My lashes a day after my extensions were applied. Photos: Jolie Novak, AOL


I once deemed lash extensions a totally unnecessary, practically absurd beauty enhancement.

Then, four years ago, I got engaged and instantly transformed into a bridezilla who pined for every possible cosmetically inclined treatment, service and potion I could find. Like a hypocrite, I quickly succumbed to the siren song of the lash extension, which at the time was one of the hottest trends in beauty, fabled for its ability to deliver a long-term, fawn-like fringe that looked amazing natural.

Had I known how long and tedious the procedure would be, I would have declined.

I let a nice, seemingly-knowledgeable woman apply lash after lash with toxic smelling and feeling glue (it stung my eyes majorly) to my own lashes for nearly four hours. I think I even fell asleep at some point from sheer boredom.

When we were finally done I was a little shocked by how strange long, black lashes looked on me.

Since I'm pretty fair and have naturally light brown lashes, the fake ones looked glaringly artificial. I hadn't given my lash color or length much thought before lying down, but if I had known I would have specified that I didn't want to stray too far from my own lashes.

I realized too late that, rather than major drama and length, I was seeking volume. So my advice to those considering lash extensions is to figure out exactly what you want out of them before you make an appointment. This is likely the reason I waited four years to dip my toes into the lash extension waters again. That, and the cost, which was $200 - $650 per session for lashes that would last 7-9 weeks, seemed prohibitive.

So when I got an invitation from Courtney Akai to try out her Lash Boutique in New York City, I jumped at the chance, curious to see if the procedure had been refined since its heyday in the mid aughts.

Me, before my lash extensions. Photos: Lisa Schweitzer



I'm happy to report that this time around, the process was a pleasure. It did not take four hours. I simply hopped onto the table -- picture a massage table with a special pillow for your head and one for under your knees, but no robe and blanket.

Akai asked me what kind of look I wanted, and I had my answer ready: I was decidedly not in pursuit of full-on Kardashian-style fringe, but more of the me-only-better look.

I even asked, hopefully, if she had brown lashes.

"I do, but no one ever wants them!" Akai replied. She generally recommends the brown lashes for the timid or the very fair-haired, since they blend in (and therefore stand out less) with lighter eyelashes better than the black ones. You can always apply mascara for a more uniform appearance, but for me, the idea of not having to use mascara every day was a huge benefit, so I was a clear candidate for brown.

Thus we settled on brown lashes, but not a full set. Akai suggested I get them mostly on the outer half of my eyes, for lots of flutter that appears very natural; the "I just woke up looking this way" sort of look you would kill for.

The process took about 40 minutes. When I sat up and looked in the mirror, it was love at first sight (even though there was a tiny bit of sting remaining from the glue). I finally had the lush lashes I strive to create every day with mascara, except I don't have to painstakingly comb through clumps in the morning or tug off my makeup off before bed. And they last for nearly six weeks!

The cost of the partial lash line I received is $200, half the cost of the full monty (for which Akai charges $400), making it a more affordable and realistic choice for anyone who desires a little glamour -- but also wants to make their everyday beauty routine a whole lot easier.

Even if you don't take the plunge with lash extensions, there are ways to make your mascara work better for you. Watch the below video to find out how: