As a freelance makeup artist and licensed esthetician, I get questions about lash extensions quite often. I’m always surprised how little people know about them. And about how much inaccurate information is out there. So let’s talk lash extensions, shall we?

I’m certified in both classic and volume lash extensions with Novalash. It costs a great deal of money and a significant time investment to be properly trained as a lash artist. In addition to training costs, there is also the cost of products to consider. Proper adhesives and lash fibers that are safe for use around the eyes are expensive. Qualified lash artist have been trained to use proper products with safety and sanitation protocols that protect the health of your lashes and eyes. They are worth the prices they charge.

You may find yourself wondering why then certain places advertise “lash extensions” for extremely low prices. Often these places are not giving you lash extensions at all. They are in fact gluing clusters of lashes like those you can buy from drugstores to your own lashes with permanent glues (often hair glue). These are not lash extensions and this practice is not safe for your lashes or eyes.

Applying lash clusters or tabbing as it is known in the industry is completely safe when applying them for daily use with a non-permanent lash glue. This means that the glue you use washes away at the end of the day and the lash clusters are not worn for more than a day at a time.

Why is it bad to apply these clusters to your natural lashes with permanent adhesives? The first reason is that often they are using cheap adhesives made for hair extensions. It is not eye safe and should never be used near the eyes. The second reason is that the clusters are glued on top of several of your own natural lashes. This is problematic because lashes grow at different rates depending on the life cycle of each lash. I won’t go into technical terms here but basically your lashes go through a cycle of growth from baby lash to growing lash to a lash that is ready to shed off and be replaced with an incoming baby lash. When these clusters are permanently attached to several natural lashes at different stages in the growth cycle you will end up with painful and twisted lashes when your own natural lashes begin to grow out at different rates from each other. Here is an example:

So here we can see that these are in fact clusters and not proper lash extensions. You can see the knot at the end of each cluster where the fibers were bonded together. This is a dead giveaway that these are drugstore daily use clusters and not properly made lash extension volume fans. You can also see how the “extensions” do not look natural because they are the same size cluster across the lash line. Finally this is a great example of how bad these “extensions” will wear due to the twisting that occurs as the natural lashes grow out. This photo was obtained from a fellow lash artist. This client came in to have these improperly done “extensions” removed after having them done cheaply elsewhere. The client was in pain, embarrassed by the look of these and her natural lashes were severely damaged as a result of this work. Daily wear lash clusters are far too heavy to attach to natural lashes permanently. That along with the improper attachment of them caused damage to her natural lashes.

So, what are proper lash extensions? Let’s talk about classic lash extensions first. In this case a single synthetic lash fiber is attached to one single natural lash with proper adhesive that is created for use around the eyes. The lash fiber is chosen carefully by the properly trained lash artist to not only give the desired look but also by what is safe for your natural lashes. Just like the hair on your head lashes vary from person to person. Some people have very thick strong lashes and some people have very fine weak lashes. Synthetic lash fibers come in several different lengths and diameters. It is important that the lash artist chooses a lash fiber that is not too long or too heavy for your natural lashes to support. You must trust your lash artist to make the safe and healthy decision for your lashes. Lash extensions can and will enhance your eyes, but your natural lashes can limit just how long and glam you can go. Wearing extensions that are too long and heavy for your natural lashes could result in permanent damage to your natural lashes. This is a client of mine wearing a set of classic extensions.

If you find that classic extensions do not give you the fullness that you desire, you might consider getting volume extensions put on instead. Volume lashes differ from classic extensions in that rather than attaching one synthetic fiber to your natural lash, a fan on ultra-fine fiber is created. One fan of synthetic lashes is attached to one single natural lash. This creates a much fuller look than a classic set. Or the technique can be used to fill in sparse areas along your natural lash line. This is a client of mine wearing a set of volume lash extensions.

The key point behind both types of extensions is that the synthetic fibers are attached to ONE natural lash. At no point would multiple natural lashes be attached to each other with the synthetic lashes. As you can imagine, this process takes time and patience. It is highly unlikely that you can get a full set done in under an hour. I typically take 2-3 hours to apply a full set with volume extensions taking longer than classics.

So, the next time you see someone advertising “extensions” at low prices ask some questions. Where did they train? What products do the use? How long will the process take? Ask to see photos of their work. Scout out their work areas to see if they look clean and well maintained. Be careful and smart! These are your eyes. Extensions are a totally safe way to enhance your eyes if done by a properly trained lash artist that uses proper products and sanitation protocols.