An Insider's Guide to Eyelash Extensions

Photo Credits: Rosdiana Ciaravolo / Contributor/ Getty Images | Image Used for Illustrative Purposes Only

If you like the idea of instantly longer and thicker eyelashes, semipermanent lash extensions—no longer reserved for A-listers or the red carpet—can make a dramatic difference in not only your look, but also your beauty routine. However, there are some things to consider when choosing them.

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First, it's important to note that you are not expected to be a lash extension expert when you step into the salon for the first time. A lash stylist will consult with you to find out your preferences and assess your distinctive eye shape, your skin tone and the quality of your natural lashes," says Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes in New York. "Lashes come in various lengths, curvatures and widths, which are carefully selected to create a custom look for each client."

There are also different materials used to make lash extensions—these are the three types:

Mink
Synthetic polyester fiber processed to be very flexible and light with a slight sheen. These are the lightest of all extensions and give a soft, feathery look. 

Silk
Synthetic fiber processed in the same manner as mink, but darker in appearance and will create a more dramatic look.

Synthetic
Polyester fiber lashes that are the heaviest and boldest of the three, and will create the most dramatic look.

Ask about the kind of adhesive the salon uses too (each faux lash is glued to a natural lash). "You only want American-made medical- or surgical-grade glue that is formaldehyde-free and FDA-approved," says cosmetic chemist and owner of NovaLash, Sophy Merszei. "Exposure to formaldehyde in the eye area can cause swelling and puffiness." Sometimes even safe, formaldehyde-free glue can cause irritation, and in these cases, stylists can switch you to a hypoallergenic version, although some complain it doesn't hold as well.

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Another important factor to consider is the lash stylist you choose to apply them. Just like how you would take your time to choose a personal trainer, doctor or surgeon, you should do the same with your lash stylist. "Safety should be your number-one concern," says Richardson. Finding someone who is certified to apply the lashes is a must. Depending on the state, the stylist also needs to be licensed, not just certified. Do your homework! I always suggest doing your research to find the right lash stylist in your city, and avoid going to any lash stylist that can see you at that exact moment, or who is offering a lower rate. I have seen way too many improper applications and damaged lashes over the course of my career. Even if you need to wait one month to see the right lash stylist, trust me it’s worth the wait!"

Here are some other best practices Richardson recommends following when getting lash extensions:

It’s very important to avoid steam and wetting your lashes for the first 48 hours. You can of course wash your wash your face and take a shower, just make sure that no water touches your lashes. You also need to avoid rubbing your eyes and playing, picking or excessively touching your lashes.

Only use cleansers on and around the eyes that are specifically formulated to be safe for eyelash extensions. Other products may contain ingredients that can weaken the bond of your lash extensions and cause them to shed prematurely. If you are making an investment in extensions in the first place, you surely don’t want to see them go to waste.

Never use a mechanical eyelash curler. If your extensions are starting to fall, use a heated eyelash curler like Envious Lashes Heated Curler ($30) to gently lift them.

Do not sleep face down. Try to sleep on your back or side, and use a silk pillowcase, which is gentler on your lashes.

Wearing mascara will shorten the lifespan of your lashes, but if you must, use a water-soluble formula only.

Use an oil-free makeup remover and do not use any oil-based products or heavy creams around the eyes.

Lashes do need to be brushed every so often with a spoolie brush, but just don’t overdo it when you brush.

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With proper care, lash extensions should last up to six weeks before they all shed, but most people get them filled every two or three weeks to keep them full. "Lash extensions can fall of or shed in different ways," says Richardson. "Typically, your natural lashes grow to maturity and the lash extensions shed with them during their normal shedding process." A common notion is that lash extensions ruin your natural lashes, but Richardson says this is not the case, and this only happens as the result of improper application or the stylist not selecting the correct type of lash. To keep your natural lashes healthy while wearing falsies, apply a conditioning serum, such as GrandeLash-MD ($65), RevitaLash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner ($150) or NeuLash Lash Enhancing Serum ($150), each night.