I got eyelash extensions for the first time two and a half years ago, and I haven’t looked back. After seeing a promotional email on Groupon, I showed up to my appointment, fell asleep on a spa table, and woke up an hour later with individual wisps of fake hair affixed over my own lashes. I also left an extra $215 poorer; I’d being convinced to buy a pack of refill sessions by the girl at the front desk, thus sparking a habit that costs me an average of $100 a month, plus tip.
When I first read about lash extensions, I learned that their upkeep is not cheap; your own lashes have a growth cycle akin to the rest of your body hair, and the glue holding an extension to your eyelash can weaken and dissolve over time. What I wasn’t expecting was how sparse my old lashes seemed in comparison once my extensions began to fall out. I began to look forward to my refill appointment, and tried my best to extend the life of my lashes as best I could, lest my technician be mad at my care and keeping of her handiwork.
According to Clementina Richardson, the founder of Envious Lashes salons, properly applied lash extensions can last up to six weeks. “As the weeks progress, the extensions will slowly shed until you are back to your natural lashes,” she explains. “Your natural eyelashes fall off every 45–60 days, and are naturally replaced with the growth of a new eyelash.” When an eyelash falls out, so too will the false lash attached to it. She also warns against exposure to steam, rubbing your eyes, or sleeping face-down as factors that can damage your lashes; I once got too close to an open oven and noticed that the heat had caused my lashes to singe and curl.
Richardson says that the first two days after an application are the most important; you should avoid getting your lashes wet for as long as you can (though you can obviously wash your face, just be careful about the process!) “Avoid steam and wetting your lashes for the first 48 hours, and don’t stand under the shower head for a long time,” she warns. If you work out, she recommends investing in a sweatband, and dab at your face with a towel gently; if you really need to get your fitness on, it’s better to book a gentle class rather than an all-out sprint fest for the first few days.
Most lash salons require clients to make refill appointments every two to three weeks; wait any longer and they’ll book your refill as a new, full set. As a result, I’ve sometimes had to play schedule jigsaw, or get refills a week and a half after my first application if I’m going out of town and can’t make the three-week window.
Luckily (but, I suppose, unluckily for my wallet) I don’t have to stop any time soon. “You can have extensions indefinitely, as long as you make your refill appointments,” Richardson explains. And while properly applied lash extensions shouldn’t damage your lashes, if your technician doesn’t get it right — likely by applying too much glue, or attaching clumps of extensions to multiple lashes — that can result in damage, or the extensions pulling the lash out.
While it might be tempting to ask for the longest, curliest extensions available, those could do the most damage if your own lashes can’t support them. “Applying extensions that are too heavy for the natural lash will result in premature shedding,” Richardson warns. She screens her clients before giving them the longer extensions most people ask for.
As for the worst thing you could do while wearing extensions? Richardson says that’s rubbing your eyes, even if that can sometimes feel inevitable, especially if you wear a lot of eye makeup. I’m hopeless with eye shadow to begin with, but ever since I began getting eyelash extensions, I’ve found myself rarely bothering with the stuff at all. (I’ll wear a bold lip instead, for a very lazy attempt at the so-called “French girl” look.)
If you are devoted to your eye-shadow palettes, Richardson says you need to be careful not to disturb the glue bonding your extensions to your lashes. When you have extensions, she says, makeup becomes a series of don’ts, for practical reasons: “Avoid using oil-based products, cream-based liners, and heavy creams around your eyes; and plus avoid playing, picking, rubbing, and touching your lashes excessively. Never” — she emphasized this word — “use a mechanical eyelash curler,” she added, nor does she recommend using mascara on your lashes.
What should you do, instead? Brush your lashes with a clean spoolie brush, but Richardson warns not to overdo that, either. And if you do need to remove makeup, do it with an oil-free formula like NARS’s Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover.