person holding black and silver scissors

If your dream is to wake up with long, full, dark, and feathery eyelashes without globbing on three coats of mascara you’ve probably at least considered semi-permanent eyelash extensions, a trend that has sprung up over the past few years to respond to that exact wish.

These lashes can last for weeks, going one step further than falsies. While the trend is becoming more popular in big cities and celebrity circles, there are still questions about safety, cost, comfort, and the overall process. We spoke to pros to find out what it takes to get your dream lashes.

The basics

The process of applying eyelash extension is more precise than gluing a stripe of falsies to your lash line. First, a technician will guide you through the different lash extensions options: length, fiber (synthetic or silk), and curl type. To help you guide your consultation and to determine the best lash extension for you, most salons offer a menu.

Yes, you can just roll out of bed with thick, Kim Kardashian-inspired lashes, if that’s what you want. If you want to have my-lashes but better, people may think you were born with soft, fluttery lashes – it’s also possible. The application process has become so sophisticated that extensions are now possible to be customized. Your technician will be happy to discuss your lash preferences with you, including natural, full, long, or super-long.

Clementina Richardson, celebrity lash expert from Envious Lashes, says that there are many textures available for lash extensions. You can choose a premium faux-mink lash that is light and flexible. Ultra-silk lashes are extremely soft and create a dramatic look without straining the natural lashes. Clients who prefer a natural look should request 80-90 lashes per eyes, depending on their eyelid size.

The next step after you have chosen the lash look that you like, is the application. This can take a while so don’t be surprised if you’ll have to spend up to three hours at the salon. The technician will use a tiny, tweezer-like tool that attaches approximately 160 eyelashes to your eyes. This is done by gluing one false eyelash to each of your natural lashes one at a time. The extension attached to your natural lashes will fall out as well, so they need to be touched up. The initial set can take up to two hours. Your eyes will be taped closed, so you can expect a slightly awkward position.

The pros

If you’ve ever seen someone with distractingly long lashes, so luscious and fluttery that they couldn’t possibly be natural, then you know the number one benefit of extensions: You get to walk around with the lashes you wish you were born with, no mascara or sticky lash glue required.

“One of biggest pros of eyelash extensions is you never have to wear mascara ever again,” explains lash expert Skyy Hadley of Blink Beauty Boutique. “Lashes can make your eyes sparkle and bring life to tired faces. Women who have long, full lashes feel more confident and are more likely to go natural with their makeup.”

Tailor-made lashes sound amazing, right? But for every lash devotee out there, there’s someone who’ll be quick to warn you: extensions are not low-maintenance, incredibly uncomfortable, and stupid expensive to maintain.

The Cons

Before you decide if lash extensions are worth the investment, there are some important drawbacks. They are expensive. A full starter set can easily set you back between $120 and $200, depending on the type of lashes you want and your technician, Tirzah Shirai, founder of Blinkbar explains. This does not include the cost of touch-ups. Your extensions should be replaced every 2 to 3 weeks because they will fall with your natural lash cycles. Replacements are also $100. Shirai also warns bargain-hunters against going to cheaper places.

“There are all these places that say they do lash extensions for $65, but typically, what you’re getting is a cluster,” Shirai says. “A cluster is basically a group of lashes that have been preglued together. They are extremely heavy. They will completely ruin your lashes.”

How do you explain? In short, these clusters each affix to a few lashes, making the shedding that happens later a big ‘ol mess: lash clusters stick to lashes that have shed and natural lashes that are still intact. Clients are often left in a losing situation.

Dr. Lamees Hamdan, a skin-care expert, says that extensions can be applied individually. Lamees Hamdan tells us it is better to get extensions sporadically than to do them every day. Dr. Hamdan explains that eyelash extensions can cause loss of natural lashes.

Worse than a loss of lashes, which is quite serious, would be the possibility of an infection after a lash-extending treatment. Hadey explains that lash-extension is not for everyone. Conjunctivitis can occur if the lashes or implements are not properly cleaned.

Dr. Hamdan reiterates the fact that lash extensions can put your eyes and skin at risk. It’s usually not the lashes that are causing problems, since they are lightweight and safe for your eyes. The glue can actually cause damage to your eyes.

Dr. Hamdan explains that lash glue is chemical and can cause irritation, inflammation, allergic reactions or dry eyes. Your technician should conduct a patch test to rule out potential issues before the glue is applied to your skin. Also, it’s important to recognize that this process involves sharp tools near your eyes for a prolonged period of time, so you have to consider whether or not that will bother you before you’re in the chair.

Things to Keep in Mind

After you’ve weighed the risks and considered the cost, it is important to remember the annoying rules of lash care. You can’t go to the bathroom after having extensions done to your lashes. Richardson advises that you avoid steaming and wetting your eyelashes for the first 48-hours after applying lash extensions. When you will be able to shower, you will need to dry your wet spider lashes using a blow dryer on a cool setting and a little brush. This is something that you probably have never done before.

Your eyelashes can look a lot like thin, long spider legs. Your natural lashes will shed at different rates so your extensions will too. This means that your lash line will likely look a little like a spider’s legs after a few weeks. You can’t remove extensions by yourself because you risk pulling your natural lashes.

A second consideration is the possibility that your skin-care routine may need to be altered after an extension. Things like oil-based cleansers and heavy eye creams will have to go. Richardson says that you should avoid oil-based products, heavy creams and mascara on your lashes. Oils and creams will cause extensions to fall off quicker, and mascara can cause breakage.

Basically, the most important thing to remember with eyelash extensions is to be extremely gentle. It’s not possible to stumble home at 2 AM, rub your tired eyes with your hand, and then fall asleep face-first on the bed. You must treat your lashes as if they were a $200 investment. Richardson warns that rubbing your eyes will cause lash breakage immediately. Richardson also suggests investing in a silk pillowcase as an alternative to cotton, which can lead to drying and lash snagging.

It’s not easy to maintain eyelash extensions. This is because it takes careful consideration of everything, from how you sleep to what you put near your eyes. If you feel overwhelmed by the upkeep or the expense, it might be worth starting small with a lash conditioner or a lift-and-tint. Keep in mind that you may admire huge lashes but won’t be able to live with them.