Do you feel like your eyelashes are too pale, too short or too sparse? Not all of us are blessed with natural Bambi lashes, which is why many of us use mascara to darken, lengthen and lift them. Unfortunately, mascara often clumps up, smudges and comes off far too easily. Temporary false lashes are fiddly to apply and can easily look tacky and cheap. Plus they often look unnatural and can fall off easily - not a good look at a party!
Eyelash extensions applied by a beauty professional can look as natural or as glamorous as you like, so you can wake up every single morning with perfect lashes.
Read on to discover more about the benefits of having long eyelashes, the origins of eye extensions, the different types of eyelash extensions available and what to expect during your appointment.
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Why do people want long lashes?
Although eyelashes serve a basic function (to keep dirt particles out of our eyes), they're also great for adding definition and boosting femininity. Long eyelashes can:
- help you look younger
- help you look more feminine
- draw attention to your eyes
- add definition to your eyes
- make your eyes look bigger
- make you look more attractive.
Just what is so attractive about those little hairs that line our eyes, and why do we spend so much time and money lengthening, curling and enhancing them?
Attraction and femininity
The slow fluttering of long, dark lashes has long been interpreted as a sign of seduction- just take a look at the sultry cartoon character Jessica Rabbit, who always peers up beneath heavy lids and long lashes. So what is it about long lashes that many people find so alluring?
A study by America's Harvard University1 compared male and female faces and found that women have a 'greater luminance contrast' between the eyes, lips and surrounding skin. This means that the eyes and lips are darker and more defined on women than they are on men. Hence why women use eyeliner, eye-shadow, mascara and lipstick to accentuate these areas and thus appear even more feminine. Eyelashes line our eyes and increase our luminance contrast, so the longer and darker the lash, the more feminine the resulting effect.
As we know, the eyes are an extremely important part of communication. When we have face-to-face conversations with people, we spend most of our time gazing at each other's eyes, picking up on subliminal signals like whether a person is trustworthy, or if they're interested in what we're saying. Long lashes are thought to attract the gaze because we tend to be naturally drawn to movement. So - next time you want to get the attention of your boss in a meeting, maybe try blinking a bit more!
Just think of those old Disney films with the cute woodland animals. What was it that made them so cute? Look at pictures of Dumbo, Bambi and other baby animals and you'll see a reoccurring theme - huge sparkly eyes and long, lustrous eyelashes. Long lashes are clearly perceived to be a sign of youth. In real life, our eyelashes do thin down and fall out as we grow older, so keeping them looking thick and plentiful could help us maintain that youthful glow.
The eyes can give away a lot about a person's health. The shadow of downwards-pointing lashes can cause the whites of our eyes to darken, giving the appearance of ill-health. Discoloured whites are thought to be indicative of internal problems with the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. Therefore, lifting the lashes can widen the eyes, increase reflective shine and give the illusion of brighter whites.
The origins of eyelash extensions
Eyelash extensions were developed in 2004 as a semi-permanent alternative to disposable false lashes. The new technique, invented in Korea, involves the application of individual extensions to each natural lash using stronger glue, rather than gluing a strip to the lid (as is the case with shop-bought lashes). Eyelash extensions initially hit it off in Vietnam before spreading to America and Europe, where they're currently in huge demand.
Types of eyelash extension
For any look you desire - whether you fancy going for the extreme look favoured by glamour models , or perhaps a more natural look, there's a different style lash for every job. Types of eyelash extensions differ according to four categories:
There are two ways eyelash extensions can be applied:
- bound together in clusters (cluster lashes)
- individually (individual lashes).
Cluster lashes consist of 5 to 8 blunt-end lashes tied together in a tiny knot at the base. Because they come together at the base, they allow room for more lashes and thus create a fuller, more flared effect.
The only problem with cluster lashes is that, because they're bound together and need extra support, they often get glued to more than one natural lash. This means that when one of the natural lashes falls out, the other will also be ripped out prematurely, potentially damaging the follicle.
Individual lashes are, as you might imagine, individual lashes applied to one natural lash (known as the 'host lash') at a time. When the natural lash sheds, the extension falls off with it, causing minimal damage.
Eyelash extensions are made either from a natural-looking synthetic material, or from more expensive mink fur.
Mink hairs are harvested from live Siberian Minks. There is nothing cruel or painful about this procedure as hairs are simply brushed out of the malting coats before being sterilised and treated. The Mink hair is supposed to make lashes appear extra velvety and light-weight. Although they are more expensive, they look more natural and often last longer than synthetic lashes.
Curved eyelashes are more desirable because they stand out more than straight lashes. Some people have very long eyelashes but because they're straight, the length simply changes the shape of the eye and makes it appear smaller than it really is.
Extensions come in four different levels of curl:
- J Curl - the most natural-looking of the four, great for people who already have very curved lashes.
- B Curl - slightly curlier but not outlandish - ideal for those who want a noticeable change but don't want to look like they're on their way to a party everyday.
- C Curl - for a glamorous-looking curl.
- D Curl - this is THE party lash - exuberant, attention-grabbing and super-sexy, if you're out to get attention, this is the curl for you.
Size incorporates both length and width. Lengths can vary from 6mm to 14mm and usually around 3 to 4 lengths are used on each lid to achieve a more natural look. Shorter lashes are used in the inner corners, with the longest used in the outer corners to follow the natural growth patterns of the lashes.
Width determines how thick each lash looks. Widths range from 0.15 (the width of the average natural eyelash) to 0.25 for a glamour-girl look. For a sophisticated mascara effect, a width of 0.20 is recommended.
We colour our lips, dye our hair and paint our nails - so why not inject a little colour onto our eyelashes too? For those of you who think black is boring, it's worth noting that eyelash extensions come in every colour imaginable. You can either go for a full-on rainbow effect, or you can choose to have a couple of individual lashes in hot pink, electric blue or any other colour that takes your fancy.
Eyelash extension FAQ
Before you choose to have eyelash extensions you'll probably want to know exactly what you can expect for your money. Here we've answered all the important questions we could think of so you can go to your appointment feeling as prepared and free from stress as possible.
How are lash extensions fitted?
Your session will usually begin with a consultation in which your beauty therapist will establish the kind of look you want and whether there's a certain celebrity you wish to emulate. Then, your real lashes will be cleaned to get rid of any excess oil that could prohibit the glue from bonding successfully. White pads will be placed over the bottom lashes to keep them out of the way and you will be asked to close your eyes. Special tweezers will then be used to separate the 'host lashes', which the extensions will be attached to. Between 50 and 150 individual lashes will be applied in this way depending on the size of your eye and the effect you want to achieve. This will take 1 to 1.5 hours and you will be asked to relax for 5 to 10 minutes afterwards while the glue dries. Cluster lashes take less time to apply because they come ready-bound together.
How much do lash extensions cost?
Eyelash extensions can cost on average between £80 and £120, or £65 for a half-set (a half-set simply means less lashes are used).
How long do lash extensions last?
From any time between two weeks and two months. You eyelash extensions will fall out when the host lash naturally sheds. You will lose around 12-15 lashes every two to three weeks but you can usually head back to the salon for regular touch-ups (for a small fee).
Are there things you can't do with eyelash extensions in?
You can swim, shower and even cry with extensions in if you need to. However, you are advised against doing the following:
- tinting lashes before or after extension application
- curling lashes with an eyelash curler
- pulling at or fiddling with the extensions
- using a sauna or steam-room
- wearing mascara - you will not need to because the lashes will look thick, dark and lustrous anyway.
Do eyelash extensions feel annoying?
No - eyelash extensions are designed to feel lightweight and natural, unlike false lashes. You will soon forget they are even there (until you look in the mirror of course).
Will eyelash extensions ruin my natural lashes?
No, your lashes naturally go through a moulting cycle and will fall out of their own accord anyway. The only time the hair follicle can become damaged is when the hair is pulled out prematurely and repeatedly, as sometimes happens with a condition known as trichotillomania, which causes a person to pull their own hair out, including their eyelashes. Over time the lashes can stop growing back completely, leaving the lids completely bald. Strip lashes are recommended in this situation, as these can be attached to the lid.
What qualifications should my beauty therapist have?
All the beauty professionals listed on Beauty Resource have provided us with evidence either of appropriate qualifications, or of membership with a professional body.
1NCBI, 'A sex difference in facial contrast and its exaggeration by cosmetics.'
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