Eyelash Extensions: The Mascara of the Future

Written by Sophy Merszei

When it comes to makeup, the key to successful retailing has always revolved around mascara. For generations, cosmetic surveys have revealed that the one and only beauty product women would not want to give up is mascara. If they have time to apply only one product in the morning, they choose to darken and thicken their eyelashes with one or two coats of mascara rather than apply other products like eyeshadow, blush, foundation, lipstick, or eyeliner.

Mascara is also the one color cosmetic product that keeps consumers returning to the store, spa, or salon. Consumers replenish their mascara more often than any other makeup item partly because it dries out, unlike lipstick and eyeshadow, and partly because it gets used more often than other makeup products. It also gets replaced on a regular basis because most people know to be cautious of the freshness and cleanliness of a tube that is a few months old.pic1

How can skin care professionals use these facts to their advantage? One option is to start providing clients with the next generation of eyelash enhancing products: eyelash extensions. Even if clients are afraid of looking unnatural and overdone or if they just prefer a conservative look, eyelash extensions are still the mascara of the future. For clients who want a hassle-free way to avoid applying mascara in the morning, eyelash extensions that are shorter than or the same length as their own natural eyelashes and are made of fibers that are thinner or the same diameter as their natural eyelashes will add depth of color and fullness without the daily hassle and mess of old-fashioned mascara.

An enormous amount of patience is required to learn the delicate and intricate task of applying eyelash extensions. Eyelash extension certification requires someone who can sit down, calm themselves, and have the patience to learn how to apply extensions because there is a steep learning curve. Skin care professionals are ideal candidates for certification because they are already used to working slowly and methodically. Furthermore, they already have most of the equipment that is needed for eyelash extensions, including a facial or massage table and a stool. They will not be required to purchase all new equipment. Skin care professionals are ready to go and used to working in a small room. They already have the set-up, patience, and attention to detail and are used to studying, which is key when learning to apply eyelash extensions.

When it comes to deciding which company to go through for eyelash extension certification, professionals should, first and foremost, be concerned with safety. The FDA does not approve cosmetics or regulate eyelash extensions because they simply do not have the funding. As a result, most of the adhesives for eyelash extensions are made in China, where there are no safety standards or regulations when it comes to the purity of the adhesive. Professionals should find a company that knows exactly where their adhesive is being made and has done tests for adhesive purity, toxicity, and contamination. The EPA has a test for adhesives that shows whether or not formaldehyde exists inside the bottle before it has been opened; companies should have the results of that test on their website or make it available for anyone who asks for it. A good eyelash extension company will also provide proof that their adhesive is not mutagenic, meaning that there are not any contaminants in the product that could potentially mutate DNA and cause cancer. This factor is also important to the health of the extensionists as they work with the adhesive on a regular basis.

quote2Finding a company that values safety is extremely important because the eye area is so delicate; there is no such thing as being too careful when it comes to a person's eyes. Hair and nails grow back, but the eyes are one of the most fragile and sensitive parts of the human body. Professionals should also look for a company with educational services and someone on staff with a chemistry or biology background that works in collaboration with physicians. It is important to involve the medical community when it comes to training people and health and safety.

The great thing about eyelash extensions is that if everything is done correctly, the professional can be booked solid, no matter where they are or what their facility looks like. Even in a small, rural town, a professional can build up a full clientele in less than one year. Extensions allow for this kind of growth because the results are immediate. Furthermore, repeat clients are built into the process because eyelash extensions are not something clients can do on their own.

The best form of marketing for eyelash extensions is word-of-mouth marketing. Potential clients want to see eyelash extensions in person and talk to their friends who have extensions about their eyelash experience and how it works. Extensions market themselves when people see that they look good and natural. When starting out in the eyelash extension business, the best thing a professional can do to build their clientele is to find as many colleagues as possible in the beauty industry – such as other aestheticians, hair stylists, nail technicians, and waxing practitioners – and do their eyelashes for free or at a steep discount for as long as possible. These friends will be walking billboards for the professional, targeting consumers that already frequent beauty businesses. Consumers are comfortable with and prefer to get referrals from someone they already trust, especially when they perceive that person as an expert in the world of beauty. The trick to the word-of-mouth marketing tool, however, is that the extensions need to look natural.

When eyelash extensions first got their start, they were applied in a manner that was not effective and did not look natural: one length was applied to almost every eyelash that was bonded, or adhered, to an extension. Unfortunately, there are still some companies that teach this method. In order to create a natural look for eyelash extensions, extensions should be applied in a varied manner. Fine extensions should be applied to baby hairs and medium-length extensions should be applied to resting hairs. The longest extensions should be placed on the hairs that are about to fall out. With this placement, not only do the eyelashes look natural, but the client does not get an unattractive, patchy look when the eyelashes shed, which is part of the reason many clients feel that they have to go in every two weeks for a fill. Extensions should be applied in a manner that compliments the natural growth cycle of eyelashes. When that method is employed, clients can touch up with mascara while they are waiting for their monthly fill instead of having to go in early.

Eyelash extension services have the highest profit margin of any professional treatment in the entire beauty industry. The skin care professional is only paying for the eyelash fibers and a few small drops of adhesive. The average cost for this high-ticket service is around $250 for a full set. Prices for full sets in cities like New York and San Francisco, as well as prices for advanced application techniques, can run upwards of $600 or more. Also, since the service is quite addictive, consumers tend to be very loyal and return like clockwork for their monthly touch-up appointments. After around a month, approximately 50 percent of the bonded eyelashes have cycled out of the resting or shedding phases of growth and have naturally sloughed off. Just as with hair color, only the new eyelashes need to be touched up. This process generally takes about half the amount of time of applying a full set and the cost ranges from around $70 to $350.

When it comes to pricing, professionals should do research on the extension market in their zip code. The rule of thumb, however, is not to go under $100 because, when the professional is just starting, it usually takes two hours to do a full set. Even in a very small town, $100 should be the minimum price point. Essentially, the profit the professional is already accustomed to making per hour with other services should be maintained.

The unique thing about eyelash extensions is that extensionists can give themselves a raise without having to raise their prices. Extensionists can achieve this feat by working on their timing. By practicing over and over and watching the clock while working, extensionists can eventually get their hands moving faster and cut down on the amount of time it takes to apply a full set. It should be noted, however, that there is a difference between becoming more efficient and rushing. Extensionists should not rush because the quality of the application will suffer. The efficiency to cut down on application time comes with experience and time. After two years, if the extensionist has been working for four days a week, they should be able to get their time down to an hour and a half or an hour and fifteen minutes. This time cut will allow for more clients and more profit. While it is nice for clients to have a temple massage and other luxuries during their extension application, the extensionist should work on applying a full set in the minimum amount of time before they start offering massages or using a slow makeup removal process. While cutting down on time is great for the extensionist's revenue, they should be careful to never compromise the quality of the application.

There is approximately a 50 percent markup for makeup that is specifically formulated for eyelash extension care. When retailing aftercare products, extensionists should inform clients of the importance of caring for their eyelashes. Many clients assume that extensions are so low maintenance that they do not need to be cared for; however, that could not be further from the truth. Although it is important that eyelash extensions are cleansed every morning and night, it is crucial that they are conditioned. Clients should never sleep on dry eyelash extensions; they should always be conditioned and moisturized so that there is an emollient protecting the eyelashes when their face is rubbing against their pillow throughout the night. Communicate to the client that the evolutionary purpose of eyelashes is to protect the eyes from dust, pollen, mold, and pollution; these particles land on the eyelashes rather than in the eyes. Because their purpose is to catch particles, it is important for clients to use a cleanser and conditioner every night to remove airborne pollution from the eyelashes.

Extensionists should have a vested interest in clients using, at the very least, a conditioner for their eyelashes because it keeps the eyelashes looking beautiful. It does not reflect well on extensionists if their clients are walking around with dry extensions that look unattractive.

Another retail aspect that will be of interest to the client is their eyeshadow. When clients use powder eyeshadow, it falls on the eyelash extensions and causes them to look dusty. Clients should use cream eyeshadow to avoid that problem. After making clients aware of the appropriate form of eyeshadow to use with their extensions, the extensionist should be ready with cream eyeshadows for sale.

There is a fairly common consumer perception that eyelash extensions can cause eyelashes to fall out. The truth is that there are numerous ways to apply extensions incorrectly and cause damage to the natural eyelashes. At the same time, there are many ways eyelashes can be damaged on a daily basis without extensions. If a client expresses concern about damaging their natural eyelashes, assure them that it is a perfectly logical fear to have, but explain to them how the process works and that a careful and thorough application is crucial to preventing damage: "I completely understand your concern and it is a rational fear, but what I do is completely isolate every single eyelash and bond one eyelash at a time with an extension. I am very meticulous about ensuring that no neighboring baby hairs get stuck to another eyelash or extension. When every eyelash has been isolated from its neighbors, they are completely free to grow, rest, and shed just as they would naturally. If they are free to do that, as they would without extensions, there is no opportunity for damage."pic3

If the consumer is hesitant about proceeding with the extensions because of the price, explain to them the impact that eyelashes have on the face and put the extensions on a priority scale with other cosmetic services: "You are spending X amount to get your nails done, but the nails are not the window to the soul." Most consumers realize what extensions do for their face and how it makes them look awake and alert. Emphasize that extensions save time because, if they are applied correctly, the client will not even need eyeliner. Emphasize the benefits of extensions that cannot be obtained from any other service. For example, pedicures do not save clients any time on a daily basis. Furthermore, the full set is typically more expensive than a fill, so after their initial investment, the price will decrease. If the professional does good work, clients will find a way to fit it into their budgets.

sophie-merszelSophy Merszei, CEO of NovaLash Eyelash Extensions, completed pre-medical studies, along with communication and public speaking at the University of Southern California. After graduating, she completed a program in cosmetic chemistry at UCLA. In 2004, Merszei came across eyelash extension products from Korea that did not work and were thought to contain high levels of formaldehyde. As a result, she created the first global distribution network for eyelash extension products and training. Along with a team of doctors, Merszei authored the first textbook on eyelash extension application and successfully backed a bill in the Texas Legislature to create a specialty licenses for eyelash technicians.

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