The long game: everything you need to know about eyelash extensions

Linked to confidence, convenience and the perfect selfie, thick eyelashes – courtesy of extension treatments – are all the rage

Lash extensions are available at a number of UAE salons, including Tips & Toes. 
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The treatment chamber itself looks like something out of a sci-fi film: rows of hospital-like beds occupied by women who appear to be in various states of sleep, as technicians wearing face masks work silently and diligently on their eyelids. To an outsider, it would be an eerie sight, but to a seasoned insider – who makes routine trips for refills every three weeks – it’s just another day spent getting beautified.

Eyelash extensions have taken the region by storm, and Wish Lash, founded by Munara Aldaiarova in 2016, is one Dubai salon that specialises in the service. Like many contemporary fashion and beauty trends, Aldaiarova credits Instagram for the rise of the lash-extension craze in the UAE. It's where beauty bloggers post immaculate, though often heavily filtered, selfies, complete with full, thick and enviable eyelashes, and emphasise the supposed power, beauty and confidence that comes with them. "Just give me lashes and watch me make it happen", and "Anything is possible with coffee and lashes" are some of the quotes on the salon's Instagram page as it aims to tap into the beauty zeitgeist.

How it works

Lash extensions are not a one-size-fits-all type of service – each lash or cluster of lashes is attached individually, so the possibilities are endless, ranging from light and natural, to heavy and dramatic effects. “We are known for natural-­looking and light lashes, so it doesn’t feel heavy on your eyes or look fake,” says Miko Su, founder of the recently opened Abu Dhabi eyelash studio Twiink.

However, Aldaiarova says that while many of her cabin crew clients opt for natural extensions to conform to the beauty guidelines of their profession, a great many others seek looks that are obviously unnatural. "We get a lot of bloggers who love dramatic lashes, they want to show off their eyes," she explains.

Customers can choose from a classic, 2D, 3D or Hollywood full set, with the number of fake lashes per natural lash going from one to six. Prices range from Dh315 to Dh525 depending on the service, and clients can also book extensions for their bottom lashes for Dh210. VIP clients can further request at-home services for an extra Dh52 to Dh105, depending on the emirate.

Attaching each lash is a painstaking process, and the whole procedure can take up to three hours. "Each technician can do no more than four clients per day," says Aldaiarova, adding that Dubai benefits from women who make the trip from neighbouring Gulf countries, as well as Europeans who book in a month prior to setting off on holiday to the UAE.  

Before: the models natural lashes. Courtesy That Hair Tho
Before: the models natural lashes. Courtesy That Hair Tho
After: a more full look for the model. Courtesy That Hair Tho
After: a more full look for the model. Courtesy That Hair Tho

Why it’s addictive

As for why more women are flocking to this seemingly complex and time-consuming treatment, UAE lash technicians agree that one main motivator is that it knocks off time from your morning beauty regime. "They allow you to wake up and be ready to go without having to spend too long on your daytime eye make-up, which is perfect for many time-poor women who need a quick routine but want to look their best," explains Linelyn Arceo, beauty trainer at That Hair Tho in Dubai. Su adds: "The fact that you can save 10 to 15 minutes each morning by not having to curl your lashes or apply mascara, and be able to run out of the house looking fab, is worth the investment."

In addition to the time saved, there's an art to extensions, says Aldaiarova, who worked as an interior designer before foraying into the beauty world. "With lashes, we can make small eyes a bit bigger, we can make droopy eyes lift on the sides, we can modify the shape of the eyes … and I think that's why people are coming. It isn't like surgery, it's like a light modifying of the eyes, and at the same time you get that no-make-up look," she says.

Women who get extensions say the treatment is addictive, and lament that they often get caught up in an endless cycle of booking refills to keep the effect as permanent as possible. However, Myla Acha Pascua, a trainer at Tips & Toes, says it's crucial for clients to have their refills between two and three weeks after their original treatment. "Do not wait, as your natural lashes grow out, and waiting too long to do a refill will mean the extensions have grown out with the lashes, and will be too far from the natural lash roots," she says. At Tips & Toes at least 50 per cent of lash clients return for refills, while Twiink reports a 70 per cent return and That Hair Tho says more than 90 per cent come back.

Less invasive options

For those seeking to amplify their lashes without extensions, most salons offer lifts as an alternative. "This is a lower-maintenance service than extensions, and it works on giving your natural lashes a lifted look that lasts for up to eight weeks. Our lashes are naturally straight, and the treatment tips them upward and aligns them. You can also colour and tint the hair, thus showing the length of the natural lash to its fullest," says Arceo. However, even lifts need repeated treatments. "Because your natural lashes shed and new ones grow, we recommend redoing the treatment every four weeks," says Su.

Growth serums are a third option for women who wish to avoid any type of procedure. That Hair Tho stocks the Nouveau Lash and Brow Growth Conditioning Serum, which is vegan, and Twiink, (which, along with That Hair Tho, only provides synthetic, animal-friendly lashes) retails the Revitalash serum. "It promotes healthier and longer lashes, and while it really does work, it does not have the same effect as a lift or extensions because if your natural lashes are straight, they will grow back straight," says Su.

Dangers associated with extensions

Extensions are thus the most dramatic, long-lasting and immediately effective solution for women looking to emphasise their eyes. And while many are wary of taking the plunge, fearing that extensions will cause natural lashes to fall out, Su debunks this belief. "The fact is our natural lashes shed. The average person has 90 to 120 lashes per eye. Each eye can shed two to three per day. You don't usually notice this because your natural lashes are light and thin," she says. "When you get extensions, it becomes more obvious because you are brushing your lashes daily and the extensions are darker, so they are easier to spot."

However, if a fake lash is attached to more than one natural strand this could cause them to fall out more. "Your natural lashes, just like your hair, do not grow uniformly at the same speed, and this is where the skill of the technician becomes important," says Su. "If applied correctly, there is no harm in getting eyelash extensions. The danger is the addiction."