So you kinda, sorta, really want to try eyelash extensions, but you don't really know what to expect. We get it, and we've been there. Because from the initial appointment, to the total cost, to the actual daily maintenance, lash extensions can be a total commitment, which means you better be well-versed in what to expect before you head to the salon.
And that's where we come in. Ahead, your quick and dirty guide to everything you need and want to know about eyelash extensions, as told by both the experts themselves, plus an editor who has actually gotten them done.
They're Kind of Like Falsies
Despite what you might think, professional eyelash extensions aren't that different from the individual lashes you can glue on yourself at home—at least, in the basic process. "Applying extensions involves dipping individual lashes into a medical-grade adhesive and bonding them to your natural eyelash," says Skyy Hadley, owner of As "U" Wish Nail Spa in New Jersey. "The process can take up to two hours, but because of the way we adhere them to your actual lash, you can enhance the length, thickness, and fullness of your natural eyelashes."
Plus, just like with fake lashes from the drugstore, the lashes your aesthetician applies—and will discuss with you, first—can range from "synthetic, human, silk, or mink hair," says Hadley. While synthetic lashes tend to be a bit shinier, thicker, and studier, making them perfect for a dramatic look, silk and mink extensions are lighter, more natural, and less weighty on your natural lashes, giving you a more subtle appearance.
They're Super Customizable
Here's where extensions differ from the 99-cent pair you picked up from Walmart: They're custom-fitted and created for your exact eyes. "Before we begin, we take into consideration the condition of a client's lashes, like whether they're brittle or strong, plus their length, how well they naturally curl, as well as the shape of the client's eyes," explains Elizabeth Diaz, lash specialist at Pucker Makeup.
Plus, we're not just talking about being able to customize the length of the lashes (which can range from 6 mm to 15 mm), but also the thickness of each lash, ranging anywhere between 0.07 mm and .2 mm.
They're Kind of High-Maintenance
At least, if you plan to live your life as a normal human being. "I literally can't take a shower without covering my eyes with my hands to keep water from hitting them," says assistant editor Chelsea Peng, who got eyelash extensions for the first time last week, courtesy of Spruce & Bond in NYC. "The entire process was super easy, but I didn't fully realize how delicate I'd have to be with my eyes afterwards, like not being able to wear my sleep mask to bed or I'd crush the lashes, and having to avoid all oil-based skin care products."
And that's just a teeny part of the eyelash no-nos (which your aesthetician will thoroughly brief you on, before and after). But according to Diaz, the list also requires that you:
- Avoid getting your lashes wet for the first 12 to 24 hours, and then avoid letting water in the shower blast your eyes.
- Keep all oil-based products away from your eye area, especially makeup removers, since the oil will loosen the glue on the extensions.
- Don't rub your eyes.
- Sleep on your back.
- Brush your lashes in the mornings and after showers, and brush from the tips, not from the root, or you'll end up pulling lashes out.
- Avoid wearing mascara or any waterproof eye makeup that's difficult to remove.
They Don't Last Forever
"Lash extensions can last up to a month, but we always recommend touch-ups 10 to 21 days after you get them to keep them looking full and neat," says Hadley. "Keep in mind we tend to lose three to five natural eyelashes a day, so it's not out of the ordinary to lose a few extensions every so often, too."
And They're Not That Cheap
The price totally depends on the salon, but "more reputable salons charge between $150 and $350 for one application that lasts up to six weeks," says Hadley. If you're worried about the price, do your research and dig around the internet before you make an appointment, so you know what you and your credit card are getting into.
But They Can Make You Feel Awesome
"I asked for super-subtle, natural lashes, which meant that the end result was barely noticeable, as if I had just applied a really good mascara," says assistant editor Peng. "But I got them for a special occasion, and even though nobody else could tell, I felt really good and confident just knowing they were on."
Of course, if you're going for a dramatic look, you'll definitely get more visible results, but regardless of the length or finish, the fact that they're adding a little somethin' somethin' to your appearance—and confidence—may be enough to justify the maintenance and cost. And, hey, at least they're only temporary, so even if you hate them, they'll fall off in a month anyway. And to be honest, we're all about that low-level beauty commitment.