Everything You Need to Know About Lash Lifts (and Why They’re Better Than Lash Extensions)

My lashes are stubborn. They’re short, straight, and fall downward over my eyes. I’ve tried all the top-rated curlers on the market, yet no matter how much I train them to stay up, the lashes inevitably drop after a single coat of mascara.
I’ve tested lots of different solutions.
Sometimes I opt for a strip of falsies. And before I go on a long vacation, I get lash extensions.
Extensions are especially addicting—they add volume, curl, and length without the fuss of glue and self application. Plus, no one can even tell you have them on since silk or mink individual lashes are bonded at the root of your natural ones. Makeup takes only a couple of minutes because your face already looks done-up upon waking. But, in my personal experience, they can come at a price. Not only can they cost upwards of $200 on a set, but I’ve found my natural lashes suffer. When I’ve tried extensions, my lashes were left thin, brittle, and even shorter than before. On top of that, it’s tiring to have to be extra conscious not to rub my eyes, sleep on my side, use a sleeping mask, use mascara, or a number of other no-nos.
Just as I was about to accept defeat and a lifetime of sad lashes, I got introduced to lash lifts. They give you the best of both worlds: You get the semi-permanent lift and curl of extensions while keeping your natural lashes damage-free. Three weeks in, I’m so floored by the results I may never go back to getting extensions—or even using a lash curler—ever again.
Ahead, Courtney Buhler, founder of Sugarlash PRO, breaks down everything you need to know about getting lash lifts.

A lash lift is like a perm for your lashes.

Like old-school perms from the ’80s, lash lifts set the shape of your natural lashes using a chemical solution. “A lift is essentially what your lash would be doing with a really good mechanical curler, so [giving] a nice shape upward and a realistic curl,” Buhler said.

There is no preparation necessary.

“The only thing that we recommend is if you want a more dramatic result, then going on something like a lash serum to grow your lashes as long as possible is a great option,” Buhler suggewsted,”But we can work with any lash type.”

You can customize your results.

The first step during a session is to consult with your lash artist, who will ask you questions about your goals and style (for example, whether or not you wear mascara everyday, like lashes high upwards to your eyebrows or more fanned out, etc.) Based on your answers, your technician will pick a curl size for your eye shape.

Your lashes are glued down to a silicone shield.

After cleansing the lashes and separating your bottom lashes from your top, a silicone shield gets stuck on the skin using a gentle adhesive (similar to the glue used to apply false lashes). Adhesive is applied on top of the shield as well, then lashes are combed up to take their shape. Here is where eye-safe perming solution is applied.
“The perm solution acts as a softener so that’s going in and softening the bond of your hair so that it’s moldable,” Courtney explained. Sugarlash PRO uses CurlPerfect™ Perm Lotion, which is made up of organic compounds thioglycolic acid and emacol for breaking down and softening the lash to adapt its shape.

The perming lotion is left on for six to 12 minutes.

It depends on your hair type. “If you have a hard time curling the hair on your head, let technicians know that when doing lash lifting,” Buhler said. It makes sense—the hair on my head is naturally straight, thick, and has a hard time holding a curl without a ton of product so my lashes act the same. It took two rounds of 12 minutes for me (“that’s probably the longest in history,” Buhler commented). Then, a setting solution and oil are applied.

“The setting solution hardens everything back up and restructures the bond and makes them hard again. It locks in the shape,” Courtney said. The setting solution is followed by a nourishing lotion, which contains keratin and sodium PCA in it, to add moisture back in the lashes. It also contains aloe vera, grapeseed oil, and glycerin, a humectant that attracts moisture. It’s kind of like dyeing or bleaching your hair, then following it with conditioner.

The whole process takes about an hour from start to finish.

Here is my impressive before and after:

Lash lifts last six to eight weeks.

“We usually recommend our clients come in at the eight-week mark just for a redo,” Buhler said, “What happens is all the hairs have now been shaped to be lifted and as they shed naturally, a straight one will grow in behind it. Some people need them sooner, some need them longer it just depends on the lash cycle.”

Lash lifts cost $75 – $100 per session.

This is the price range for Sugarlash PRO specifically. It definitely depends on where you go for the service but, across the board, I’ve found lash lifts are more affordable than extensions.

You can wear mascara.

Because it’s just your natural lashes being curled, you’re free to use whatever eye makeup you wish. You just have to wait 24 hours. This is what my lashes look like two days after getting a lift with mascara (Benefit’s magical new Badgal Bang).

You can also opt for a lash tint.

“If you’re going to put mascara on everyday anyways then you don’t need a tint,” Buhler said, “But for those people that are on vacation and they don’t want to do anything, then adding a tint can add extra depth and darkness.” Just keep in mind the tint lasts about three weeks.

The first 24 hours after a lash lift are crucial.

On top of not wearing mascara, you should avoid wetting them, steam, and all forms of moisture and humidity, and wearing eye makeup to make the curl last.

Lash lifts are gloriously low maintenance.

While lash extensions required me to be extra careful doing anything—washing my face, sleeping a certain way, applying makeup—I haven’t had to think at all about my lashes since getting a lift. I wake up, add mascara, and I’m good to go. Buhler advised for upkeep to keep conditioning the lashes nightly. “You can use coconut oil or a facial oil. Your lashes have been processed so just keeping them conditioned and nourished is great,” she said, “Lash lifts are literally the lowest maintenance.”

Expect a lot of compliments.

Even before I applied any mascara and just had my lashes lifted, a colleague of mine already complimented me about my makeup. “You look so fresh-faced!,” she said. Funnily enough, another colleague said the exact same thing the next day and added, “I love your makeup today so much.” I literally did nothing different aside from have a lash lift—so it definitely makes a big difference.
I can’t emphasize how thrilled I am over being able to apply coats of mascara and seeing lashes fulfill all those promises tubes make, whether it’s lengthening, adding volume, etc. Another friend of mine actually asked me if I was wearing false eyelashes or had extensions done! When I told her no, she simply said “WOW.”

ELLE

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