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I Was Pretty Sure My Eyelash Extensions Were Making My Lids Bald

Addicted and concerned or curious to try but scared? Read this.

04.05.16
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The title says it all: I was addicted to eyelash extensions and was pretty sure they were making my lids bald.

I bought a package in the beginning of January for the sake of jumpstarting my winter beauty routine. Friends who peer pressured me into re-joining the sisterhood after a brief dalliance with eye fur helped rationalize the spending (“You don’t have kids!” was a fun and logical one), and after a single session I was back at it like Ja Rule during his 2014 return tour.

Imagine waking up and looking like Zayn Mailk every day.

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It was like that. And because it was like that, I knew the devil had to be nearby. Anything this beautiful is too good to be true.

So I started asking friends in The Cult questions like: What happens now — do we do this forever? Are our eyelashes falling out? Are our eyelids going to be permanently bald if we stop?

The answer to all three questions, from nearly everyone I surveyed, was yes. Full of denial, I took my queries to the Internet.

Bad idea. The Internet was like, underneath your lid wigs, this is def you:

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I spiraled into a deep, dark underbelly of forums until I realized that what I should be doing was talking to actual, reputable experts. That’s where Dr. Leslie Gerstman, an aesthetic physician, Karolina Osiecka-Bula, the esthetician who applies the eyelash extensions at Dr. Gerstman’s office, and Courtney Akai, the founder of Courtney Akai Lash Boutique (who has been doing lashes for 10 years!), came to my rescue. I asked them every neurotic question one could possible have; they answered.

For anyone intrigued, curious or terrified, there’s good news in the FAQs below.

Are they safe?

The first thing that all three experts assured me was that, yes, lash extensions are perfectly safe when applied properly. Note that qualifier: “When applied properly” is key.

What does that mean?

Both Karolina Osiecka-Bula and Courtney Akai stressed the importance of two things things:

1)  The weight and length should be customized to the individual. Not everyone’s natural lashes can hold the thick drama of a Kardashian-esque fur fan. Extensions that are too heavy can lead to breakage or premature lash loss.

2) Lashes should only be applied to one natural lash at a time. Your real lashes should never be glued together in order to support the extensions. “If you can’t comb through them, something’s wrong,” Osiecka told me. Natural lashes that are clumped together have a higher chances of being ripped out from the root, which can lead to permanent damage to the hair follicle.

How do I know if this is a “good” place or not?

Your esthetician should conduct a consultation with you to determine length and weight.

You should also feel comfortable asking your esthetician how long she’s been doing extensions. Akai, Dr. Gerstman and Osiecka-Bula all told me that perfecting the art of lash application takes years. This is not the same thing as getting your nails done; this involves your eyes. Go with someone who has at least two years of experience and if you can find them — positive reviews online.

I’m never supposed to get these wet, right?

You should avoid getting them wet within the first 24-48 hours of application. After that, you should absolutely wash them. If you don’t, you become prone to ingrown lashes, lash mites (I KNOW!?!!?!?) or infection.

“It’s very wrong not to wash your lashes,” Osiecka-Bula told me. “We have sweat glands on our eyelids, we product oil. I recommend an antibacterial cleanser to all my clients called Chrissanthie Lid Cleanser.”

Your esthetician should recommend one as well.

Should I be able to feel them?

No. If your skin itches or feels like it’s being pinched, Dr. Gerstman says this is likely due to poor glue application and stresses that eyelashes extensions should feel as though you were were wearing nothing at all. There should be no glue on your skin; there should be no extension attached to your skin — just extension attached to natural lash. If you feel like something’s wrong, go back to your esthetician immediately.

Can I wear mascara with them?

You really should not. (You also won’t need to.)

How often should I be getting them reapplied?

Every 3 to 4 weeks depending on your preference for fullness. Estheticians may tailor this to the individual.

I want to take a break and I want them off now. Can I remove them myself?

No. Pulling eyelash extensions out yourself can damage your natural lashes. Book an appointment and have a professional remove them for you. Yes, this is annoying (and can cost $45-50), but so are bald eyelids.

What’s the deal with growth serums?

Dr. Gerstman recommends the FDA-approved eyelash growth serum, Latisse. In fact, when customers come in with damaged lashes, she or Osiecka-Bula will send them home with Latisse to use for a month before applying extensions. “I don’t want to stress out your natural lashes if they’re not in good condition,” Osiecka-Bula told me.

I had heard Latisse can cause brown spots in your irises. Though Dr. Gerstman confirms that brown spots are listed as a potential side effect, she has never had this happen to a client. The other possibility is darkening of the skin above the eyelash line, although the one time Dr. Gerstman saw this, it went away after her client stopped using Latisse.

Meanwhile, Courtney Akai swears by Revitalash Advanced and says that it can begin to work in as little as three weeks.

Another option the experts recommend: an over the counter, vitamin-packed supplement called Biotin (a water-soluble B vitamin that promotes hair, skin and nail health). Consult your doctor before use.

ALL I CARE ABOUT IS WHETHER OR NOT EXTENSIONS WILL MAKE MY LASHES FALL OUT!!!!!!!!

Again, if applied properly, eyelash extensions will not make your real lashes fall out prematurely.

Your real eyelashes shed on a 30-day cycle, so your lashes will fall out naturally. Losing 3 to 5 lashes a day is normal. Having a long, thick extension attached to your regular lash just calls more attention to the normal loss.

Osiecka-Bula also pointed out the exact thing that made me 100% certain I was going eyelid-bald: “What happens sometimes is that clients will wait too long for a refill. They’ll have a couple of long extensions still sticking out and will compare their natural lashes to the extensions. If you do this, of course you’ll think there’s something wrong.”

This is one of the worst parts about eyelash extensions: the eyelash dysmorphia. It’s very easy to forget what your real lashes look like, and seeing them can be shocking even when nothing’s wrong.

Is there any possibility that, wallet aside, eyelash extensions are good for me?

Yes. Akai, Dr. Gerstman and Osieck-Bula all told me that they have seen many of their clients’ natural lashes improve with extension use. Think about it: you’re not applying and taking off mascara, you’re not sleeping in mascara, and you’re generally more careful and gentle with the area once you have extensions.

They’re like hairy little babies or Zayn Malik; you can’t help but be kind to them.

(PS: Want to see my before and after, only the before looks extra alarming because it has 10 hairs of my old extensions left on?)

Check out Dr. Leslie Gerstman’s website and follow her practice on Instagram @drgerstmannyc and Facebook; Follow Karolina Osiecka-Bula on Instagram @prettyfunoska — lots of lash pics. Check out  check out Courtney Akai’s website, Instagram @courtneyakailash and follow her on Twitter @CourtneyLashes. Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Tania

    How much *should* they cost?

    • Amelia Diamond

      I can’t answer how much it “should” cost but from general online research and price comparison, a full set (aka not a refill but starting from scratch) at high end salons can be at least $200-300. From there it’s around $100 to $150 to maintain.) You can find deals on groupon for sure, but this is where you run into some trouble: some of the places on there aren’t so reputable. It’s important to go in for a consultation first.

      That said: PRICE DOES NOT GUARANTEE QUALITY! Make sure you research the place, have a consultation, feel comfortable there, have asked questions. There could very well be an eyelash renegade out there doing lashes on the cheap out of the goodness of her heart who is brilliant at it.

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  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    The eyelash cleaning tips are great for people who don’t even wear fake lashes.

    I get asked if I do a lot and I wear Dior Black Out Mascara [http://rstyle.me/n/bmwbqhbv2s7] — I highly recommend! And it washes off really well with face oil (which you don’t need to rub off).

    • Amelia Diamond

      Elizabeth I thought you were a spambot at first but then realized you weren’t trying to tell me how to earn money from home. I loved that mascara back in the mascara-wearing days

      • BK

        What’s with those guys there’s heaps on here lately

        • Katrina Lee

          They drive me crazy! Every damn time.

    • Natty

      The Dior Black Out is so awesome. I also love Tarte’s “Lights, Camera, Flashes,” which has the added glam of a GOLD TUBE
      http://www.sephora.com/lights-camera-flashes-statement-mascara-P380828

  • I have to be honest, Amelia, I worry about the bias the experts you talked to might have. Maybe it’s my general distrust, but I think maybe asking someone who applies eyelash extensions for a living might not be the best person to ask whether they are safe or not.

    Hopefully they are though, because they look great on you!

    • Amelia Diamond

      I hear your concerns but I trust them especially because I’ve had some non-trust worthy applications prior to this. Also, Dr. Gerstman is a doctor before anything else!

      • That’s very true!! I wonder if places that do eyelash extensions are subjected to some sort of health screening? If not, I think they should. All salons, really.

        • Amelia Diamond

          They do not all “have to” but there are regulations for every state. (And I agree: they all should have, I think!!) Courtney Akai is a member of NEESA (national eyelash education and safety association) and Karolina Osieck-Bula is a licensed esthetician who no joke went to school for FOUR YEARS to learn the art of eyelash extensions.

      • Senka

        Non-trustworthy, or downright horrible application experiences are ususally the toughest lesson. I had one done out of curiosity quite long ago and was literally left with the bald eyelid for a month. Not to mention the pain of the glue residue removing. I was pretty determined never to do it again. Then in the summer of 2014 I decided to take the plunge again and give other salon a chance, because I wanted to look pretty on vacation, without wearing mascara. that was a much different experience. Lashes were professionally done, and after holiday, I had them removed at the same salon, without pain, and leaving my natural lashes in their usual condition. I don’t think I’ll do it again, because both times they looked a bit too much on my face. My natural lashes are pretty long, but the ends are light, so I switched to occasional eyelash dying as a better suited solution.

  • l:ly

    that zayn pic is edited. his eyes are brown. his eyelashes are still to die for tho ugh

    • Amelia Diamond

      Are you sure it’s not just the light of the heavens pouring out from behind his retinas?

      • l:ly

        that or it’s the warm glow of being loved by GiGi Hadid

        • Amelia Diamond

          It’s Gigi Glow.

  • xtyb

    My main question is this: How long does it take the first time and how long do the fill-in appointments take? I am a person who won’t color my hair because I just cannot sit in that chair for so long. I would LOVE to have these but…please don’t tell me it takes more than an hour.

    • Amelia Diamond

      GOOD QUESTION. The first time can take up to 2 hours. After that I think 45/hour. But listen. And I mean this, I’m the same as you with the hair thing and when I get my hair “painted” it can take me 5 hours total in the hair chair — and I go absolutely insane. The most blissful thing about eyelashes is that there is NO PHONE. Put on a podcast if you can’t fall asleep, but it’s heaven. I think it’s the one time I relax. (And if you wear contacts take them out so you can really zzzz)

      • xtyb

        Wait-you can close your eyes? That’s a whole other thing. In my current life, napping is better than day drinking. This is the difference between a massage and the dentist. Sign me up!!!

        PS yours do look amazing. That photo is what really inspires me.

  • 1614omra

    I am soooooo happy with my switch to lash extensions. My eyes aren’t puffy from applying/removing mascara/eyeliner, my undereye bags are smoother from treating them more gently. I never realized how much damage I was doing to the skin around my eyes before. People comment on how much smoother my skin looks or if I found an awesome allergy medication. Extensions do require investment and time and for a 10 month period, I had to slash my budget—and the extensions from my life. But now that things are back on track financially, you’re damn straight I got those bad bi%$es put back on! They save SO. MUCH. TIME.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Yea I cut back in other areas…you definitely have to weigh the pros and cons of where your spending money goes but…this is better than alcohol!

  • Jen

    Amelia, I get eye lash extensions because I have allergic reactions to so many mascaras and now that i’ve started, I will never be able to stop. It’s addicting!! It also has made me so much more laid back in my make up routine, which sounds crazy, but with the extensions you really don’t need anything else!

    Can you please share what style (natural, cat eye, etc…) you got and if you did the J curl or the C curl? They look amazing! I’m getting a refill on Thursday and I love your look. I’m trying to still find my style myself.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Let me ask Karolina who did my lashes @ Dr. G’s for you!

      • Amelia Diamond

        It was C curl. Thickness was 0.07; 8-12mm, almond shape!

  • BK

    Have you heard of lash lift procedures? It’s where they do like a semi-permanent curl and tint on the lashes without adding extensions and apparently it’s the shiz. But also very expensive.

  • Danielle

    Probably should switch that zayn pic (that’s photoshopped) with a real pic of him ya kno

  • Wendy

    So glad you included my best friend Courtney as a lash expert! You need to try out the boutique!! All the girls are amazing! From person experience, I can say that my short, Asian lashes grew out stronger and longer!

    • Wendy

      Also, depending on the glue you use, baby oil actually helps soften the lashes!!

  • Liz

    I had eyelash extensions for my wedding and after they came out, my natural lashes were noticeably thinner. I was freaking out but they grew back. I wouldn’t get them again.

    • Miranda Marie Vieth

      I was thinking about getting them for my wedding too, to avoid having to wear mascara. I probably would not get them again after my wedding, but did your natural lashes grow back to the same way they were before?

  • Annabel London

    Moisturizing your eyelashes:
    It is very important to moisturize your Fake Eyelashes extensions because it prevents eyelash breakage and also promotes eyelash regrowth and makes eyelashes strong, nourished and healthy.

  • Julie Garrett

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  • Lashmajick

    Eyelash extensions only damage your lashes if they are not applied properly.
    This is the fault of a negligent person posing as an expert. Research online and ask questions just like you would if you were looking for a doctor. You have to trust a person who is using adhesive near your eyes.

  • kate

    SO jealous of ladies who can afford to do this!

  • D

    This entire article is completely FALSE. Eyelash extensions certainly DO damage natural lashes. I actually had nice lashes before extensions and went to one of the best salons to have them done. 2 months later I got them removed and I’m left with nearly NO eyelashes. It’s completely depressing and I wish I never got eyelash extensions to begin with. Be warned: DO NOT GET EYELASH EXTENSIONS