Including if they are safe for your eyes.

By Rebecca Norris
July 01, 2021
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woman applying mascara looking in mirror
Credit: PeopleImages / Getty Images

Achieving, dark, elongated lashes is something most of us obtain with a few coats of mascara. There are, however, two newfangled ways to do so: eyelash lifts and extensions. To break down the benefits of and the differences between both treatments, we tapped the experts. Here, they share how to find the eyelash upgrade that is right for you.

Eyelash lifts and extensions look very different.

Eyelash lifts and extensions are often confused, despite the fact that they provide very different results. According to Clementina Richardson of Envious Lashes, a lash extension provides length and volume via strategically-placed hairs; lifts, on the other hand, add more subtle length through a process that drastically lifts the lashes you already have. As for which treatment is right for you? If you're looking solely for length along with a curl, Richardson recommends opting for a lift, which utilizes keratin treatments and rods to deliver natural-looking results that last between four and six weeks. "Clients should not get them wet for the first 24 hours," Richardson says, adding that once your lashes lift are set, you can wash your face and apply mascara as you normally would.

If you're hoping for length and increased volume, Richardson suggests extensions, which can be tailored and contoured to your exact shape preference. With proper care, extensions should also last four to six weeks. Maintenance involves doing as little as possible to your eyes; avoid rubbing and applying oil-based products or mascara. Rubbing will cause breakage, mascara will lead to clumping, and oil-based products can weaken the bond between the extension and natural lash, causing early fallout. Additionally, in order to ensure the longevity of your extensions, Richardson says that clients should not get their lashes wet for the first 48 hours following their appointment; this will help the adhesive set.

The application process, however, is similar.

Regardless of the lash treatment you choose, expect to begin both processes with a consultation to assess your desired outcome. Once this preliminary discussion is complete and you have selected your preferred lash volume and length, your aesthetician will move forward with your treatment. In both cases (lifts and extensions) Richardson notes that clients rest comfortably on their backs with their eyes closed at all times. This prevents the chemicals' fumes from getting into their eyes and causing watering or irritation. As far as the treatment itself goes, lash extensions rely on three to five lengths of extensions applied with adhesive, whereas lifts utilize the desired rod size and keratin treatment to form and set the curl.

Eye safety is critical in both cases.

As popular as eyelash treatments are, like any cosmetic treatment, they come with risks. "First and foremost, do your research and find a reputable aesthetician," explains Dr. Maryam Zamani, a global leading aesthetic doctor and oculoplastic surgeon. "Inexperience can be a problem. Inadequate training can cause internal eye irritation, lashes can be glued together, the eyelids [can be] glued closed, or an infection or allergic reaction can develop." Since an allergic reaction is possible, Dr. Zamani recommends performing a patch test with the chemicals used in the treatments somewhere else on the body to determine how your skin will react.

Another thing to keep in mind if you're considering extensions? Heavier, fuller hairs might be too much for your natural lashes to support. "Eyelash extensions can be associated with traction alopecia, resulting in a loss of hairs due to too much weight or pressure placed on the hair follicle," Dr. Zamani says. "This is quite a common side effect, but tends to occur as the artificial lashes grow out and begin to pull on the natural lash they are glued to." In that vein, as your lashes begin to grow, you may experience irritation from the tiny bumps where the extension adheres to the natural lash. As such, you may feel inclined to rub your eyes, which can cause breakage, or even pull on the lashes to remove them. No matter what, it's important to attempt to keep your hands away from your eyes at all times.

As for lash lifts, Dr. Zamani says that the chemicals used can cause corneal ulcers and burns if they get into the eye. "This can cause long-term visual changes and potentially scar the eye—and potentially cause blindness," she says. "Remember, these chemicals are also strong and can weaken your lashes. It takes a long time for lashes to grow back!" No matter which treatment you choose, Now Optics optometrist Monica Hazien, O.D., notes that you should never have either done more frequently than every six weeks. "Eyelash extensions can be refilled every two to three weeks," she says, noting that this is different from a full-blown treatment. "To decrease chances of eye irritation and side effects, make these enhancement procedures an occasional treat instead of a regular practice."

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