woman with mascara
Image: Shutterstock/Pavel Ryabushkin

A lash lift is a cosmetic process that involves semi-permanently curling the eyelashes in order to create a voluminous look that lasts for several weeks. Lash lifts can be a great alternative to eyelash extensions–unlike extensions, lash lifts don’t have to involve sticking any adhesive agents to your sensitive eye area.

How lash lifts work:

Different beauticians use different techniques for this process. Some will curl your eyelashes around tiny rods; others will utilize clamps; still, others will use domed shields made of silicon. The silicon shield method is the most popular, and the most low-maintenance: All those tiny rods can be tricky to work with, and the clamps can be uncomfortable. You should note that the silicon shield method involves applying an adhesive to the eye area, unlike other methods. Many beauticians will also apply a perming solution to your eyelashes during the process to help your eyelashes take to the new shape.

After curling your eyelashes, your beautician will probably apply a tint to your eyelashes to darken them; this will complete the effect, giving you lashes that look long, bold, and dramatic. Many beauticians will also add setting solutions and/or moisturizing oils.

How to prepare for a lash lift:

You should stop using waterproof mascara at least 2 days before the treatment. Mascara tends to be harsh on your eyelashes, causing drying, weakening, and breakage. In order for the treatment to be successful and not damage your lashes, you’ll want to make sure they’re as hydrated and healthy as possible when you go into the salon.

How to maintain your look after the lash lift:

Don’t get your eyelashes wet for at least 24 hours after the treatment, and try to avoid rubbing your eyes or touching your lashes excessively. Your lashes will still be setting after the treatment occurs, and touching or wetting them can prevent them from setting correctly. You’ll also want to make sure you sleep on your back on the night after your treatment.

Don’t apply waterproof mascara to your eyelashes for the duration of your lash lift (6-8 weeks). The harsh chemicals in waterproof mascara will make your eyelashes more prone to breaking and over-shedding.

You can use a lash comb to comb through your eyelashes ones a day, making them look more voluminous and dramatic.

If you got a lash tint along with your lash lift, you’ll want to avoid sunbathing for at least 24 hours after the treatment in order to ensure that the tint doesn’t wear off.

Health concerns:

Many spas’ and boutiques’ websites will tell you that there are absolutely no health risks associated with the lash lift procedure. However, these spas and boutiques are largely unregulated, and their claims may not be completely true. Before booking yourself in for a lash lift, you should be aware of the possible side-effects of the procedure.

One of the main ingredients in the perm solutions that beauticians apply during the procedure is ammonium, a toxic chemical that is known to dry the skin and eyes. Beauticians have extensive training in handling these substances, but if you have sensitive skin or eyes, you might still want to steer clear.

We know that applying chemicals and heat is bad for our hair, and our eyelashes are probably no different. When following beauty trends, always keep in mind that new treatments and fads may not be backed by any research–and are largely unknown territory.

There are also risks of allergic reactions, although your beautician will consult with you before the treatment to try to avoid any unpleasant side-effects. If you’re worried about allergic reactions, your best bet is to request a skin test before the procedure.