The amount of time that eyelash extensions last on the natural lashes, also referred to as retention, depends on both the artist and the client. It is up to the artist to ensure that she is providing her services in a healthy manner using a curated collection of high quality products specific to each client; but it is up to the client to take care of the lashes after the session ends. If both parties do their part, a fresh set of lash extensions can last (and still look good for) up to three weeks. (Sometimes four, if the client has a higher natural lash count!)
The artist is responsible for: preparing the natural lashes for the service, choosing appropriate lash diameters and weights, proper isolation, wrapping fans (for volume sets), sealing the adhesive bond, and perhaps most importantly, educating the client on best practices for aftercare.
Preparing the natural lashes
While not every lash artist performs full pre-service treatments—some prefer for clients to arrive to their appointments with their lashes already cleansed—it is important that the natural lashes are prepared for the adhesion of extensions. This means that the lashes should be completely clean and free of makeup, dirt, oil, or debris, so that the adhesive-coated extension bonds only to the natural lash. If, for example, an extension is bonded to a makeup particle (like old mascara) as opposed to the natural lash, it is sure to fall off with that particle, rather than with the lash as it naturally sheds. The best retention is achieved when the extension stays on each natural lash through the entirety of its growth cycle.
Some artists like to use primers as a final preparatory step to ensure that the hair cuticles are prepped for adhesion, and to therefore maximize retention. At Muse, the artist does apply a primer, and she does so following a thorough cleansing of the lashes using a gentle cleanser and soft brush.
Choosing Appropriate Lash Diameters and Weights
The density and styling of lash extensions are entirely dependent on what the natural lash line looks like. If a client has a healthy lash line—meaning her natural lashes are strong and show no signs of damage—she can handle a larger lash diameter and/or heavier weight than a client with thinner, weaker lashes.
Lash diameter refers to the thickness of each lash fiber, and can range anywhere from 0.02mm (used for mega volume sets) to 0.20 mm (used for classic sets). The smaller the diameter, the lighter the lash weight; which is why volume fans and mega volume fans are made with lower diameter lashes. Classic lashes are the largest in diameter and heaviest in weight, and therefore cannot be made into volume fans. They are instead applied in a 1:1 ratio, where only one extension is placed on each natural lash.
When it comes to volume fans, it is the artist's responsibility not only to take the diameters themselves into consideration, but to also adjust the weights accordingly by creating fans in appropriate dimensions. Dimension refers to the number of lash fibers used in each fan. For example, if an artist creates a fan with three fibers, it would be considered a three-dimension, or 3D, fan. Eight fibers would be 8D, fifteen fibers would be 15D, and so on. The weight of each fan is determined by the combination of the lash diameter and the fan dimension.
The artist must have a deep understanding of how much weight each natural lash can hold to ensure that the extension or fan stays on throughout the entire of its growth cycle. If the lashes are too heavy, they can cause irritation, breakage, and thus, poor retention.
During the application process, each natural lash must be properly isolated from its neighbors to receive an extension. If it is not completely isolated, the artist runs the risk of adhering a lash or fan to more than one natural lash, which can lead to a messy, damaging, short-lived set. If the lashes are stuck together, healthy growth is compromised, and the trauma can lead to pre-mature shedding of the natural lashes. If the extension is applied to a single lash, on the other hand, it smoothly grows out with it!
For volume and hybrid sets, "wrapping" fans around the natural lash is best practice to achieve good retention. Every handmade fan has a pointy base at which the multiple lash fibers meet. The base can be manipulated using a micro-movement by the lash artist to sandwich the natural lash in between the fibers of the fan—this is called "wrapping." Fans that are simply placed—rather than wrapped—may not last as long because their point of adhesion isn't as secure. Wrapping allows for the largest surface area of adhesion, and therefore tends to survive the growth cycle of the natural lash.
Sealing the Adhesive Bond
Once the set is complete and every natural lash that can handle it has an extension or fan applied, a liquid bonder is applied to the base of the lash line. While not every artist uses a bonder—some prefer to use nano-misters—the artist at Muse swears by it to chemically seal the bonds between the natural lashes and the adhesive, to lock in the adhesive fumes to avoid irritation once the eyes are open, and to maximize retention.
Educating the Client
The client is almost just as responsible for retention as the artist is, however it is the artist's job to make sure that the client understands how to properly care for her lashes at home. Read on to learn more about what a client should do to extend her retention.
Once the artist has completed the service, the client is responsible for: cleansing and brushing the lashes on a daily basis, avoiding excessive heat and humidity, avoiding oil-based skincare and makeup products, not picking or rubbing at the lashes, not face-planting when sleeping, and staying consistent with booking fills.
Cleansing and Brushing Daily
Cleansing lash extensions on a daily basis is imperative not just for retention purposes, but also for hygienic and health reasons. Not cleansing increases the risk of oil build-up, which in extreme cases can cause an overpopulation of demodex, or "lash mites," as they're most commonly known. Demodex are microscopic in size, and while in small numbers are normal and healthy—they rid the lashes of dead skin and oils—an overpopulation can lead to blepharitis, which may require medical treatment. Cleansing on a daily basis (and immediately after sweating or crying) is preventative, and keeps the lashes looking and feeling fresh for longer. The artist at Muse provides every new client with a complimentary gentle cleanser for their convenience.
Brushing the lash extensions with a spoolie provided by the artist is an important step to keeping them free of dust, dead skin, or anything that may build up in between washes. It is recommended to brush them at least two times per day, and to always brush after cleansing in order to keep them fluffy, de-tangled, and in place. Many artists provide multiple spoolies so that the client has easier access to them throughout the day—keeping one in a purse, car, bathroom counter, bedside table, or anywhere else that one may frequent is ideal so as to always have one on hand. Lashes are hair after all, and thus must be cared for just as well as the hair on the scalp.
Avoiding Excessive Heat and Humidity/Steam
Excessive heat and humidity/steam (like saunas and steam rooms) can lead to poor retention, as it weakens the adhesive bonds. If withstanding these environments is absolutely necessary, goggles are recommended to keep the lashes shielded from the extreme conditions. Due to their ability to singe lash extensions, clients are also warned to take extra care around ovens and candles.
Avoiding Oil-based Skincare and Makeup Products
Oils create a film over the lashes that can affect the bond between the natural lash and the adhesive when a client goes in for a fill. It makes for a slippery surface that blocks the adhesive from making contact with the actual hair follicle, lowering the chances of good retention. This can be avoided by staying away from oil-based skincare and makeup products.
Picking and Rubbing
It is highly advised that clients avoid picking at or rubbing the lashes, as it can cause them to shed much quicker than they would if they were left alone. Lash extensions may trigger those that suffer from trichotillomania—a disorder in which one has a tendency to pull out their hair. For these clients, it is recommended to proceed with extensions at their own risk, or to opt for an alternative lash treatment, like a lash lift.
It is obviously unrealistic to ask that all lash extension wearers sleep on their back, though it is the best position for optimal retention. Side sleepers, for example, often notice that retention on the eye that they sleep on may be worse than the other. While it is difficult to control one's sleeping habits, the one thing that lash artists ask of their clients in terms of sleeping is to be mindful of face-planting into their pillows. Taking care to keep the lashes from being smushed goes a really long way for retention!
Aftercare is extremely important between fills, but getting them filled on a consistent two-to-three-week basis is still essential to ensure that your lash extensions are lasting you as long as possible. Letting them go for longer can end up being more expensive—as most lash artists will charge for a full set after the three-week mark—take more time to refresh, and won't provide the full, put-together lash extension look that we all know and love.
Retention is a two-way street. Going to an artist who prioritizes healthy lashing is imperative to the health of your natural lashes and to how long they will last, but don't forget to take the proper aftercare measures between sessions! You, your lashes, and your lash artist will thank you.