As if hair loss isn’t enough of a blow to your beauty, lash loss can be an added devastating side effect of chemotherapy and targeted radiation. However, new techniques in lash extensions can help. Far from the heavy and unnatural fake eyelashes of the past, today’s extensions can be as natural or dramatic as you want, brightening up your face…and your day.
We caught up with expert eyelash artisan Courtney Akai, owner of Courtney Akai Lash Boutique in Manhattan. Courtney counts among her clients Rachel Ray, Naomi Campbell, Ashley Green, Candace Bushnell and “What Not To Wear” star Ted Gibson. And Courtney helps dozens of cancer patients maintain their lashes and beauty, whether before surgery or during treatment.
Q. Let’s start with the basics: how do lash extensions work?
A. The service consists of applying single synthetic or mink lashes at the base of your natural lash. There are lots of different lengths, from 6mm really natural looking lashes to 15mm for full drama. The lashes come in various thicknesses and curl, making the result extremely personalized. Once selected, we apply the lashes one at a time using a specially-formulated, semi-permanent glue that will not irritate the eye or damage the natural lash. Applying a full-set of lashes takes about two hours, and can be maintained year-round with touch-ups every three to four weeks. A half set of lashes can also economically achieve a dramatic effect.
Q. If a client has very few or very short lashes, can she still do extensions?
A. Yes! I can work with even the littlest of lash. Normally people have between 90-150 lashes. If a client is in chemotherapy, she may be down to 20 lashes. I can make that 20 look like about 40. A full set of extensions can also thicken them by 30% to 50%. What I do is criss-cross the lashes to give a fuller look. I use a very lightweight lash in general, and always a finer lash for cancer patients.
Q. You mention different kinds of extensions: what do you recommend for cancer patients?
A. Cancer patients should use fine silk or mink. Don’t be put off by “mink.” Nothing is done to the animal except shave the hairs from the top of its coat. Just like giving it a haircut, so it’s humane, and the lashes are highly sanitized. If you’re really against mink, you can always use a very thin synthetic lash. The key is to use as fine a lash as possible.
Q. How long do extensions last?
A. From start to finish, lashes will last about 6-8 weeks. Because we understand the time and money factor, we apply each lash to the base of the natural lash, helping to maximize the length of time between touch-ups.
Q. Are there any dangers of promoting lash loss or preventing grow-in if you choose to use extensions?
A. No. The extensions don’t add significant weight to the lashes and pull them down. Also, unlike traditional false eyelashes, the bonding agent does not touch the lash line or eyelid and therefore does not inhibit growth. We use three different types of pharmaceutical grade bonding agents: all are made in U.S. and opthamologist-tested. The glue is void of any toxic and/or cancer-inducing chemicals, including Formaldehyde, a commonly-used substance in adhesives. We remove extensions with an organic solvent. It’s very important that this is done by a professional so you don’t inadvertently lose precious lashes by doing it yourself.
Q. Let’s face it: lash extensions are expensive and also not available everywhere. Are there any over the counter treatments to encourage lash thickness and growth?
A. Yes. There is Revitolash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner, and another is NeuLASH by Skin Research Laboratories Lash Enhancing Serum. While they are not inexpensive, they can work well to help growth.
Q. Finally, any words of wisdom for cancer warriors?
A. Don’t ever forget: You deserve to feel beautiful. Especially during your cancer treatment!
Advice from Courtney Akai
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