With semi-permanent lashes, you get what you pay for, and an unskilled technician and/or poorly made products can absolutely damage your lashes — sometimes permanently. But if you get a quality set from an experienced technician, lash extensions can actually be healthier than applying false lashes every day. “I see lash extensions up close all the time, and not only do they look better, if they’re done correctly, the glue doesn’t come in contact with your skin, so there’s less chance of an allergic reaction or irritation,” says Corey Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist in Birmingham, Alabama.
So why do so many people end up having problems with lash extensions? It’s most likely because they went to a tech who wasn’t trained, or because they didn’t care for the lashes properly.
When you’re getting a good set of semi-permanent lashes, here’s what should happen after the tech covers your lids: They’ll isolate an individual eyelash, decide the length and diameter of synthetic extension your natural lash can handle, attach the extension with a cyanoacrylate adhesive, and then repeat that process dozens of times on each eye. If it’s done right, “the glue never comes in contact with your skin and the natural lashes are never glued together,” says ophthalmologist Nicky Shah, founder of You & Eye By Dr. Nicky. The extensions will last until the natural lash falls out or the adhesive weakens and the synthetic lash releases. (Each natural lash is in a different phase of the growth cycle at any given time, so a few lashes may drop as soon as a few days after your service, but the set will typically last two to four weeks.)
“The key to a great, non-damaging, and sustainable set is to find an artist who is isolating each natural lash to keep the growth cycle intact and choosing lashes with appropriate lengths,” says Courtney Buhler, founder of Sugarlash Pro, a company that has trained more than 18,000 lash artists in 60 countries. If your artist accidentally glues two natural lashes together, uses too much glue, or applies an extension that’s too long or too heavy, “it can strain the natural hair and cause traction on the follicle,” explains Shah. Eventually, the traction can stunt your lash growth or, in some cases, permanently damage the follicle so the hair no longer grows.
If your lashes feel heavy on your lids, they’re probably straining the follicles. “Lots of clients want a ton of volume as well as length, but there are certain weight parameters artists need to keep in mind,” says Buhler. (FYI: Artists may use “volume fans,” to create a “volume set,” but the fan base still needs to be attached to a single natural lash.) Talk to your artist about the look you want, your budget, and how often you’re willing to get a fill; a good lash artist will tell you if your requests are pushing the limits of what your natural lashes can handle. And no matter what style you get, if you feel glue on your skin or lashes stuck together, tell your artist immediately so they can fix it (and if they can’t, get a new artist).
All that said, if a lash set causes damage, it isn’t always the tech’s fault! Twisting, pulling, or tugging on the extensions can harm your natural lashes. You also need to wash your lids daily with an ophthalmologist-tested cleanser (try Sugarlash Pro Lashpure Cleanser or You & Eye By Dr. Nicky Keep It Fresh Foaming Cleanser). You can use your fingers, but if your artist recommends a particular cleanser or technique, follow their lead. “Lashes cost a lot, so I get that you want them to last, but not washing the eyelids is actually worse in the long run,” says Dr. Shah. “Right behind the eyelashes, there are tiny oil glands that support your lash health, and if you don’t cleanse them, it creates inflammation that can damage the follicle.”
For the best results, follow the tips above and go to an experienced lash artist. Ideally, they should have a current, state-issued esthetician license and a certificate from a lash-extension training course. (There are no federal regulations of the lash industry; most states, including New York, require lash artists to have a cosmetology or esthetics license, but don’t require any special training in extension application.) They should also have a portfolio of before and after pictures with a variety of styles and be willing to show you their lashes, adhesive, and tools before the service begins. “If they get their supplies on Amazon, run!” says Buhler. “They should be proud of the brand they use and understand the system and be able to explain it to you.” And their prices should reflect the fact that you’re getting a service that takes at least an hour and requires a lot of skill. “Properly done extensions aren’t going to be $65 for a full set,” says Buhler. “Certified artists who are dedicated to creating sustainable sets charge $125 to $185 for a classic set and $160 to $260 for a volume set.”
Even though a semi-permanent set shouldn’t damage your natural lashes, Shah thinks it’s best to get extensions in a three-months-on, three-months-off cycle. That goes for DIY lash extensions, like Lashify, as well. But not everyone agrees. Buhler says there’s no need for breaks if you get filled regularly and see a skilled artist. In fact, she’s even seen clients whose lashes are in better condition after extensions. “Their lash fullness and length actually improves because they’re no longer coating them with mascaras and clamping them into curlers every day,” says Buhler. Here’s hoping that happens for you.
Jennifer Sullivan answers all your beauty-related questions with practical advice and zero judgment. Send your questions to AskABeautyEditor@nymag.com. (By emailing, you agree to the terms here.)
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