In early August, I went to my third Scottish wedding (and I am now an expert, thanks in no small part to the wonderful advice offered from our friends before my first official British wedding earlier this year). Yes, it was an entirely be-kilted affair and, yes, it was sexy. So very, very sexy.
The Boy Person was actually the best man for this one, and besides my own friends and colleagues, his parents and a ton of his mates were there, so it was uber-important that I look smashing. Alluring, but not slutty; festive, but respectful; insanely beautiful, but fun and approachable! What to do? Well, I had my hair cut and colored, or course, and I bought a new dress (on which the zipper broke, because I am sort of a walking natural disaster). But I wanted to do something more, not least because I had a really shitty month and I felt I deserved some special pampering.
Manicures, pedicures, facials, and massages are all once-a-year treats for me now, so I considered those options. But one day, walking by a beauty salon near my flat, I was struck by inspiration (and the convincing before/after photos on display): I needed, nay deserved, eyelash extensions! All the stars have them! They are amazing! They last four to six weeks (actually only semi-true)! So I walked in and booked my appointment for one week before the wedding. Here is my eyelash extension experience.
First off, the salon seemed like a good one, and offered all the expected aromatherapy/mud wrap/bullshit beauty treatments. It was also reassuringly expensive and staffed by white-clothed Koreans. Why Asians are the understood go-to masters for spa treatments is a racist and ingrained mystery best explored in another post, but somehow this made me feel better. Also, white clothes and decor mentally equals sanitary. I felt that I would be in capable hands, and one of the women was the resident extension expert, so it was all going well until they handed me a contract on a clipboard to sign that basically waived my right to sue if it all went to hell and provided instructions in the event of an allergic reaction. I read it carefully and asked lots of questions, which the Expert calmly answered in admittedly not-great English. But she was really nice and pretty and it all seemed quite upmarket, so I signed.
We went upstairs to the treatment room, which was pleasantly airy and bright. Lying on my back, she covered me with a blanket and gently rubbed an oil under my eyes, which was very relaxing until she pressed what I imagined was white adhesive tape across my lower eyelids (I say imagined, because all I could really see was an impression of white). This doesn’t hurt, but it was uncomfortable, and stayed uncomfortable for the next hour. There was a subtle pressure on my eyeballs that felt like it increased as the minutes ticked by, and I started to get a headache before long. Because my eyes were closed, it also irritated the tips of my upper eyelids, and the urge to blink was strong. Again, it was not painful per se, but achey.
Whatever the urge, you do not want to blink. Besides screwing up your expert’s careful work, the adhesive she’s using on the lashes will sting a bit. It’s not lemon joice in the eyeball, but it will make you watery. As my headache slowly but deliberately increased, the worst part about the experience was my own thought processes, which took me through:
1) You’re an idiot. If you get blinded because you got eyelash extensions, you can never tell anyone that you lost your sight in the fickle pursuit of vanity, and will have to make up a more sympathetic story. Unless you go on daytime television as a cautionary tale, and then everyone will watch your clip on YouTube and say you’re an idiot. Do people make money from being cautionary tales?
2) Your mother’s best friend is an opthamologist. She’s the reason your mom wouldn’t let you get those awesome cat-eye contact lenses for Halloween, which you still kind of want but are too scared of scratching your cornea to purchase. She would almost definitely not approve of this.
3) WHY ARE YOU SCREWING WITH SOMETHING SO CLOSE TO YOUR EYEBALL? Why didn’t you just get a facial? Oh, my god, if you blind yourself, I am going to slap you upside the face. What kind of glasses will you wear? Maybe you can get an eyepatch if it’s just one eye. That would be kind of bad-ass and piratey-looking. If it’s two eyes, maybe you should refuse to wear glasses and make people uncomfortable. That would be okay too. Maybe your sense of hearing will become eerily magnified. You’ll have to get a white cane or a seeing eyedog. You like dogs, but you hate books on tape and learning Braille with your ADD will be tough. You’ll be all angry like Ron Kovic in “Born On the Fourth of July,” but you won’t be a war hero. On the other hand, if you’re blind, you can get eyelash extensions every week and wear whatever contacts you want. It will really throw people off.
4) You need to quit smoking. It can cause glaucoma, like your grandma. Your grandma doesn’t like being blind. Why don’t you take better care of yourself? Even if you got a successful eyeball transfer, which is unlikely, you wouldn’t have your own eyes, which are nice! You know what, I really think every one should be required to donate organs if they die in a hospital and they’re salvageable. If I died and my liver (ha!) or kidney or heart or whatever was transplantable, I would say take everything you can get.
5) And so on and so forth. Point being, an hour without any stimulus besides physical discomfort is a long hour inside your own brain. Kind of like taking the bus.
Finally, after approximately ten years of self-beration, she took the tape off my lower eye and we were done. We waited a minute or two to ensure the adhesive was all dry before she handed me a mirror and instructed me to open my eyes. My first impression? Was that I looked ridiculous. They were so clearly false lashes. I thought, “I have horse eye!”
“They’re lovely,” I managed, before I went downstairs and paid 70 quid, plus tip. They instructed me to come back in two weeks for touch-ups, at 70p per lash. I had asked before if this would damage my natural eyelashes, and the Expert said that it wouldn’t, particularly if I only got two or three treatments (if you maintain this continuously, say over a year, there is more chance for damage). If you want to have them removed, it’s free. I was instructed not to use mascara or curlers, and avoid any oil-based makeup or remover.
Since it was a Saturday afternoon, I went to the grocery store. With the same compulsion that demands you check your image in any reflective surface you pass after you get your hair done, I would pause in front of store windows at a three-quarters angle to examine my eyelash profile. It was windy, and the breeze actually ruffled my eyelashes. I felt like Bambi, and I needed some ibuprofen for my head. In Sainsbury’s, I imagined everyone was glancing at me and thinking I needed to trim my face. They were probably wondering how I could see, given that my eyeballs had thick bangs.
But that was just the first day. For the next week, I was exceedingly cautious of my lashes, and contantly aware of them. I blocked my eyes from the direct stream of the showerhead and could sometimes feel them brushing against the lenses of my glasses. Then I grew accustomed to them, and more careless. After an insomniac night of four hours sleep, I dragged myself into work, only to be told I looked “really well” by a colleague. “It’s the eyelashes,” I blurted. They make me look younger, better-rested. I kept getting compliments and after the fourth such instance, finally managed to keep my mouth shut. In all honesty, they make me prettier, and it feels like cheating, so my urge is to say: “They’re not mine! I paid for this! And it gave me a headache.”
I haven’t used mascara, eyeliner, or eyeshadow since I got the extensions, because I don’t need them. I look sort of wide-eyed and youthful (I keep getting carded at the grocery store, which makes me wheeze with laughter). Now that I’m used to the lashes, they don’t look so ridiculous anymore. The only problem is that sometimes the ones on the ends get tangled, and I have to sort of stroke them loose with my fingertip. I also wore a sleeping mask on a plane flight, and discovered that it bent my eyelashes at crazy angles that took a few hours to sort themselves out, and once again, gave me an eyeball ache.
Three weeks after my extensions, I returned for repairs. The Expert estimated I needed 25 fresh lashes on one eye, and 35 on the other (they are about 50 extensions per eye). It was an improvement, because I had noticed that the lashes I was losing were leaving weird patterns of long-long-long/short-short-short on each eye; I don’t think it was visible to most people, but if you spent as much time as I did examining your lashes in a magnified mirror, it would be evident. The second treatment was under an hour, and still uncomfortable, but now that I knew I wasn’t actually going to lose an eyeball, it was less psychologically nutbar. The second bit cost me about 38 quid altogether.
VERDICT: If you are so inclined (and have the cash), I think eyelash extensions are good fun for a special occasion. Expect some discomfort for an hour (mental breakdown is probably optional), and then a day or two of self-consciousness before you get used to it and start to revel in the compliments. On the downside, it’s expensive to maintain and they will occasionally go bent-up and wonky on you (slight eye ache). The extensions that I’ve lost have pretty much all had my natural-born lashes attached to them, but I don’t know if it’s exacerbated my typical shedding rate or if it’s still pretty natural (I think the latter, and it’s just more noticeable because my lashes are so thick).
I expect the second visit was my last treatment and when I go in next, I’ll have them removed, and then I’ll have to deal with my lashes looking all stumpy to me for a week or two. I’m not looking forward to that, since I’ve startared thinking of myself as someone with luscious, 3/4 inch eyelashes, and now I’ll just look normal and my age again.
So, I don’t regret it, but on a final note, I think it is important to ask this: How much does this look like a bag of pubes? Yeah. A lot.