Lash Extensions, Lifts, Or Tints? Which Lash Treatment Is Worth It

The more reality TV I watch, the more I notice one, highly specific effect: I become obsessed with the relative lushness of my eyelashes. It doesn’t matter that reality stars openly discuss their extensions, falsies, or long-standing relationships with Latisse. Every time I see a new VPR cast member upload a selfie, then take a quick peek in my own front-facing mirror, I’m left disappointed. SO, I did what any self-obsessed part-time beauty blogger sane person would: sent some emails, booked some appointments, and tested out each lash treatment du jour for myself. In the past year, I’ve tried out lash extensions, lash tints, and lash lifts—here’s what I found out.

Lash Treatment #1: Lash Extensions

Lash extensions were the first treatment I wanted to try, mostly because I didn’t really know lash lifts and tints existed until a few months ago. I’ve gotten lash extensions three or four times now, and the best advice I can give is that the quality really, really varies by location—so do your f*cking research.

Pros: If you’re going to be on camera, or you just really live for a dramatic lash, then extensions are the way to go. If you’re the kind of person who wants to pretend their lashes are totally natural and not have anyone be able to tell: this treatment is not for you. It makes sense that this treatment has the most pronounced effect, since it’s the only one that actually gives you more lashes than you were born with, in addition to making them darker, longer, and thicker.

Cons: First of all, they’re expensive. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but if you’re paying under $100 for a service, then the service they’re performing is likely very questionable. I also find the process fairly unpleasant, given that it’s up to two hours of someone repeatedly, if softly, jabbing your eyelid. I’ve also had some stinging reactions from the glue they use, but whatever, beauty is pain. The other downside I’d note is that my real lashes do seem distinctly droopier for a few weeks after the extensions come off. It could just be in comparison to how lush the extensions seemed, or it could be that my lashes are not quite as load-bearing as I hoped. Either way—once I started getting extensions, not having them seemed like a real bummer. And financially, constantly having them just isn’t an option.

Please enjoy this heavily filtered picture of me 3 hours post-extension treatment:

Lash Treatment #2: Lash Tint

For those of you who don’t know, a lash tint involves, well, tinting your lashes. Ideally to a darker shade, but I guess you could get weird with it if you wanted. I visited the Benefit Brow Bar back in February for a lash and brow tint, since I was in LA at the time and feeling intimidated by all the women marching out of hot yoga without mascara streaming down their cheeks. I’ll just discuss the lash aspect below, but I’d like to mention here that I also LOVED the brow tint—I usually stuck to a brow pencil that was similar to my natural shade, but I loved the added drama of going darker.

Pros: This is by far the most affordable service: at Benefit, it’s only $21. The process is also very easy and painless—you’re in and out in under 20 minutes. And it definitely works: I had jet-black lashes for the next 3-4 weeks. 

Cons: Honestly, it just wasn’t a dramatic enough change for me to want to do it again. (Unlike the brow tint). I can see where this service would be useful if you have super-light lashes (looking at you, my blond and ginger friends), and color would give your eyes more of a pop. But unless your lashes are also naturally as curly and thick as you want them to be, I don’t know that it’ll fully replace your mascara routine. It also only lasts 3-4 weeks—as opposed to extensions and lifts, both of which should last at least 6 weeks.

I couldn’t find a picture of me post-lash tint that looks like anything, so here’s a video of Benefit’s tinted lash primer instead:

Lash Treatment #3: Lash Lift

Okay, admittedly the service I got at Lash Loft is both a lift and a tint—so I can’t really speak to what it would look like if my lashes were only “lifted.” Lash Loft uses a Keratin-based treatment that “turns lashes upwards” as well as tinting. They also offer a service called a “lash perm,” which adds curl but not color, and which is slightly cheaper so I’m considering trying it next time. Anyway!

Pros: This was my favorite treatment of the three. The application time was shorter than extensions (under 90 minutes), the look is more natural, and I don’t constantly have stray extensions shedding down my face two weeks after getting the treatment. Where extensions felt like a necessary evil for my natural lashes, this treatment actually feels like it’s helping them—the lashes on my face are 100% my own, but they’ve never looked thicker, or framed my eyes so nicely. Simply put, I’m in love.

Cons: Also expensive! It costs $160 for the full lash lift treatment at Lash Loft, and $100 for a lash perm. Like extensions, they’re meant to last 6-8 weeks (I’m in week 3, and will keep you posted), but my lash budget is just not that high. Also, if you’re getting these specifically for a photo op, you’ll want to add mascara on top—it’s not quite the dramatic pop of extensions.

My newly lifted lashes; ignore how dead I look in the eyes:

All in all—and depending on what your natural lashes look like—extensions are likely the only method that will replace mascara for you completely. But if you’re comfortable with a natural look, my personal preference for a no-makeup morning is the lash lift. So until my reality career is in full swing, I’ll be sticking with lifts—and the occasional swipe of my favorite volumizing mascara.

Images: Victor Hughes / Unsplash; @benefitcosmetics, @louisabhaus / Instagram