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Lithium Eyelash extensions are the toxic ex-boyfriend I pay for

Jul. 22, 2020
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I’d flirted with them for months. For the longest time, people had told me to go for them, raving about how cute we’d look together and how my life would be changed forever. In a way, it did: we ended up going to prom together, vacationing in Asia, and making countless memories captured by plenty of photos. As I adjusted to having them in my life, I found myself falling in love, bit by bit. 

“Them” being eyelash extensions, of course. 

And on my first day without my extensions, I thought: “Was I always this fugly?” 

Eyelash extensions are used to enhance the length, curliness, fullness, and thickness of natural lashes by gluing mink, silk, or synthetic hair to the ends of your natural lashes. They typically stay on for about 3-4 weeks before needing maintenance, which can cost anywhere from $30 to $200 per session depending on the technician or material. 

All of the girls I knew with eyelash extensions had been getting them for years. When I told them I was considering it, they were full of enthusiasm. “It’s seriously an addiction,” one friend told me. “You’ll want to keep getting bigger and bigger lashes until you have literal brooms on your eyes,” said another. “I used to spend $50 per session but now all of my paychecks go to my lashes!” 

At the time, I laughed it off. I only decided to get lash extensions because my friend was offering me a discount and I had a grad boat cruise coming up. After that, I’d be done with it—why would I need lash extensions for my monotonous day-to-day activities? 

I went into my first session with a stomach full of anticipation and sweet potato fries. The technician had me lay down on a makeshift bed and close my eyes before rubbing various lotions on my eyes. And that’s all I can really say about the process, because even with all the poking and prodding I felt around my eyes, I had no idea what she was doing. Over the next hour or so, I drifted in and out of sleep. My nose was itchy. My stomach felt weird from the festering sweet potato fries. And then she told me I could open my eyes. 

The world looked different. Not because I’d had some life-changing epiphany, but because the lashes were quite literally weighing down on my eyelids and blocking part of my vision. 

And I looked different. When she passed me the little mirror, I almost didn’t recognize myself. It looked so dramatic—what would my parents think? My teachers? The old women at the hospice where I volunteered? 

Over time, I got used to the weight and the way they looked on me. And I began to fall in love. I could roll out of bed, toss aside my mascara and eyeliner, and still look ready to hit the clubs. 

Eyelash extensions, I discovered, were like strip lashes without the hassle and pain. And unlike strip lashes that you have to take off every night, extensions last forever—or at least for the 3-4 weeks before they start falling out. 

And fall out they did. When the 3-week mark came, I told myself I needed them for my next grad event and paid $70 for a refill. 

After two months of this, I ran out of justifications to be shelling out so much money. I was draining my bank account of hundreds of dollars every few weeks, and I knew it wasn’t sustainable. I watched, devastated, as they fell out, and so I took matters into my own hands and rubbed coconut oil on my lashes until they were extension-free. 

When I saw my reflection afterward, I was horrified and filled with a pungent sense of regret. Had I accidentally ripped out half my lashes? Had they always been this short? Had I permanently damaged my hair follicles, cursing me to forever look like a naked mole rat? 

I knew it’d taken an adjustment period for me to fall in love with the extensions—but I didn’t realize I’d need another adjustment period to fall out. Only this time, it felt way worse. 

In hindsight, I know I looked exactly like I did before my extensions. But still, I’d never felt uglier—bare, naked, like everyone could tell something was missing. Like never before, I was obsessing over my appearance before leaving the house. I’d gape at myself in the mirror, desperately rearranging my hair and swiping concealer under my eyes, still thoroughly dissatisfied with my appearance. It sounds petty, superficial, and maybe even overdramatic, but it ruined my day every time I looked in the mirror. 

Every girl I’d talked to about eyelash extensions had nothing but raving reviews. But something I wish they’d emphasized more was how hard it is to part with them. Eyelash extensions are beautiful and convenient and an absolute game-changer—but they’re also a slippery slope. They’re advertised as a permanent solution to getting Hollywood celebrity lashes, but they inherently aren’t permanent. 

I totally respect eyelash extensions. They made me feel confident and beautiful. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t able to separate the eyelashes from my self-worth. For me, the eyelashes became an addiction, something I relied on so I could feel pretty. And none of the happiness they brought me could hide that they were toxic. 

Sometimes I feel tempted to send a quick text to book an appointment and give them a second chance. But I know that if a person was making me feel this way, I’d tell myself to run, run, and never look back. And therein lies the reason I’ll never get lash extensions again — we had some good times, but no temporary happiness is worth those crippling moments of self-loathing.

Cover image by Mariah Neumaier.