As semi-permanent eyelash extensions are booming in business, so are the amount of people who use them
Features & Opinions Editor
In downtown Toronto, 38-year-old certified aesthetician Laura Hippensteel is working on her next patient. With ambient music playing in the background and a sweet scent in the air, Hippensteel is sitting with her feet flat on the ground and tweezers in both hands. She takes one of her tweezers, brushing them through the patient’s lashes and stops when she has found what she is looking for: one single eyelash.
With a steady hand, she takes the first tweezers and isolates the dark eyelash, holding it firmly in place. She then uses her second tweezers to pick out one long synthetic lash, and dips it into a black glue. Carefully and slowly, she places the synthetic lash one millimetre from the base of the patient’s eyelash and waits for the glue to settle. After a few seconds, she gets ready to apply the next 54 eyelashes on the tray.
It’s a usual day for Hippensteel, who is used to applying between 100 to 150 eyelashes each day. On average it takes her at least an hour to 90 minutes with a client, if they have perfect eyelashes. With others it takes up to two hours.
In the end it’s all worth it, as clients are looking at themselves with thicker, fuller, and plumper set of eyelashes. Reactions range from “Oh my God,” to “I love it,” and the client almost always leaves satisfied.
“I think a lot of them come in thinking it’s a one time thing, but a lot of them become addicted,” says Hippensteel, wearing eyelash extensions herself whenever she gets a fellow professional to apply the aesthetics.
Eyelash extension has become a trend in Canada in the last four to five years since its inception in East Asia. What started out as a way to give Asian women the big eyes and long eyelashes they wanted has grown into a huge fad with North American women.
Stars such as Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, and Paris Hilton have made it even more popular in the last few years. With more stars wearing them now, the trend has started to pick up with a younger generation. The age of her clients ranges from women in their early 20s to late 30s.
Hippensteel, who first opened her spa studio, BeFabulous, in February of 2007, saw the new trend four or five years ago during a spa trade show that she and a friend went to.
Initially, the process looked tedious and complicated, but after watching it for a second time, Hippensteel decided to take a course last January with Xtreme Lashes, an eyelash extension company which offered courses at the time. The course lasted two days, and Hippensteel remembers that even after she passed, she decided to continue practicing in other eyelash boutiques.
It took her three months to learn the entire process and do a full set, cleanly executed, in under two hours. The hardest part for Hippensteel was working with women who had lashes that were hard to isolate and grab. In general she says Asians usually have finer, shorter lashes; African women have lashes that curve and cross over each other; and older women have short, uneven lashes.
“Not everyone has long lashes that are evenly spaced apart,” says Hippensteel, who practiced on every kind of person—young and old, and different ethnicities before finally deciding she was ready to start charging for her services.
At the moment, she charges $139 for a 55-lash set and $199 for 95 lashes or more. The re-lashing which many clients need two weeks after applying the semi-permanent eyelash extensions ranges from $49 to $69. It’s a price range she based on the prices other salons charge for their services.
Though the eyelash extension process is completely safe, there are times where things can go wrong. Hippensteel says the number one reason that customers have had an awful experience is because the stylist has not had enough training and experience. It’s a meticulous process that not everyone is capable of doing.
In her past, Hippensteel remembers a client who had showed up with eyelash extensions that had gotten attached to several lashes of her eye instead of one. The problem is that lashes grow at different rates and just like hair, it falls out after the lash has gone through all its stages; the process only works if it’s one synthetic lash per donor lash.
“If you are gluing something to a bunch of lashes, one or a few is going to be actively growing while the other ones are dormant, so the actively growing ones are going to be pulling the dormant ones out,” says Hippensteel. Clients often find themselves with gaps in their eyelashes.
There are also the occasional precautions that are overlooked. Those who have recently had eye surgery or are allergic to the ingredients cannot receive eyelash extensions. And those who work in water or are known for rubbing their eyes too much, should avoid eyelash extensions as well.
With every product comes its risks, but Hippensteel says that if done right, it is completely safe.
For now, Hippensteel is continuing to work day in and day out, trying to keep up with her business. Some days it’s dead in her small two-room studio while other days, it’s more busy than she’d like. “It’s a mixed bag,” she says. “I never know.”
What she does know, however, is that eyelash extensions are growing in popularity and the trend shows no signs of stopping.