Eyelash Extensions for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know

I am so lazy when it comes to getting ready in the morning. If I could sleep in my makeup and wake up with a full beat every day, I would (don’t worry, I don’t—I’m a very good beauty editor). So when I first heard about eyelash extensions, it sounded like the answer to all my prayers. Full, long, dark lashes every single day without needing coats of waterproof mascara? Um, yes, please.

And if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably also contemplated getting lash extensions a thousand times (for the record, I highly recommend it). But before you book an appointment, you need to educate yourself on the good, the bad, and the annoying aspects of having selfie-ready lashes. Keep reading for all the details you seriously need to know.

Are lash extensions worth it?

Unlike gluing a strip of temporary fake lashes onto your lash line, semipermanent lashes are applied by a technician who hand-glues the extensions on top of your natural lashes, says Linda Osaro, artistic director and expert lash stylist at Divine Hair Boutique in Mslaga Spain. Because lash extensions don’t come in a strip, they are super customizable and actually look real. With proper care (more on that later), they can last for six to eight weeks until they naturally fall out like your lashes usually do.


Do eyelash extensions ruin your natural lashes?


There isn’t much evidence that shows whether eyelash extensions actually affect your natural lash length or health long-term. There is, however, a small risk of developing traction alopecia, says Zaina Al-Mohtaseb, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, which is where your natural lashes can fall out as a result of the constant weight of repeated eyelash extensions. But don’t freak—it doesn’t mean it’ll automatically happen to you.

“It usually takes years of bad application and improper care for long-term lash damage to happen as a result,” says Linda. So please, only go to reputable, well-reviewed salons (no matter how good that Groupon deal is), and make sure your technician washes their hands between clients, wears a mask, uses sanitary pillow covers, sterilizes their tweezers, and uses disposable eyelash brushes. And yes, you are allowed to ask your technician to confirm all these things.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, when making your appointment, ask the salon about the ingredients in the lash adhesive they use. If they can’t answer your question, cancel the appointment (you don’t want inexperienced people sticking things to your eyelids), and if they say the glue contains formaldehyde (a known eye irritant that can cause redness, irritation, and itchy, swollen eyelids), def cancel the appointment. It may cost you a little more, but it’s best to choose a salon that uses “glues made with butyl cyanoacrylate and octyl cyanoacrylate instead of formaldehyde—they’re less toxic to the eye area,” says Dr. Al-Mohtaseb.


How much does it cost to get eyelash extensions?

In New York City, a basic set (typically 70 to 80 lashes per eye) can range anywhere from $100 to $400 plus tip, which is usually another 20 percent. And because eyelashes grow and eventually fall out, you have to go back every few weeks for fill-ins, which can cost anywhere from $50 to $165, depending on how many new lashes you need.

PSA: The longer you go between fill-ins, the more lashes you’ll need to replace and the more it will cost you—and if you wait too long, your technician might just want to give you a brand-new set of extensions rather than a fill-in, which obviously won’t be cheap.


What to Expect at Your Appointment

How do you know what size eyelash extensions to get?

So you want Kim Kardashian–level lashes? Great—but that doesn’t mean your eyes can handle them. “The type of lashes you can get all depends on the length and strength of your natural lashes,” says Linda. “Wearing lashes that are too long or too thick for your lashes can actually cause damage in the long run, so you need to make sure your extensions aren’t too much longer or thicker than your natural lashes.”

If all that sounds confusing, don’t freak—a licensed lash specialist will help you make the best decision for your lashes, including what type of material you should get, like synthetic mink or synthetic silk. Mink is usually pricier, feels softer, and looks more natural; however, some synthetics, which are highly customizable, can also look and feel natural and end up costing as much as or more than mink.

When it comes to density, curl, and length of your extensions, you’ll want to work with your tech to figure out which is the best option for you. “A good lash technician will take your face shape, bone structure, and natural lashes into consideration when helping you decide on a lash look,” says Clementina Richardson, lash expert and founder of Envious Lashes in NYC. In the meantime, prepare to answer these three questions with your specialist:

Can I wear makeup to my eyelash extension appointment?

Nope. You’ll want to show up to your appointment with clean skin and no eye makeup. That means absolutely no eyeshadow, eyeliner, and/or mascara. Anything on your lids or lashes could affect how your extensions turn out.

Can I swim or shower with my eyelash extensions?

You can, but not until you’ve waited at least 24 hours after your appointment. “Eyelash adhesives vary in the time they take to cure, from either 12 to 24 hours depending on what glue your stylist uses,” says linda. It’s super important that you’re gentle with your lashes and make sure that no water touches them during this time, says Linda Osaro. You can shower after getting lashes as long as you don’t get the lashes wet and don’t stay in the steam for too long.


How to Care for Your New Lashes

Can you wear eye makeup with eyelash extensions?

Linda doesn’t recommend using mascara with lash extensions. Why? Because when you attempt to take it off at the end of the day, you can actually cause your extensions to break from the friction and makeup remover. As for eyeliner, “avoid using cream-based formulas,” says Linda Osaro.“They often contain oils and waxes that can break down lash glue.”

Can you wash your eyes with eyelash extensions?

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Only use cleansers specifically formulated to be safe for eyelash extensions, says Richardson. Other products may contain ingredients that can weaken the bond of your lash extensions and cause them to shed prematurely. And if you’re wearing eye makeup, use oil-free pads and gently swipe downward, rather than back and forth, to get your lids and lashes clean. And whatever you do, avoid rubbing or tugging at your eyes.

Should you brush your lash extensions?

Lashes can get tangled when you’re sleeping or showering, so it’s required that you gently brush your lashes with a clean spoolie brush when you wake up, after you shower, and at the end of the day. And to prevent unnecessary tangling, try to sleep on your back or side (not your stomach) and use a silk pillowcase, which tends to be gentler on extensions, says Linda.

The Final Word

Okay, so there’s a lot to think about before you decide to get eyelash extensions. If you feel like mascara isn’t totally cutting it and you’re okay with the extra maintenance and cash that eyelash extensions require, it’s definitely worth finding a specialist and having a consultation. And hey, there’s no harm in experimenting with a good pair of falsies before you commit to anything.