Whether it’s crimping them, swiping on a specifically formulated mascara, or applying falsies, it seems everyone is in pursuit of a curled, fluttery finish to their lashes. It’s also why editors and beauty buffs are now flocking to studios to try a popular service that promises to deliver the look without having to opt for extensions: the lash lift, a.k.a. the lash perm.
“It opens up the eye [and] also makes your eyes seem more open, fuller, rounder, more youthful, more dramatic and attractive,” says Jennifer Blair, founder of Deka Lash®. The lash lift offers the same curvy look as lash extensions, but doesn’t involve applying individual or clusters of false lashes on top your natural ones. It also relieves many of the worry of an allergic reaction to the extensions’ adhesive, or keeping up with the two- to three-week touchups required to maintain it. Furthermore, it’s an awesome option for those looking for a solution for their stick-straight lashes, or those who rock glasses and find that falsies or extensions tend to get stuck against the lenses.
The technique behind lash lifts has been around for decades, except it was focused on the follicles on our head. That’s right — the same perm that you may have had in the ’80s and early ’90s is back, just in a new format. This iteration of the service, according to Dr. Panta Rouhani Schaffer of Gramercy Park Dermatology, uses an emulsion to first temporarily break the existing bonds in the hair that dictate its shape. “This allows hair strands to be separated from one another and curled with a rod into the desired curl,” she says. A second solution is then applied to help set the new shape. This enhances the curl of your lashes — plus adds a bit of volume — so the results give you a long-lasting fully fanned-out effect.
[Editor’s note: All chemicals have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.]
We’ll admit that the idea of trying out this kind of treatment might seem frightening to some. After all, a concoction of chemicals (including ingredients like ammonium thioglycolate) comes perilously close to one’s eyeballs. But Blair says she and her team take precautions, including by using a barrier cream around the area prior to applying the curling compounds. That said, you should still be cautious when booking the service: “The chemicals can cause both an irritant and an allergic contact dermatitis of the eyelid skin,” says Dr. Alexis Young, a New Jersey-based dermatologist. “The chemicals can also be very irritating to the eye itself causing burning and stinging sensations.”
Not sure about your sensitivities to the products? Schaffer suggests coming in for a consultation at a licensed and reputable lash studio to suss things out. “For those without a history of known allergens but with sensitive skin, you may request patch testing to the products they will use on you,” she says. There, the technicians can apply the solutions to your forearm or behind your ear in an area large enough to see a possible reaction. (If any reaction does take place, those areas are easily hidden if necessary.) Schaffer advises you give it at least a few days to see if anything odd starts to occur.
[Editor’s note: Talk to your doctor before getting any new treatment, including patch testing.]
“Although you can remove the covering or Band-Aid® after two days,” Schaffer explains, “allergic rashes of the skin [can take up to a week] to appear.” It should go without saying that if a rash appears, you should cancel your appointment and consult a doctor.
There are a few things you should do prior to your lash lift appointment, both to reduce the risks and make sure you get the best results possible. If you’ve recently tried extensions, you’ll want to hold off a month or so until all of your natural lashes grow back in. “Do not use lash extensions prior to the procedure to ensure that the natural hairs are strong and not diminished in volume,” Young says.
You’ll also want to make sure that you get every stitch of eye makeup off, preferably with micellar water. The experts note that traditional makeup removers, oils, or creams (especially any formulas containing retinoids) on or around the lashes could have a negative effect on the results. And if you’re a contact lens wearer, Blair reminds you to bring your case to your appointment. That way you have a secure place to stash them during the service.
If any of the product gets past the barrier cream or if you discover a flare-up after your lash lift, rinse your eyes immediately, then see if it’s affecting your eyelid skin or eyes themselves before getting in contact with a doctor. “If any of the product drips into the eyelids, the procedure should be stopped and the eyes rinsed immediately followed by an evaluation by a board-certified ophthalmologist,” Young explains. “If irritation of the eyelid skin develops without involving the eye itself, then the patient should be evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.”
Once your lush lashes have settled and you’re off your technician’s table, you’ll want to take the Elle Woods approach to aftercare. Just like the Legally Blonde character advises in court, you shouldn’t step into the shower post-appointment or else you’ll risk ruining the results. (You’ll be washing money down the drain!) The experts advise against getting your lashes wet as well as applying any mascara — if you choose to use it, that is — for at least 48 hours, but “but always double-check with your lash stylist,” says Schaffer.
You’ll also need to ditch any kind of oils from your beauty routine for at least two days afterwards, but ideally until you no longer see the effects of your perm. “Any type of oil can break down the solution and the effect of the lashes, so we do recommend staying away from anything that has an oil base to it,” notes Blair. Stick to a micellar water if you’re a fan of oil cleansing — we like La Mer® Cleansing Micellar Water ($95) — and stick to traditional moisturizers and serums over face oils.
Once you’ve mastered these post-care tips, it doesn’t take much to keep the look lasting for its purported six to eight weeks, according to Blair. “Once the lash lift is completed, it’s basically maintenance free,” Schaffer says. “You can swim, you can sweat, you can work out. Humidity doesn’t affect it.”
Eventually, the lashes will naturally shed and the new ones will grow in, although you won’t have the dramatic difference in sizing as you often see with extensions if you decide not to maintain the look. Our derms did recommend that you hold off on your next appointment for at least four weeks to ensure your lashes stay strong. “Do not repeat the treatment sooner than four weeks because the chemicals can weaken the structure of the hair shaft resulting in brittle, broken hairs,” Schaffer says.
Should you decide to give this service a whirl, take the time to consult with a licensed esthetician at a reputable studio or salon to discuss your options, and to see if you might be subject to any product sensitivities. This will ensure that all you’ll be left with is lush, lifted, enviable lashes — no falsies, extensions, or mascara necessary.
Treatment was gifted to the author for the purpose of writing this article.