Are you brave enough to put hair-perming cream on your eyelashes? It sounds insane, and yet, like so many things in the world of beauty, it yields an incredibly pretty result. I'm talking about a lash lift, the trendy treatment that relies on perming chemicals to semipermanently curl your eyelashes for 6–8 weeks. And I was apparently brave enough to try it.
I recently visited The Glamm Bar in Chicago to get a lash lift and tint (plus a brow tint because I was headed to a wedding a few days later). I had gotten both lash tints and brow tints before and knew what to expect, but never had I ever gotten my lashes curled with perming chemicals. I was a bit nervous.
Jasmine Walker, the co-owner of The Glamm Bar, made me feel more comfortable right away, both literally and figuratively.
After having me lie down on a plush bed and positioning a pillow underneath the small of my back, she explained the process to me: she would glue my eyelashes to a rod, add perming cream, add setting cream, add a nourishing keratin treatment, and finish it off with a tint to darken my blonde lashes.
She said that I would love the results. "Lash lifts are great because they last longer than any other form of lashes," Jasmine added. She performs lash extensions, too, but she especially loves how low-maintenance lash lifts are in comparison and how they give "very long-lasting, natural results."
She also assured me that lash lifts are safe. "I've never had anyone have a reaction," she said, explaining that the Lash Stuff products she uses are designed to be more gentle on the eyes. I just kept reminding myself that Jasmine has really good reviews on both our site and Yelp.
Before she started, Jasmine and I discussed which curling rod she would use, the one that would give my longer eyelashes a more natural-looking result. Then she got to work.
The basics: Lash lifts, AKA eyelash perms, use perming cream to semipermanently curl your eyelashes. A black tint can be added to enhance the results.
Best for: all types of eyelashes, including short and straight
Results: last for 6–8 weeks
Treatment time: about an hour total
Care: avoid getting your lashes wet and wearing mascara for 24 hours. Avoid lash extensions for 48 hours.
Jasmine placed two sticky gel undereye patches on top of my bottom eyelashes to keep them out of the way. Permed bottom lashes don't look so hot.
Next, she glued the curling rod to my eyelids using glue similar to the glue used with strip eyelashes. She then glued my eyelashes to the rod itself, brushing glue on top of the rod and then brushing my lashes upward and pressing them against the rod so they would stick.
My eyes were effectively sealed shut. "You couldn't open them if you wanted to," Jasmine said, which naturally made me immediately want to try to open my eyes, and I had to force myself not to.
It also made me very aware of the camera crew in the room and how they could easily stab me if they wanted to. Or how a stranger could run into the room and stab me. Jasmine told me I was the first client to ever bring up that concern.
And OK, sure, I might be listening to too many murder podcasts, but I do think that if you're highly paranoid or really claustrophobic, you may freak out about this treatment. Because not only are your eyes sealed shut, they're sealed shut for an hour.
While I tried not to think of all the potential stabbings, Jasmine brushed the perming cream onto my lashes. It smelled a bit like a hair perm, but it wasn't strong. Jasmine then set a timer for 15 minutes and left me alone, saying that "most clients end up falling asleep because they're so relaxed."
I definitely started to relax after a few minutes, and I probably could have fallen asleep if my eyes hadn't started to sting a bit. It happened toward the end of the 15 minutes, and it convinced me that my eyes were going to turn bright red like they had the time that I applied my own eyelash tint.
I told Jasmine that it was stinging, and she calmly rearranged my gel pads. The stinging stopped, but whether my eyes would turn red or not remained to be seen.
When the full 15 minutes was up, Jasmine removed the perming cream and added the setting cream to lock in the curl. This stayed on for another 15 minutes. It didn't smell like anything, and it didn't sting.
Jasmine removed the setting cream and brushed a keratin conditioning treatment onto my lashes to help keep them soft after all the activity.
Jasmine brushed a black eyelash tint onto my newly curled lashes and left it on for five minutes.
After removing the tint, Jasmine unglued my lashes from the rod, and then unglued the rod from my eyelid. She wiped off all the remaining glue and brushed my lashes. I finally could open my eyes, and it was a big relief. No matter how relaxing it is to lie there with your eyes closed, it's strange not to be able to open them if you want. I also was eager to see how my new lashes looked.
Because I opted for an eyebrow tint, I still had to wait a bit to see my curled lashes. I was eager to get through the brow tinting bit, but I actually really appreciated that Jasmine took her time shaping my brows with the tint. She ended up creating a shape as if she were using a pencil. Most brow places I've been to just kind of smear on the tint, concerned with only darkening my existing hairs rather than giving me any sort of shape.
The only issue came when the light brown tint refused to darken anything, and Jasmine needed to switch to the dark brown. I knew my brows would be a bit darker than I was used to for a day or two and then would lighten up, so I was fine with it. The dark brown tint worked swiftly, and my brows were done. It was time to finally look in the mirror.
My lashes looked really good! Actually, they probably looked the best they've ever looked. I was expecting a slight curl, but my lashes were lifted high, and they made my eyes look more awake. The dark tint accentuated the flirty curl, and I was feeling myself.
My eyes hadn't turned red, either, so overall, I was very pleased with the results.
Remember that scene in Legally Blonde when Elle Woods solves a murder case because she knows that you can't get a fresh perm wet without ruining the curl? Well, the same principle applies here, and Jasmine tells me I'm not allowed to get my lashes wet for the first 24 hours.
Luckily, I had some cleansing wipes and some micellar water and cotton rounds on hand. I was also supposed to avoid mascara for 24 hours and lash extensions for a couple days.
Colleen two weeks after a lash lift at The Glamm Bar in Chicago. Photo by Dominique Shepherd.
My lashes still look amazing! They're still very curled and black, though I expect the tint to start fading over the next week. I've been accentuating the look with mascara when I wear makeup, but I've gone makeup-free on the weekends and have still felt pretty.
According to Jasmine, "not everyone will have the same results" because not everyone has the same lashes. "Factors that can contribute to the results are hair texture, length, volume, and ethnicity," she says, adding that "different hair textures take the curling process differently."
Lash lifts are still generally effective on even the straightest lashes, but they may need more time under the perming cream.
There are risks associated with lash lifts, particularly if you have sensitive eyes or skin. Plus, ophthalmologists tend to disapprove of most beauty treatments involving eyes, including eyelash extensions. But many people have had good experiences with lash lifts, so if you're going to get one, do your research.
Jasmine says that you should make sure the salon uses "a reputable branded product for the procedure." She says you should also look at reviews and see what other clients are saying about their lash lift results.
Finally, she says, you should ask your technician plenty of questions to make sure they are very knowledgeable about the treatment. If you feel uncomfortable at all, walk away.
As someone who has tinted their own eyelashes at home and ended up with red, itchy eyes, it's not a good idea to do a lash lift at home. It's very hard to perform lash treatments on yourself because you end up opening your eyes to see what you're doing and subsequently getting stuff in your eyes. I can't imagine getting a bunch of perming cream in my eyes; vegetable dye was bad enough.
If you go to a reputable salon, you should be OK. And don't worry about your natural lashes falling out. Lashes follow a life cycle and at the end of that life cycle, they fall out—no matter if your lashes are lifted or not.
There is some confusion surrounding this, but an eyelash lift is simply the rebranded name of an eyelash perm. My theory is that an eyelash perm sounds a bit scarier and not as elegant as an eyelash lift. The treatment is the same, however, though some places might use a flatter shield instead of a rod to curl your lashes.
Jasmine actually uses both, but told me she chose a rod for my treatment because of the length of my natural lashes and the amount of curl I wanted. "Both provide the same results," she affirmed.
Jasmine asks that clients wait at least one month to avoid lash damage.
Two weeks later, the lash lift and tint are going strong. Photo by Dominique Shepherd.