Are Eyelash Extensions for You?

When I learned about the trend of women getting eyelash extensions to elongate and fill out their natural lashes, I was immediately curious. The idea seemed to fit in perfectly with the very specific approach to beauty I have developed, one that would weirdly sit in the overlapping portion of a venn diagram between "extremely lazy" and "high maintenance" aesthetic regimens. I don't own a blow dryer, I brush my hair once every seven days or so, I only wear heels to weddings, and I put on makeup (usually a swipe of eyeliner, mascara, and maybe some BB cream) just a few times a month. But the beauty treatments I have subjected myself to in the name of looking a certain way seem utterly Kardashian-like in comparison, and I wondered if eyelash extensions should be my next frontier.

I got rather thorough laser hair removal on my bikini line so I would never have to get waxed again. I had my dermatologist administer a chemical peel to address the blotchy, birth-control-induced melasma on my forehead so that I wouldn't have to cover it with foundation. I had my dentist use a calcification-diffusing treatment on my front teeth so I could stop trying in vain to correct the flaw with nightly Crest strip applications. I can't be bothered to spend much time or energy on the way I look on a daily basis, so I've started enacting more thorough fixes so that I never have to think about these things again. Basically, I want to look good without putting any daily effort into it whatsoever.

I figure that submitting to a pricey and uncomfortable one-time procedure (or in the case of laser hair removal, incredibly painful six-time procedure) is better than having to address said beauty issue over and over again daily for the rest of time. These treatments have already more than paid for themselves in foregone Brazilians and fancy foundations, and in additional hours of sleep. Getting eyelash extensions, which adhere to your natural lashes and last for up to five weeks, seemed like an easy way to look pretty on my holiday party circuit without having to actually, you know, spend the three minutes it takes to apply eyeliner and mascara. See? Lazy and high maintenance, all at once.

Eyelash extension services run the gamut from $15 joints to spa-like salons that glue actual MINK to your upper and lower lids for $350. I went middle of the road, with a $60 Yelp coupon for what is a typically $95 session at Brooklyn's Lazy Lash. I arrived at the spot with my natural lashes looking like this:

When I arrived, I was told the extensions could take up to 90 minutes to apply (triple the half hour or so I was expecting), so I set my phone alongside me on the table so that I could send work emails while I waited — little did I know that the procedure required my eyes to be basically glued shut during application. The aesthetician slid sticky pieces of paper underneath my lashes but over my eyeballs and lower lashes. It felt mildly uncomfortable, and I couldn't open my eyes without some effort.

She then began applying the synthetic lashes.

She applied 75 lashes to each side by gluing the false lashes, one by one, to my actual lashes using a pair of needle-nosed tweezers for precise placement along the lashline.

The process wasn't painful, just mildly uncomfortable, as you would expect when someone is wielding a pointy metal tool mere millimeters from your cornea. Thankfully, I had our fashion and beauty editor, Kara, along to distract me (and take pictures).

The whole process ended up taking only an hour or so, and this is what my eyelashes looked like after:

The extensions did everything they promised — my lashes looked dark, thick, shiny, and healthy, and they flipped upwards in a permanent curl that made it look like I'd just taken one of the Shu Uemura gadgets to them. I certainly did NOT need to apply any makeup to them to make my eyes stand out, and my coworkers said the lashes looked natural.

That said, while I certainly got what I paid for and achieved a look that would save me precious minutes of makeup application time in the coming weeks, I did feel faintly...ridiculous. Going from almost never wearing any makeup to having these furry fronds attached to my eyes 24 hours a day was quite a leap, and while the look was reasonable enough when I was out at night, I didn't like appearing to be the kind of girl who did her makeup before going to the gym or venturing out for a morning meal. While my other beauty regimens were impossible to detect, these things shouted "high maintenance" when what I'm usually going for is effortless and low-key. I feel the same way on the rare occasion that I put on a pair of stilettos — like I'm playing dress up. It's only now that more than half of the lashes have fallen out, three weeks later, that I've started to feel like myself again.

Yes, all of my adventures in aesthetics have been in service of a beauty ideal that perhaps I shouldn't subscribe to in the first place. But in a society that basically demands that women look a certain way, I shouldn't feel ashamed when I put the effort into fulfilling that standard. It's not easy looking clear-skinned and hairless and long-lashed, and the fact that my main issue with the lashes was not about how they LOOKED, but what the fact that I'd sprung for them said about me, is an indication of the hypocrisy of a society that demands women meet a certain physical standard but also demands that they not seem like they tried too hard to achieve it. It's like the supermodel who eats the cheeseburger during the magazine interview, or the celeb who Instagrams an #Iwokeuplikethis selfie when she's clearly wearing full face of makeup. Like I said, I want to look good without putting in any effort whatsoever — or at least without SEEMING like I put in any effort whatsoever.