My first big beauty purchase was a Shu Uemura eyelash curler. I was 15, and my older sister, who knew everything about makeup, told me it was a must-have (and that I absolutely couldn’t use hers). After doing much research, I decided to splurge on the $25 curler, which at the time was a big leap from my usual drugstore buys. But I was determined to make my eyelashes look as long and lifted as possible.
Since my Asian eyes are on the smaller side, I rely on accentuating my lashes to get that coveted open-eyed look. And though my natural lashes are quite long and decently thick, much like the hair on my head they’re pin straight and like to stay that way. (#AsianGirlHairProbs — if you know, you know.) So even when I get a good curl initially from my trusted Shu Uemera, my lashes tend to start drooping after half an hour.
In the quest for a longer-lasting solution I’ve tried everything from falsies to extensions. But I always feel like faux lashes are too heavy on my eyelids and impair my vision a little bit. As for extensions, they’re way too high-maintenance for me, especially as someone who sleeps on her side and rubs her eyes constantly — big no-nos, anyone with extensions will tell you. Then recently I learned of another lash service that — no lie — changed everything for me and my stubbornly straight fringe: Enter the lash lift.
What is a lash lift, exactly?
Also known as a lash perm, the treatment uses eye-safe chemicals to permanently alter the shape of the hair — from straight to curled — and it lasts as long as the natural growth cycle of your hair. It isn’t a new service, but according to Angela Cordi, a lash technician and makeup artist at Ritual, it’s recently become more popular. While the lash extension used to be her most requested service, she says the lash lift is quickly eclipsing it. “It’s much less maintenance in comparison to extensions and more budget-friendly, considering you only need to get it done once every six to eight weeks instead of two to three weeks for extension fills,” she explains.
The process starts with a lash technician applying a silicone pad to act as a sort of curling rod on the upper eyelid. There are different sizes of pads — from extra-small to extra-large — and the technician will choose based on how long your lashes are, how big your eyes are, how curly you want your lashes to be and your lashes’ ability to take a curl. Once the pad is adhered to your upper eyelid with a non-toxic water-soluble glue (similar to that used in strip lash applications), the technician will then brush back your lashes to separate them and lay them against the curve of the pad.
Then comes the perm lotion, which Cordi explains is similar to what’s used for hair perms, but reformulated to be safe around your eyes. It works by softening the disulfide bonds of the lashes — in other words, it allows for the natural pattern of the lash to change. The technician applies it from the root to halfway down the lashes (the ends are left because you don’t want the tips to curl backwards), and that stays on for about 12-15 minutes.
Next, that’s removed and a different solution, which renews the disulfide bonds, is applied to set lashes in the lifted position. That stays on for another 12-15 minutes and once it’s wiped off, a nourishing oil is applied to leave your lashes feeling soft and luscious.
The treatment is often done in conjunction with a lash tint, in which case that would be applied before the oil. A tint is, of course, most effective on lighter lashes, but Cordi says it can still have an impact on Asian lashes like mine since they’re naturally very dark brown, not black.
Finally, the technician brushes your lashes out, removes the pad and voila! Beautifully lifted lashes.
What makes it so effective on Asian lashes?
For most Asians, the issue isn’t the length of their lashes, but rather, the direction of growth — i.e. straight down.
“Most Asian people just assume they don’t have long lashes because of the way they grow, but they actually have the longest lashes,” says Michelle Bong of the Asian clientele she’s seen at her salon, Lust for Lashes in Toronto.
Bong notes that lifting from the eyeline is what’s key — which you can’t typically do with an eyelash curler because it bends lashes from further down the hair shaft.
“When people use the curler, they’re too scared to go too close to the eyeline, so they kind of crimp the lashes into more of a V shape,” says Bong. “With [a lash lift], you get a nice C-shape, where it’s all lifted.”
The bonus? Bong says that since Asians tend not to shed hair as quickly, they can usually prolong the time between each lash lift — closer to eight weeks or more.
Are there risks involved?
Obviously you want to be a little wary of any treatments around your eyes, but in addition to the gentler chemicals, the silicone pad used in a lash lift ensures that no solution actually touches the skin or gets inside the eye. If solution does somehow get in the eye, the technician should have saline solution handy to flush it out.
And like a perm for your hair, there is also the risk of burning, over-processing or fraying the lashes, but that would only occur if the solution is left on for too long, or if it’s applied to the tips, which are typically finer than the rest of the lash, says Bong. But at the end of the day, there shouldn’t be any cause for concern, except if the technician isn’t properly trained or doesn’t know how to use the product, so make sure to do your research and select a reputable salon—this isn’t the time to jump on a Groupon deal.
So, is it worth it?
Unlike lash extensions, after a lash lift you don’t need to change your entire skincare routine to exclude anything with oil in it, and you can sleep in any position without worrying your lashes will fall out. The only time you have to be careful is within the 24-hour period after the treatment — no mascara, no getting your lashes wet and no steam — to allow them to fully set in that lifted position.
Lash lifts typically cost about $65+, depending on where you get them done — it’s $65 for a lift and $80 for a lift and tint combo at Ritual, and $75 for a lift and additional $20 for a tint at Lust for Lashes. That works out to less than $20 a week and, for me, it’s definitely worth it. I truly didn’t realize my lashes were this long, and because of the lift I feel comfortable going totally makeup free (even sans mascara) for the first time ever. Hope you enjoy your retirement, eyelash curler.