Looking to boost your lashes without the commitment and cost of lash extensions? Meet the lash lift. "A lash lift is a process in which the natural lashes are curled and lifted, making lashes appear longer and eyes more open," says Clementina Richardson, celebrity lash expert and founder of Envious Lashes in Miami and New York City.
Like a perm for your lashes, a lash lift semipermanently curls the hairs and is a great in-between option for those who want more than mascara but don't want to commit to extensions. We tapped Richardson and Rebecca Hoffman, owner of Bespoke Brows NYC, for all the details on this trendy treatment.
What is the lash lift process?
- Consultation. First thing's first: "You always start with a consult," Richardson says. "The lash artist will assess the natural lash to see how much lift is required to achieve the perfect look." Richardson's clients request different looks including cat eye and a "lifted opened eye look" and she will assess what would look best on each individual.
- Lashes are adhered to a curling rod. After the consultation, “a rod is chosen and lashes are adhered to this rod using a medical-grade lash lift glue," Hoffman explains. "The glue used is water-soluble, so it is different from and much more gentle than a lash extension glue.” Good Housekeeping Institute Deputy Editor Jessica Teich tested out a lash lift firsthand at Bespoke Brows with Hoffman and said this step (which took about 15 to 20 minutes) was the most uncomfortable part, although it wasn't terrible. "The hardest part is keeping your eyes closed the whole time and just getting used to someone touching your eyes and lashes so much for so long."
- An activating solution is applied to activate the curl, followed by a neutralizing solution that seals everything into place. The final step of the lift is rinsing eyes thoroughly with a saline solution. "It took a little over an hour to do the lift, with each step of the process taking less time than the previous," Teich says.
- Lashes are tinted (optional). "Many of our clients do a lash tint in conjunction with the lash lift for more impact," Richardson says. This would be the last step of the process. "The tint is mixed with a cream oxidant and applied to the lashes, and removed after just a few minutes."
What’s the cost of a lash lift?
"A lash lift can run from $75 to $250," Richardson says. "This is based on location and expertise." At Bespoke Brows, lash lifts cost $99.
How long does a lash lift usually last?
"Lash lifts generally last between 3.5 and five weeks, based on the growth cycle of your natural lashes," Richardson explains. Meaning if your hair grows quickly, you will be on the three to four week schedule, as the lift grows out with your lashes.
What's the difference between a lash lift and lash extensions?
Think of extensions as the top tier treatment in terms of look and cost. "They add density, length and curvature to your own lashes," Richardson says. However, extensions are often more expensive and require a lot of maintenance and upkeep. Lash growth serums are a more subtle option which "help strengthen natural lashes" and are used at home, although results may take a while to see. A lash lift is that middle ground: an professional treatment that lasts weeks and has immediate results.
Do lash lifts damage your lashes?
“As with any chemical process there is always a slight chance for damage, but when done properly, lash lifts are not damaging to lashes," Hoffman says. "On the contrary, a lot of guests experience increased lash strength when receiving consistent lash lifts because they are forgoing their eyelash curlers, which can put a lot of strain on and impart damage to the lashes." There is also a built-in keratin treatment in most lash lift treatments which further helps to strengthen and fortify the hair.
"Damage to natural lashes can only occur if they are over processed," Richardson says. "The technician must be aware of how much time is needed for a lash lift based on the type of hair follicle the client has, which trained technicians should know."
Are lash lifts painful?
One thing to watch for: lash lifts could cause a reaction on those with super sensitive or allergy-prone skin. “Visit a salon that offers a patch test for allergies to the solutions," advises Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City. "And you may want to avoid it if you have very fragile lashes."
While Teich found the process painless overall, she did say that "if the activating or neutralizing solution gets into your eye, it definitely stings a lot." When she accidentally opened her eye, she experienced instant burning and tearing that was quickly eased by the technician swiping her waterline with wet Q-tips. "While it isn't dangerous, it is uncomfortable at the time, so just be careful to keep your eyes closed throughout the entire process," Teich advises. "My eyes felt totally fine after I rinsed them with no residual effects."
Can you do a lash lift at home?
Both of our experts agree that lash lifts are not meant to be a DIY process. "This is one treatment that should definitely be left to the professionals," Richardson advises.
Can you still wear mascara with a lash lift?
Mascara is fair game post-lash lift. "Just wait 24 hours after the treatment is done," Hoffman says. "I would advise avoiding a waterproof mascara though, as this product tends to be quite dehydrating."
Lash Lift Pros
Both experts and Teich are big fans of lash lifts for these reasons:
- A lash lift requires little maintenance and you can stop at any time.
- It's a great option for boosting blonde or light-colored lashes.
- It can make lashes appear longer.
- It's great for curling straight lashes.
- A lash lift may be better than lash extensions for those with sensitive eyes.
- It's customizable.
- It can take away the need for mascara or a lash curler.
- It makes getting ready faster.
- It reduces potential damage to lashes from an eyelash curler.
- You can still wash your face as usual, which is not the case with eyelash extensions.
- It can make people look more polished and put together without any additional makeup.
Lash Lift Cons
As with any professional treatment, there are a few caveats:
- It could be damaging if you have super fragile or thin lashes.
- The cost and time. "It’s pricey and temporary, and there’s a certain level of commitment involved," Teich notes.
- Your "new lashes" can take some getting used to. "It felt like I was wearing falsies for a few days," Teich says. She noticed her lifted lashes bumped against her hooded lids.
What does lash lift aftercare involve?
"The biggest thing is that I couldn’t wet my lashes for 24 hours following the service, so no washing my face or putting on makeup and no steams or saunas in that time," Teich explains. For the weeks following, Hoffman advised Teich to brush lashes daily with a spoolie and to avoid sleeping with an eye mask or using a lash curler which could impact the longevity of the lift. And of course, try to keep your hands off your eyes as much as possible (no rubbing!). "Otherwise, business as usual," Teich says. Meaning, mascara, makeup, cleansers and makeup removers of your choice.
"You can optionally incorporate an eyelash protein treatment into your daily self-care routine to prolong the results of the lash lift and keep your lashes in as healthy a state as possible," Hoffman says. Richardson is also a big proponent of using a conditioning lash serum twice daily, as "it will give you denser, longer lashes which will result in a better lash lift the next time around."
Here are some favorites to keep lashes looking fresh:
Dori Price is a New York City-based freelance writer and editor and beauty, style and wellness expert who was the Beauty & Fashion Director at Family Circle for 13 years before she joined Good Housekeeping, Prevention and Woman’s Day as a freelance beauty editor. She has also written for WomensHealthMag.com, Elle.com and HealthCentral.com.