Lacking in the eyelash department? From lash extensions to LVL lash lifts and primers, here’s your cheat sheet for fuller, longer, thicker, glossier, curlier lashes, whether you’ve got cash to burn or not

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On the grounds that the world isn’t fair, some of us are more well endowed in eyelash terms than others. Many men have the kind of doe-eyed, luscious eyelashes that many women would give their right arm for (see Zac Efron, Zayn Malik, Enrique Iglesias, Ryan Gosling, the list wearily goes on…) and the great dames of Hollywood are typically blessed with a thicket of lashes. Elizabeth Taylor even had a double set owing to a genetic mutation, essentially removing the need to wear mascara, but of course she did anyway because... Elizabeth Taylor.

Just because you weren’t anointed with sweeping lashes at birth, however, doesn’t mean that you too can’t skip mascara, wake up to instant definition and seduce men/ women/ the camera/ anyone you wish to coerce with the bat of an eyelid, but for there are caveats involving expense, holding fire on the hot showers and even changing the type of cleanser you use. Here are your options for doing up the curtains of the the windows of your soul, from high to low maintenance treatments and everything in between.

High Maintenance

Full Set of Semi-Permanent Lash Extensions

What are they? Our tester got hers applied at the  Lash Perfect bar  in central London. The eyelash extensions involve the application of individual synthetic eyelashes to your own natural lashes, using medical-grade adhesive; you can pick your length and even whether to go for a curled style or a more natural-looking straight set.

How does it work? With your lower lashes taped down with under-eye pads (which are available either with active ingredients to cool the eyes or without, for sensitive skin) and eyes closed, a trained therapist will apply the lashes one by one - but you won’t feel a thing. If you’re blonde, it may be a good idea to have a tint first, and a patch test is often required 24 hours beforehand to ensure that you don’t have any adverse reactions to lash glue.

What’s the effect? The final effect is impressive, enhanced, yet subtle if you do go for the half set option. The extensions are attached a little way up from the root - they don’t touch the skin, and they only fall out as and when your natural lashes drop (as they do, regularly). Maintenance appointments for fill-ins are recommended every couple of weeks to make them last longer, otherwise you can enjoy the set for up to four weeks.

Any downtime? Don’t get them wet for 24 hours, and no hot showers or sudden opening of dishwashers either - the steam can affect the glue for 2 days after.

How about upkeep? We've talked through how to deal with makeup for lash extensions over here . The only real rule is to avoid any oil-based eye products or cleansers, and to be careful not to let your moisturiser touch the lashes. Liquid eyeliner is not recommended, so be warned if you’re a fan of a the feline flick - pencil eyeliner is best for optimum results, though so long as your liquid liner of choice is oil-free  and removed carefully (use a cotton bud or cloth - not cotton wool - with your oil-free cleanser ) you should be able to keep up your signature look. Lash Perfect stocks its own brand of eyeliner, mascara and makeup remover if you’re not sure about your own kit’s ingredients. The lashes can also get a little tangled, but you’ll be given a brush to comb them through and keep them in check. NEVER under any circumstances pick at them with your fingers. You’ll not only risk pulling your extensions out, but your natural eyelashes too, which will make the sparsity problem worse. If they’re falling out in an uneven way, visit your lash aesthetician for either full removal or infill if appropriate.

Final verdict: The bottom line, in our tester’s opinion, is that if your own lashes are lacklustre and you prefer a natural makeup look, or you’re heading on holiday and the idea of applying and removing mascara on a daily basis is somewhat of a chore, these are a great solution. They look beautiful without any added mascara and can be passed off as your own, only better; however, the restriction with makeup products could be an issue if you’re a makeup junkie. Know your formulas well, however, or stick to powder and pencil products, and your lashes should last well enough to warrant the price tag.

What’s the damage? Expect to pay between £130-£150 for a full set and £70-£80 for a half set. Removal comes in at approximately £20, and infills vary according to how many lashes you need.

Russian Lashes

What are they? Fine, soft and lightweight lashes applied to each natural eyelash- between three and six is applied depending on the effect you’re after, and of course your budget. They’re occasionally referred to as 3D or 6D lashes, and are especially effective if you’re main concern is a lack of volume.

How does it work? Very similar to classic extensions, except that more lashes are applied to each individual eyelash. As a result it takes longer- expect your treatment to last around two hours.

What’s the effect? A thicker, fuller fringe of lashes with more longevity than traditional extensions- you should get a full eight weeks wear and not need to return for a maintenance appointment for at least a month. If you’d like volume at a more subtle level,  Lash Perfect’s Tahitian Feathering service  is similar to Russian lashes, but lashes of different lengths are applied to create a more delicate final look.

Any downtime? Pretty much the same ground rules as regular extensions. Beware saunas, steam rooms and showers. Goggles while you wash might seem silly at first but you shelled out for these babies so well worth considering. Also give it some thought if you’re hayfever prone - rubbing your eyes will cause lashes to fall prematurely at best, and take your own lashes with them at worst. Given the cost, you’ll want to have an anti-itch plan in place.

How about upkeep? As above, you should be able to hang onto these for longer, but you’ll need to return for maintenance appointments to keep them looking fresh and thick.

Final verdict: Precisely tailored to the effect you want, whether that’s to look more wide eyed, bushy lashed (in a good way) or naturally feline. Also, if you crave drama, this is ‘the one’. Just wait for the compliments to roll on in.

What’s the damage? Substantial- from £180 to £325 for a full, bespoke set at London lash legend Daxita’s bars at the new Harvey Nichols Beauty Lounge  and Atherton Cox . Maintenance with Daxita is £140. Tahitian Feathering at Lash Perfect will set you back £180 for a full set, and £95 for half. A quick infill is £55, and more thorough going over is £90.

Medium Maintenance

Two Week ‘Cluster’ Lashes

What are they? Eyelash extensions applied in groups of three to your natural lashes.

How does it work? You can choose exactly where you want to enhance your lashes, be it in the outer corners or centre, and concentrate your lash appeal where it’s needed, without having to invest in a full set.

What’s the effect? Again, clusters are very customisable, and the effect depends on the shape of your face, eye shape and impact you’d like. As subtle enhancement goes, however, these are a brilliant option, but best suited to special occasions rather than long term wear, as they’re not as long lasting as full extensions.

Any downtime? Go by the lash extension guidelines above- no oily makeup or cleansers around the eye area and skip the steam room.

How about upkeep? Given that they only last a fortnight, they won’t be flaking out extensively or noticeably, but you will need to have them removed by a professional to protect your natural lashes.

Final verdict: Fullness without the financial burden, and a great fix if you’ve not got the time or patience for the real deal.

What’s the damage? £60 for a ‘classic’ finish, £30 for enhancement just at the outer corners (makes a big difference!) at blink brow bars nationwide . Combine with a tint for more sultry lashes at a lower combined price point.

Low Maintenance

LVL Lashes

What is it? LVL stands for ‘length, volume and lift’, and involves lifting and straightening your natural eyelashes from the root, so that they look thicker and fuller. A perming lotion takes care of curl, while a tint adds instant definition and a moisturising serum keeps lashes in good condition.

How does it work? First things first, you’ll need to go along to your chosen salon, bar or clinic (I went to the very polished Blush+Blow  in London’s Parson’s Green) for a patch test around 48 hours before your treatment to ensure that the perming lotion, tint and serum used don’t cause you any problems. If you can't make it to South West London, pioneers of LVL Nouveau Lashes  has a handy salon finder  to seek one out closer to home. The treatment itself takes less than an hour; simply chill out on a cushy bed as your therapist gets to work on giving you naturally incredible eyelashes using painless shields to protect lower lashes and provide a canvas to work on for the upper lashes. The perming lotion smells pretty pungent, but that’s about as uncomfortable as it gets. In terms of the process, there’s some setting time involved (about ten minutes for the perming lotion), and the therapist will perm, tint and condition in that order.

What’s the effect? I was open-mouthed at what was possible starting from a base of just my natural lashes- in the space of 50 minutes I went from diminutive lashes to full-on Disney princess. The lift, curl and intensity was flawless, although if you’re expecting mega volume, extensions are a better bet, but the joy of LVL is that no one will ever know you’ve done it, it will simply be assumed that you are one of the chosen lush lashed few.

Any downtime? Try not to get them wet for 24 hours after treatment, and my therapist advised me not to apply eye makeup for a day or so to let them settle. Otherwise, live your life my friend, but try not to squash them too much. No cleansers, makeup or swimming pool facilities are out of bounds.

How about upkeep? There’s no fall out, and you don’t need to return for maintenance appointments either. The effect should last between six to eight weeks, although try not to squash them, and if you’re an avid water baby, you might notice that they wilt a little prematurely. Otherwise, the dream.

Final verdict: I can see this becoming a habit. I didn’t touch mascara for the good part of a week, and I’ve still not reached for the lash curlers in over a month. The lack of lash malting and maintenance suits me down to the ground, and looking more awake despite a persistent sleep deficiency is particularly refreshing. Sold. Especially when it comes packaged with a blow dry at a discounted price as it currently does at Blush+Blow (£80 for both).

What’s the damage? Around the £65 mark.

False Lashes

What is it? Most of us have flirted with falsies, but the newest models on the market are ‘mink effect’- read: softer, fluttery and far more convincing than the stiff, plastic-y false lashes of old. If you’re after a superior set,  Huda Beauty’s  are patent pending, hand crafted and feature a weaved root to magnify volume. For a more purse-friendly purchase, I remain a huge fan of Eylure ’s wide selection- there’s something in the range for every eye shape, effect and occasion, and they have impressive staying power.

How does it work? Most of us are familiar with glueing strip lashes along the lashline, and while it can be fiddly, Huda Beauty’s black glue  makes the finished look far more seamless (those white blobs give the game away). Trim strip lashes to fit your eye shape and size, or opt for individual lashes for a customised or low key gaze. Individual lashes can require a bit of a forensic approach- tweezers will help you to place each lash in a ‘just so’ position

What’s the effect? False lashes can vary wildly, from the theatrical to the barely there. Individual lashes are the most useful when it comes to tailoring a look to your taste, but strip lashes are quick and easy to apply, and you’ve got less chance of losing them before the next outing. If you treat your lashes with care you could get up to twelve uses out of them, although I’m yet to meet a pair with quite this degree of stamina.

Any downtime? Perhaps a minute while you wait for the glue to dry. Otherwise, zilch.

How about upkeep? If you’ve sealed the deal with a good quality glue, you shouldn’t need to tweak them at all during wear, but take the glue out and about with you just in case. In my experience, alcoholic beverages have a tendency to make lashes go oddly wonky by the end of the night. Don’t know why that is. If you remove them neatly, give them a gentle clean and store them somewhere safe and dry, they should look like new when you wear them next. Just don’t leave those spider’s legs by the sink- it’ll be game over after a single wear.

Final verdict: Still the easiest DIY way to double your lash impact.

What’s the damage?: From £2 to £25, depending on how high-end you go. Luxe lashes will likely be softer, lighter, more finely tapered and meticulously shaped to fit the eye, but this isn’t always the case. Shop around and quiz counter staff at beauty counters, or better still ask them to apply a pair and talk you through the options and best application method.

Lash Growth Serums

What are they? A growth enhancing elixir of life for eyelashes- apparently. There’s debate as to whether the normally peptide-packed formulas really produce the goods, but many consumers swear by the likes of Rapidlash ,  Revitalash  and Elizabeth Arden Prevage Clinical Lash + Brow Enhancing Serum  in particular.

How do they work? By creating a harmonious environment for hair growth- think peptides  to strengthen and fortify lashes and botanical blends to moisture and shield lashes from environmental and external aggressors. Essentially, a lash serum is a night cream for your eyeliners, in liquid, transparent eyeliner form.

What’s the effect? With consistent use, they can reap impressive results (I can vouch for Revitalash- mine definitely feel and look bushier over time) and help to prevent lash loss and nurture brittle lashes back to health. Not all are made equal, however, and if you’re losing a lot of lashes on a daily basis, it’s best to visit your GP to establish the root cause.

Any downtime? None at all- just swipe on and sleep.

How about upkeep? Just keep applying- you’re playing the long-game in terms of lash enhancement. Make it part of your skincare routine and don’t give up after a few weeks if you’re not seeing results, as they can take a while to work, and you need to accommodate your natural lash growth cycle.

Final verdict? An easy daily step to glossier, more plentiful lashes, but it’ll cost you, and some people don’t notice a significant difference in lash density. Each vial does last for months, however, and as long as you stick to a reputable brand as listed above, you shouldn’t run into too much trouble (be wary of cheap imitators).

What’s the damage? From £39.99 for a tube of Rapidlash to £99 for Revitalash.

Makeup for short lashes

What is it? Mascaras, liners and primers, all claiming to big up your bad self (well...your eyelashes).

How does it work? By many ways and means. Mascaras such as BareMinerals Lash Domination® Petite Precision  feature skinny wands to add colour, length and volume to even the most minute of eyelashes ( Marc Jacobs Feather Noir Ultra-Skinny Lash-Discovering Mascara  is another top notch option).  Benefit Roller Lash  is exceptional when comes to curling straight lashes, and waterproof formulas will hold lashes up and preserve their curve. Give Maybelline Lash Sensational Luscious Waterproof Mascara  a whirl or finish your regular mascara with NYX Proof It Waterproof Topcoat . To add substance to lashes pre-mascara, prep lashes with a volumising, nourishing primer. Benefit, Dior and L’Oréal all make brilliant options. Tightlining is also a very effective way to fake thickness at the root. Draw a fine line along the lid and in between lashes to add depth. Eyeko Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner  has a slim enough nib to wiggle down the lashline and features a WIDELASH™ peptide to give lash growth a chivvy on as you wear it.

What’s the effect? The modern mascara, primer and liner fusion is incredibly effective for even the most weedy of lashes. This holy trinity forms a staple of many women’s makeup routines for a reason. If you’ve got gaps in your lashes or are seriously sparse, however, it’s nigh on impossible to attain the ‘false-lash’ effect that many mascaras claim to deliver. Play around, but a bit of mascara and a lick of liner almost never makes things worse.

Any downtime? Don’t sneeze. Hold back the tears.

How about upkeep? Very little, especially if you’ve plumped for waterproof formulas. A touch-up here and there should be your lot.

Final verdict? Affordable, impactful and versatile- you can wear more or less, depending on your mood.

What’s the damage? From £5.50 to about £25.

Eyelash Curlers

What is it? A medieval looking instrument of torture to newbies. Otherwise, a daily staple that clamps lashes to lift and curl from the root.

How does it work? Squeeze the handles together and you’ll apply pressure to the lash root by way of two rubber coated pads. Spend a few seconds on each eye and lashes should appear more elevated with a bit of a curve.

What’s the effect? This depends a lot on your lash length to start with. If you’ve got short lashes it can be hard to achieve a pronounced finish, but a bit of manoeuvring should at the very least open up the eye and provide a good ‘height’ to further lift your lashes with mascara.

Any downtime? Not unless things go seriously awry. Don’t squeeze too hard.

How about upkeep? Very little, especially if you fork out for a high quality pair. You’ll need to replace the pads every three months, for hygiene as well as performance reasons.

Final verdict? Must-haves for many, a step too far of faffery for some. Try a decent pair and likelihood is you’ll become hooked.

What’s the damage? Japanese brands often come up trumps (Japanese women prize their curlers). Makeup artist favourite Shu Uemura is sadly no longer with us in the UK, but  Japonesque  and Suqqu  come in at around £18- £20, but for a high street alternative look to  Kiko’s £5.90 curler.

Wondering what tightlining is, and how to go about it?  Here’s your ultimate guide to the lash-boosting technique…

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