A retention problem is the most frustrating part of having lashes, or doing lashes. As a client, you feel like you are wasting your money on lashes that don't last and only look good for a few days. As a Lash Artist, it is crushing to find out all that hard work and effort you put into a full set or fill has already fallen out. You now most likely have to stay late or come in early to accommodate a complimentary fix. Client blames the Lash Artist - Lash Artist blames the client. Who is really at fault here? If you're having bad retention, go down this list of causes to help find out what could be going on.
Client Fault: Wear and Tear
Lashes are delicate little flowers, and lash adhesive is unfortunately brittle. While your lashes should definitely be able to handle being brushed and cleansed without excessive fall out, any additional wear and tear should be avoided. Rubbing your eyes, sleeping with your face smashed in your pillow, swimming, picking, rough face washing, and heavy make up use is too much for the bond to handle. Try to keep these types of contact to a minimum.
Client Fault: Improper Cleansing (or Lack of Cleansing)
Cleansing your lashes is CRUCIAL to good retention, not to mention eye and lash health in general. There are three main components to proper cleansing: product, timing, and technique.
Product: Make sure you are using a lash extension specific cleanser - not baby shampoo or facial cleanser. My personal favorite are gel-based cleansers such as Chrissanthie Eyelid Cleanser, and Borboleta Lash Bath.
Timing: There are a few very important times to wash your lashes.
Lashes should be washed every night before bed, just like you would wash your face and brush your teeth (hopefully). Why? All throughout the day your skin is naturally shedding skin cells and producing oil - yes even the skin on your eyelids. Your waterline is also secreting meibum to keep your eyes lubricated and the more well known rheum aka "eye boogies". All this "gunk" gets caught in your synthetic lashes causing a breeding ground for skin/lash mites and bacteria. If that's not enough to convince you to clean your lashes, let me tell you why this affects your retention. All of that oil and dead skin build up, if left un-cleansed, will build up so much that it will start to clog your lash follicle. Clogged follicle means no oxygen gets through and the hair will eventually die off and shed along with the attached extension.
Another crucial time to wash your lashes is right before your fill appointment. If you come to your appointment with lashes that haven't been cleansed recently, there's a chance that the aforementioned oils and debris (and make up if you're naughty) is coated on your natural lashes. That means instead of applying the extension to a nice clean natural lash, it is being applied mostly to a layer of oily build up that is going to slide right off as soon as you touch or wash them. Also, going to your lash artist without cleaning your lashes is like going to the dentist without brushing your teeth. Please don't do that to us!
Lashes should also be cleansed after working out and swimming to remove salt and chlorine.
Technique: You should be cleansing the BASE of the lashes, not the tips. You should be using a fluffy brush that gets in between the lashes - not the hard plastic spoolie you use for brushing them. My favorite is the Angled Cleansing Brush from Borboleta. Be sure to really get in between the lashes - don't be shy. After a good 30 seconds of lathering, make sure you rinse thoroughly and gently pat dry (or use a handheld fan).
Lash Artist's Fault - Weak Bonding Point
Here's the cold, hard truth: if you want your client to have great retention, you must apply the extension to the natural lash PERFECTLY! This means no rushing. Each lash extension needs to have at least 3mm of bonding area or it's going to pop off quickly. That's just the way it is. After you place each extension, look at the bond from all angles and make sure there are no air pockets. Make sure the adhesive didn't start to cure before you placed it (if it looks like the extension is sitting on top of the lash instead of flush with the lash, you didn't place it fast enough). Make sure you are using a curl that gives sufficient bonding area with the clients natural lash. If the extension is barely attached, it wont be able to stand up to any wear and tear. Yes, we ask our clients to keep wear and tear to a minimum, but the bond should be good enough to withstand brushing and cleansing.
Lash Artist's Fault - Bad Adhesive
To get the most out of your adhesive, make sure the bottle has been stored properly and replaced after 4-5 weeks. You should also check with the manufacturers recommended temperature and humidity range for optimal results. If you are in a high humidity area, I recommend using a glue ring instead of a jade stone to keep the drop fresher for longer. As soon as the adhesive starts to look or feel thick, replace with a fresh drop.
Both Fault - Not Getting 100% Coverage
It's simple - the more lashes you have applied, the longer it will take for them to look sparse and need a refill. When you go in for your initial Full Set, you should be leaving with close to 100% of your lashes extended. This is a different number for everyone. If you naturally only have, say 50 natural lashes per eye and you shed about 3-5 a day, your set is not going to last as long as someone else's who has 150 natural lashes per eye. It may only take your stylist an hour and a half to do your Full Set, while it takes them 2 or 2.5 hours to complete the other person's Full Set who has tons of natural lashes. You may need to come every 2 weeks, whereas the person blessed with a lot of lashes can go 3 weeks. Your fill time frame is going to be different - we are not all the same. You will need to come in sooner for shorter fills, the other person will be able to go longer between fills but will need to book more time. If you wait too long between fills and/or don't book enough time for your fill to be completed, you may only leave with, say, 75% coverage. Now, that isn't going to get you as far as when you left with 100% coverage. If you wait the same amount of time between fills again, the next time you come in your Lash Artist will have even MORE lashes to catch up to and you may leave with 60% coverage this time. You may think you have bad retention, but really you just aren't getting full coverage to begin with. While I think the current fill system at most salons is flawed, that's an opinion for another time.
Lash Artists - be sure to be clear with your client about when and why they need to come back when they do. Make sure you are taking the time to get as many lashes as you can during their fill. Clients - please arrive on time to your fill appointment with clean lashes so your lash artist can get started right away. You may need to book your fills in advance to make sure you don't have to wait too long for an available appointment.
Controversial Opinion: Oil-based Product Usage
Have you been told that oil will "break down" the adhesive? I am here to tell you that is a MYTH. Kind of...
When lash adhesive (which is made out of cyanoacrylate) cures, it essentially turns into a hard plastic. Oil will not "dissolve" it. Do you know what is actually used to remove/dissolve cyanoacrylate based adhesives? Acetone, and other similarly harsh solvents. Not oil. However, when cyanoacrylate based adhesives are applied to the skin, nails, or eyelashes, oil can be used to separate the two adhered surfaces. So, if oil gets onto your lash extensions for an extended period of time, it will eventually work its way between the two surfaces and slip off.
If you're avoiding your eye area with oil-based products and cleansing your lashes every day and before your fill, your retention should not be affected. There's no need to ditch all of your favorite facial serums and fancy moisturizers - just simply avoid the eye area. With that said, oil-based eye makeup products such as pencil/gel/cream eyeliners and mascaras definitely need to be avoided. These oily products coat the lashes and wedge between the extension and eyelash, causing the bonded area of the extension to eventually pop off. These products are also very difficult to remove without an oil-based eye make up remover. This means that there will most likely be remaining mascara/liner residue on your lashes when you come in for your fill and it will be impossible for your lash artist to get a good, clean bond. Besides, with a flawless set of lashes, why would you need to wear mascara? If you have extensions and still feel like you need mascara, it may be time to bump up to a full volume set!
Wishing great retention upon us all,