Photo: Danielle Belton (The Root)

The Lord blessed me with a lot of thick, curly hair that can go from Teenie Weenie Afro short, to all the way to the middle of my back long. But what I did not get blessed with was much in the ways of eyelashes. Sure, they’re “there” and they’re thick, but they’re very short and not that interesting to look at. For years, I’ve tried to change them up, falling in love with cheap but natural-looking fake eyelashes that always looked good for maybe five minutes after I crappily applied them, then would promptly just go to hell.

And yes, I could get a professional to apply my falsies, but who has the time to do that every time they have a planned night out? Not I, said the cat.

Because of this, I’d been toying with the idea of eyelash extensions for years. I loved how natural and full they looked on other people and wanted in on this long, luscious lash action. But where to begin?

First things first: I Googled.

I needed to know what I was getting into. I’d heard horror stories about people going temporarily blind, their natural lashes falling out, etc., etc., that had made me reluctant to try this. I don’t like to screw too much with my face. It’s why even though I have scarring from some especially stubborn ingrown hairs on my chin, I don’t like to try most fade creams out of fear I’ll have a weird reaction.

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So, I decided that this probably wasn’t the thing to bargain hunt for, considering that this does involve my face, and you only get the one face. I wanted to go to a place that would be spotless, the people friendly, and the technique impeccable. So, after reading more reviews of NYC-based lash boutiques that I might like, I settled on a nearby spot in Koreatown called Envious Lashes.

Envious had a lot of lash options—from a natural look a step above mascara to a glammed up, over-the-top, lash-heavy look called, of course, “Envious Eyes.” I was not prepared to go this deep into lash looks, so I chose the option just one step down from Envious—the “Alluring Eyes” look, which ran $210 for a full set by a regular salon stylist. In this case, I went with Shashena as my stylist, for the simple reason that she looked brown and had an ethnic name and I like to support black/brown people when possible. (At Envious Lashes, you can get a more couture look by booking a “master stylist” for $350 or more. While I enjoy making it rain, I don’t like throwing it around that much. Plus, I had my fingers crossed that for $210, Shashena would be more than qualified.)

Envious Lashes, which is inside an office building off New York City’s Fifth Avenue, was very clinical-looking—like taking a trip to (a very nice) doctor’s office. The place was white and spotless, and there was only one other woman there getting eyelashes done in a room that held two stations for brow and eyelash weaving. But before we got started, I had to fill out a waiver and some paperwork explaining that 1) I couldn’t get my eyes wet for 48 hours after the application; 2) that I’d have to keep my eyes closed and lay still for at least 60 to 90 minutes to have the lashes installed; and 3) that there is a possible health risk if something goes wrong (like say, I had an allergic reaction to the lashes or the lash glue).

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After I signed all that, Shashena showed up and talked me through my options, pointing at her own very full, thick, over-the-top eyelashes. Did I want them to be as long and as full and thick as her lashes? (No, I did not, out of fear they’d not look nearly as cool on me, because I am somewhat conservative about my look.) We decided on an open look that would make my already large eyes appear even larger, where longer lashes would be placed in the middle and it would become gradually shorter on each end.

The actual application part was a breeze. Just me lying down and “meditating” (or sleeping) for about an hour with my eyes closed while Shashena applied each individual lash to my eyelids with a type of semi-permanent glue. When she was done, it looked like I had the best set of false lashes ever—like they definitely didn’t look like my short, stubby lashes, but they had the effect of looking “natural” and “unnatural” at the same time. They were uncanny valley lashes! As in, I knew they weren’t mine, but I liked the look. A lot.

But, after it was all done there were quite a few things I didn’t like:

  1. You can’t get them wet. Even though I was told this upfront, it wasn’t until they were on my eyes that reality set it. Much like a Gremlin, you can’t get these suckers wet, at all, but I have a mess of curly black/brown/blonde hair on my head that I do a not-quite wash-n-go on every other day. (It’s a not quite wash-n-go, since I actually wash it, then spend an hour applying various hair creams and gel to it, then sit under a dryer for 40 minutes.) Have you ever tried washing your hair while simultaneously not getting your eyes wet? It’s an acrobatic act!
  2. Every time a lash falls out you scream “My money!” On average, between one and three lashes fell out of the 90+ lashes applied to my eyelids in the days between application and my natural lash growth cycle. Considering that getting a full set of lashes costs more than getting my actual hair done (Case in point: I pay about $80, plus a $20 tip to get my curls done at Edris Salon in Flatiron), this seemed like a crazy amount of money to spend on something that only lasts about two weeks. Like, I got my hair dyed and highlighted at Edris recently and that set me back more than $300, but that will look good for months.
  3. You can’t rub your eyes and you want to rub them ALL THE TIME. While for other folks who I read online stopped noticing they had false lashes after a few days, I woke up every morning and went to bed every night with a mild irritation over these gorgeous fake lashes. It felt like I was just wearing fake lashes all the time, making my eyes randomly water and get irritated from time-to-time. This sensation, plus the watery eyes, made me want to rub my eyes and pull at my lashes, but I couldn’t because of point #2. (MY MONEY!!!) So I spent a lot of time rubbing the bottom eyelid trying to sooth the top. It didn’t really work. I’m two weeks into these lashes now, and I’m still irritated.

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All this is to say, the one pro is that eyelash extensions are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, and I loved how they made my eyes look so much that I ditched my famous blue and white frames and popped in my contact lenses daily. But do I love them enough to go get a fill-in this weekend at Envious Lashes? NOPE. I’m just going to sit here and watch my money fall out of eyes like teardrops, then move on to a better mascara, and on special occasions, a makeup artist who actually can apply these cheap falsies.

But they were a lot of fun while they lasted!