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.
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:
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.