lashes look like a tangled plastic screen hanging from my upper eyelid. Also, before going in, I thoroughly explained to the tech what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I left pleasantly surprised.

It only took one 60 minute session and I was hooked. The procedure was easy and painless (no pulling on my lashes) and my lashes looked almost twice as good as usual with a perfect glossy curl. I couldn’t believe how good my lashes looked bare – they looked 10 times better with mascara on. After a few weeks, I thought the curls would start to fade and my distorted, straight lashes would reappear. But they didn’t. I’m almost three months away from the elevator and I can’t wait to get it done again.

So if you’re deciding between lash extensions and lash lifts, or want to stop lengthening for a while and let your natural lashes thrive, here are all the details of the treatment.

The working principle of eyelash lift

A lash lift is a semi-permanent treatment that enhances and curls upward the natural lashes. “The lift makes the lashes more visible from the front, which frames the eyes,” says Richardson. In addition, the treatment is often combined with lash tinting to darken the lashes and, when done correctly by a professional, creates separation and uniformity between each lash.

When choosing the right treatment for you, just know that several types of lash enhancement products exist, including keratin lash lifts and lash perms. Samantha Susca , a licensed aesthetician at Casa Cipriani in New York who performs lash lifts, says the different ingredients in the solution produce different results. “The Lash Lift formula contains keratin to deeply condition, restructure and strengthen lashes, making it ideal for people who want naturally curled lashes weakened to normal lashes. The lash perms are more involved and contain ammonium thioglycolate to provide a more dramatic, longer lasting curl. They are better suited for those with naturally long, thick lashes that can support this intense curl,” she says.

In a nutshell, the lash lift uses two different chemical solutions in two steps. The first step curls lashes by breaking down the outer layer of natural lashes and forcing them to curve upward. The second step strengthens and sets them. Using a curling iron and keratin or chemical solution temporarily changes the shape of the lashes.

While curling is the reason most people book lash lift appointments, the natural volume it provides is unmatched. “Lash lifts are perfect for giving the illusion of wider, brighter, more awake eyes by lifting and separating lashes evenly,” says Suska. “In addition, the enhanced curl of the lashes creates the optical illusion of an upward direction, which makes the lashes appear longer.” There are also no thick, dense lashes, which is common in eyelash extensions.

“Whether you have short or long lashes, you will see a huge difference,” says Elysee Zhadikpur, celebrity lash artist and CEO of YUMILashes USA. I’ve even had friends ask me what brand of false eyelashes I wear. When I tell them it’s just a lash enhancement device with one of my favorite mascaras on it – YSL Radical Volumizing Mascara, L’Oreal Retractable Mascara or Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Mascara! Mascara – their mouths dropped. They want to know every detail of the treatment.

What is the difference between an eyelash lift and an eyelash extension?

Extensions bring drama and give your lashes a “finished” look without the need for makeup. Individual synthetic extensions are applied at the root of each natural lash using a special adhesive gel to add volume, length and density. Lash extensions can be used to contour the eye, adding volume, length, curl and density, says Richardson. Extensions move along the length of your lashes, so as your natural lashes grow and fall out, the extensions come off.

While lash extensions can make you somewhat immune to eye makeup, they do have their drawbacks, such as daily brushing and filling in every two to three weeks. Thicker lashes can also pull on your natural lashes, making your eyes look saggy and even causing them to fall out. Since oil-based products are off-limits (they break down extensions), you may also need to improve your eye and makeup products and routine. Plus, extensions are expensive – some lash stylists charge up to $450 per set.

However, extensions are available for all natural lash lengths and thicknesses, as are lash lifts. “As long as lashes can adhere to the shield, they can be lifted (at least four millimeters). However, short lashes can still give great results,” says Zhadikpur.

Unlike lash extensions, lash lifts are maintenance-free – you can use any makeup and skin care products and don’t need to repeat the treatment as often. Whether you enhance your lashes with mascara or not (the choice is up to you), a lift can save you minutes of prep time. “A lash lift (and tint) will curl your natural lashes upward, but it won’t give the “wow” factor like extensions do,” says Richardson.

Most lash stylists don’t recommend choosing false lashes while wearing them, but they can be reapplied about a week after. Richardson has some clients with very low lashes who do this because they want to enhance the look with extensions.

How do I get an eyelash lift?

Before you arrive at your appointment, your lash technician will instruct you on a few things to do at home to prepare for your upcoming lift. First, avoid using oils or oil-based beauty products (which can break down the lifting solution and cause half-curled lashes), eye creams and lash serums 12 to 24 hours prior to your appointment. Richardson also recommends that those whose natural lashes are in poor condition use a treatment product, such as Envious Lashes Lash Conditioning Serum, a few weeks prior to treatment to help strengthen lashes.

Once you arrive at your appointment bare-faced (you will not be able to wet or wash your face on the first day), your technician will have you lie on a treatment bed, analyze your lashes and clean them thoroughly. Next, an adhesive pad is placed under your eyes to protect your lower eyelids and prevent your lower lashes from being affected. Then, a small curved silicone wand (which is similar to the rubber cushion inside an eyelash curler) is placed on the upper eyelid at the base of the lashes. The lashes are carefully separated and then glued to the wand.

From there, two different solutions are applied to your eyelash technique. First, a keratin or perm solution is brushed over the lashes to curl them. “It breaks the bond of the lashes and penetrates the hair, allowing the stylist to safely manipulate the direction of the hair follicle without damaging the natural lashes,” explains Richardson. Breaking the bond also gives the lashes a new curl shape. The solution is allowed to sit for about 10 minutes before being removed.

Next, the neutralizing solution is brushed over the lashes to lock them into place. Then, brushing the lashes again, a conditioning keratin serum is applied to the newly lifted lashes to give them shine while protecting them. Finally, the rods, under-eye patches and any tape used to hold them in place are removed. From start to finish, the entire treatment takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

What results should I expect?

After my lash lift was completed, I looked in the mirror and was mesmerized by my lashes. Unlike extensions that always make me look more complete, the lash lift left my lashes soft and thin with perfect curl, separation and elegance. Immediately after the treatment, my lashes looked like I had several coats of the most lustrous black mascara, which was really just the fresh effect of the lift. Plus, cranking up the volume as needed is perfect for my lifestyle. I can do Pilates nude and natural or apply several coats of mascara for a glamorous night out.

How long will the results last?

Susca says your lashes may stay on for 4 to 8 weeks, if not longer, depending on the condition of the lashes and the aftercare routine. As the lifted lashes go through their normal growth cycle, they may begin to straighten and even fall out. The new lashes will replace the lashes that look similar to the ones you started with. However, they will not appear as sparse or unruly as when natural lashes fall out.

However, Zhadikpur cautions against being overzealous and not letting too many lifts get too close together. “With a YUMI lash lift, you can have a lash lift every eight weeks. If you complete it as soon as possible, your lashes may be over-processed.” Too much over-lifting can cause lashes and lash tips to break.

Knowledge about aftercare

Once your lashes are lifted, it is critical to keep them dry for the first 24 to 48 hours. This means no sweating, saunas, face washes or makeup. “The product is still actively working during this time, so any doing so could lead to undesirable results,” shares Zhadikpur.

Most lash experts recommend using a daily conditioning lash growth or strengthening serum, such as Agent Nateur Lash & Brow Serum, or even coconut or olive oil to keep lashes strong. While you don’t have to brush up your lashes like you do with extensions, it won’t hurt them either.

Can I still use mascara?

Mascara is not mandatory after a lift, but many women choose to layer it. “You can use mascara or opt for a no-makeup look and still look bright and awake with your eyes,” Susca shares. Any type of mascara and eye makeup remover is suitable for a lash lift.

For the most get-up-and-go option, pair a lash lift with a lifting tint to darken the lashes, which Richardson says makes the lash lift even more impactful. “Some clients have naturally dark lashes, so they don’t need to be tinted.” Due to extreme dye allergies, adding tint was out of the question for me. So instead, I put on several coats of mascara every day to make my lashes pop.

What is the cost of an eyelash lift?

The price is determined by where you complete your lash lift, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $200 for a lash lift. If you add a tint, that can cost you another $50 or more. So while the treatment isn’t necessarily cheap, the results are worth every penny – and cheaper than extensions.

Bottom Line

No cosmetic treatment is without risk, so while there are plenty of professionals out there, it’s still important to keep a few things in mind if you’re getting an eyelash lift.

For beginners, processing time is crucial. If solutions aren’t left on long enough, they won’t work as expected. On the other hand, leaving the solution on your lashes for too long can over-process the hair and cause them to take on a curly or frizzy appearance.

You will also need a licensed professional trained in eyelash lifting to perform the service. “The solution should not enter them close to the eyes. If you’re concerned about potential allergic reactions, I recommend patch testing the solution before applying them near the eyes,” Susca says.

However, if you go to a trained professional you trust, the results will be worth it.

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