Lash Lift Perm vs Lash Extensions: What are the Differences and Which Best Fits Me?

Published on Aug 22, 2020

Makeup routines have become significantly shorter these days. Firstly, with the lower half of your face obscured by a mask, why bother with lipstick? And secondly, after going au naturel during the Circuit Breaker, many of us can no longer be arsed to slather on too much stuff to leave the house.

But with only part of our features being visible, shouldn't we be putting more of an effort into help them make an impact? Thankfully, there are semi-permanent options out there to help balance both our grooming and our inertia. Lash-defining services are our favourites, maximising impact by forming bewitching frames for those windows to the soul so that we can look gorgeous and expressive, even with half of our faces covered. The only question is, are Lash Extensions or Lash Lifts better fits for you? Here are the choices that experts would like you to consider.

1. Dramatic or Natural?

There are different types of lash extensions out there, with Western styles generally more dramatic, and the Japanese extensions available here erring on the subtler side, with varying lengths and curls. But even the most understated extensions are unlikely to pass for the eyelashes your mama gave you - they're synthetic fibres that are glued on to your cilia after all. Instead, what results is a  high-impact, runway-ready gaze with added volume, length and curl:

Eyelash Extension at Allongee Beauty

Eyelash extensions by Allongee Japanese Beauty Design

If what you want is a natural, my-lashes-but-better (scratch that, make it my-lashes-but-at-their-best) look, a lash lift - aka the latest evolution in lash perms -  might be the way to go.

Before and After Lash Extension

It's your own lashes, just permed using a silicone, speed-bump shaped device (rather than the traditional cylindrical perming rods) to effectively elevate lashes starting from their very roots and thus visibly curl, separate and define each lash. While fixed in this optimal perky position, people will notice that peepers look more defined and alive, but may not be able to tell you had a service done. And if you want to emulate any of your screen idols, this is actually a great choice - it's a common misconception that stars have extensions on all the time. Watch any K-Drama, for example, and you'll notice the flawless female leads only have curled and mascaraed lashes to maximise their natural beauty, so they can look beautiful but relatable instead of visibly primped-up. Unless you want to channel a sultry siren or someone extremely glamorous, the celebrity look may be sometimes be more compatible with lash lifts than extensions.

The only issue is that if your natural lashes are quite short and sparse, there may not be very much for a lash lift to work with, in which case you might benefit more from the assistance of extensions.

2. Fixed on Fleek, or Customisable?

One great thing about eyelash extensions is how your lashes look perfect without you needing to bother with makeup. They're dark, dreamy and insta-ready from the moment you get out of bed. 

You can choose to customize both its length

Types of Lashes

as well as its curl.

types of lashes

For newbies to lash extensions, your lash artist will probably ask if you want your lashes to look more "natural", "cute", "sexy" or "gorgeous"

types of extension

If you want your eyes to look bigger, the beautician will focus on extending centre eyelashes with longer length extensions.

For sexier looking eyes, for example, the beautician would extend your corner eyelashes with longer length extensions.

Depends on the look you're going for, your lash artist can then customize the right extensions for you. This will then be your entire look for the entire day, every day, until the extensions fall out. Want to tone down the look for a job interview? Can't be done, unless you rip out some of the strands yourself (please don't). Want to scale things up for a massive event, perhaps add mascara or falsies? Also not advisable: Most mascaras dissolve the medical-grade adhesive bonding the fibres to your lashes and causing them to fall out, while falsies add weight to eyelashes that are already slightly weighed down by the synthetic strands. This means your lashes will drop and may continue to do so even after the falsies are removed - plus the extra weight might tax the extensions and cause them to break off prematurely. So unless you use certain oil-free mascaras (which you then have to remove with cleansers, creating another connundrum), you can't further amplify your lashes' glam factor either. Extensions are not the most versatile look.

Lash Lift

Lash lift by Allongee Japanese Beauty Design

Eyelashes that have been lifted, however, are pretty much just your own lashes, so you can do anything to them that you would have done before the service - except for use an eyelash curler because that might be damaging, not to mention unnecessary. Mascara, falsies...they're all fair game. The only thing is that while they look better than your virgin filaments, they might not be event-ready (or depending on your preferences, even office ready) without a wave of the mascara wand. Which brings us to the next point...

3. Makeup or Maintenance?

Yes, lifts might not be enough on their own to create an extremely dramatic difference. This might mean extra moments for makeup on the days you want to channel your inner doll.

When it comes to extensions, you'll save lots of effort on makeup. The tradeoff is that you may have to invest some in maintenance -Extensions require you to sleep more carefully to avoid tugging on the filaments, and avoid getting them in contact with any oil-based products that could break down the glue. This means you may have to replace some of your makeup, cleansers, moisturizers, and lotions, as elucidated here.

Plus, because shedding with lash extensions is pretty obvious - a few fallen strands will create what seems like a visible gap when contrasted with the dramatically long fibres surrounding it - you may need to arrange for touch-ups even before the end of your natural lash growth cycle, at recommended intervals of about 4 weeks. By contrast, the growout phase for lash lifts is almost unnoticeable, with them evenly losing their curl over time. The look can then be refreshed at the end of the growth cycle, which is when the curled lashes tend to fall out - usually every six to eight weeks. And of course, you can rub your eyes as much as you usually do, plus use your standard cleansers and products. 

4. Short Term Savings or Long Term?

Lash extensions cost more and can take 1.5 hours or more every month, plus you have to be careful that they don't touch water for at least six hours after so as not to dislodge the glue. However, assuming you already have oil-free cleansing products, they can save you time and possibly money over the weeks they last, since you don't have to bother with curlers or too much makeup. Lash lifts are quicker and cheaper - usually taking an hour or capping at ninety minutes - but may require enhancing with makeup for certain occasions.

5. Super-safe or Stunning?

We don't think there are any semi-permanent lash solutions that can quite duplicate the va-va-voom effect of extensions. However, while both extensions and lifts use chemicals, the amount of time they are in contact with your body differs. Lash lifts glue your cilia to a perming rod, after which setting solutions are applied to them, and after at most an hour, you're done with these substances. On the flip side, the adhesives from extensions will be on your body for months, so while reactions are very rare, this is something to consider if you have sensitivities or allergies, .

Of course, many of the Beauty Undercover team have gotten lash extensions. To make sure we experience both sides of the story, we got lash-service virgin Agent JT to try out a lash lift instead. Here's her experience.

Hi! I'm Agent JT, a writer with Beauty Undercover. I have absolutely zero experience with lash services, despite envying the theatrical eye-fluttering of my extensions-getting friends.

First Time Getting Lash Service

This is because I am the winning combination of lazy and careless. I am very sure I would rub the synthetic fibres off within the first hour of getting them. I also couldn't see myself being bothered to buy extensions-friendly cleansing and makeup products.

Secondly, I'm a performer that is (tragically) out of the flirty young girl age range, and it would be weird rocking up to a performance with screen-siren lashes if I was acting as a serious bookish type, your average office lady, or someone's frazzled mom (which I'm cast as more often than I'd like).

All that doesn't mean I'm not vain, though. So when Agent G told me about low-maintenance, high-impact Lash Lifts, and that Allongee Japanese Beauty Design was offering them, I threw on my Mount-Fuji themed mask by designer Rey Lee and dashed off to be beautified.

1. Introduction to the Salon and its Lash Lifts


Pulling up to the prettily designed, sunlit shophouse space on Keong Saik Street, I liked how Allongee looked cosy, clean and quintessentially Japanese. Two strikingly slender, perfectly turned-out women were busying themselves about the bright boutique, and upon my entrance, one came up to greet me. This was Kayo, whom I later learned looks like this:

...But because of Covid-19 regulations, she had naturally a mask on. She welcomed me in fluent, charmingly accented English, and showed me to one of the partitioned booths. She sat me down on the treatment bed (covered with a protective sheet that is changed between customers), explained that the service would take up to 90 minutes, and produced a form that concisely explained lash lifts.

Lash Consulation
Lash Consulation

A photo flawlessly taken with my mobile phone.

So I had done some googling on lash lifts beforehand, and I knew they were supposed to have relatively understated effects compared to extensions. But this form was saying they could make my cilia look up to double or triple theiry current length. Most exciting.

 I had also read some articles that made me overly cautious, saying that I would should keep makeup as well as water away from my face for at least 24 hours after the lift. This meant that I had hurriedly done my workout and taken what was to be my only shower for the day just before speeding over to Allongee, and arrived at the salon in full glamour, with bare face and wet hair.

Lash Consulation

My wet look.

I had even read on another website that I would not be able to wear contact lenses for the treatment, meaning that I would have shown up in thick geeky glasses and looked even more put together than in the photo you see above. But I had checked with Kayo just before grabbing down, and she had said soft contacts were fine, though hard lenses might have to be removed for the treatment itself, but that they could be re-inserted immediately after. Now that I was there, she also disabused me of other internet misconceptions. "Before the treatment, we will have to remove your eye makeup, but other makeup is okay. And I can't speak for the other salons you were reading about , but after the lash lifts done here, you can immediately wash your face or put on makeup as normal. If you want to be extra careful, you can avoid avoid wetting your lashes for four hours after, but that's all," she said melodically.

Guess that meant I could go home and finish my abortive workout. Yay, I think.

2. Picking The Lash Design

Lash Consulation

Once I'd signed the form, Kayo asked what sort of lashes I was in the market for, showing me pictures on her phone which you can see obviously delighted me. For my particular eye-shape, she recommended two choices: C-curls or J curls. C-curls were the ones that coiled upwards in a more gradual, even fashion, like the letter C itself. J curls on the other hand were again like the letter they were named after - coiling abruptly to point straight upwards and create a pronounced doll-like gaze. 

I wanted something that would look visibly different, but not too dramatic. She suggested something in between C & J, and I - eager to start my transformation - agreed. 

3. Getting Cleaned and Prepped

First, Kayo delicately applied some supremely gentle medical tape on my lower lashes, so they wouldn't be affected by the solutions that were to be applied on my upper ones and go all wonky.

Cleansing and Lash Preparation

Of course, just because I thought that I had to show up at Allongee completely makeup-free didn't mean I actually was. After I closed my eyes and felt her delicately brushing my lashes with a cotton bud, I asked which step of the lash lift this was. She said 'Oh, I'm just cleaning makeup residue off your lashes. Did you wear mascara last night?' I did, and I had thought I was no longer wearing any after my quick cleanse. Clearly, I was wrong. Told you I was lazy and careless.

Cleansing and Lash Preparation

After cleaning my upper cilia so it could best absorb the solutions that would be used on it, the main event could begin.

4. Re-shaping My Eyelashes

First, Kayo pulled out the rods to help my new lash shape emerge. They were the pink ones on the right - the smaller and narrower the silicone rods used, the more pronounced the lift angle would be. These were the main difference between lash lifts and older lash perms- they were softer and gentler, and helped create a wider variety of more elevated shapes as opposed to when using the traditional stiff cylindrical rods. I was also informed that these silicone devices were from Japan - Allongee usually only brings in equipment and and serums from there, or Germany, because they are high-grade and quite literally easy on the eye. These were carefully designed to fit comfortably and snugly against the eye, isntead of popping out in certain places and pulling on the lashes, or skewing them strangely. 

Reshaping Eyelashes

Here's one final look at my virgin eyelashes - Not too short for a lash lift, but also stick-straight and not particularly voluminous. Kayo did give me an ego boost by saying I had the 'perfect eye'. Nobody had ever said my eyes were perfect before, but on being pressed for an explanation, she told me that basically it's just a term Asian lash therapists use to refer to almond eyes, for which even curl-levels across the lash-line work best. With other shapes of eyes, Kayo might recommend intensifying the curl on the outer edges or in the centre, for example. 

Reshaping Eyelashes

Oh well, bye bye, stiff stubborn lashes. Kayo was going to bend them to her will.

First, she positioned the silicone rod. Then, she used a gentle eyelash adhesive and applied it on the rod surface.

Reshaping Eyelashes

This means that the glue applicator never actually touched my eye, negating the risk of germ transmission during these scary times. Only then, did she use a disposable toothpick to expertly adhere my lashes to the sticky silicone rod.

Reshaping Eyelashes
Reshaping Eyelashes

After the lash lift, my eyelashes would take on the shape that you see against the rod - fanned out and curled - rather than the listless silhouette you see on my right eye. It was set to be quite a change.

Then, she pulled out the first serum:

Application of Eyelash Serum

This concoction is specially formulated to relax the bonds in your lashes that hold them in their original shape. She applied it to the lashes that had been curled round the rod, and then placed more medical tape over the lashes to allow the serum to do its thing, uninterrupted. Then, she began work on my right eye.

Application of Eyelash Serum

Meanwhile, I was in a state of almost total obliviousness. I say almost, because I wasn't uncomfortable, but because my eyelid was slightly pulled upwards during the curling, the edge of my sensitive inner lid was lightly exposed to the cool air-conditioning. Kayo would constantly check in to ask if anything stung, and I said no, but it did feel a bit weird. Of course, I was pleasantly distracted by chatting with Kayo about everything under the sun, including her stint working on the Gold Coast in Australia (the lash quality there is very different), and when season two of the anime Kimetsu no Yaiba would come out (neither of us knew). I also taught her the meaning of 'Agak agak', and because I used to take Japanese when I was younger, she also taught me a word or two, which I have sadly already forgotten, like most of my Japanese. 

After what I think was about 15 minutes, I heard a timer go off, from the phone you see in the top edge of this picture.

Lash Lift Equipment

All these were items on the trolley which Kayo was using for my lash lift, including disinfectants for her hands, moisturising vaseline for my skin, serums, cleansers, tweezers of various sizes, tape, etc. At this point, she used a combination of them to cleanse my left eye of serum 1. Then, she proceeded to apply serum 2 - the solution that would set my lashes in theiur newly curled shape.

Lash Lift at Allongee

Using a cotton bud, she made sure that none of the serum touched my skin.

Lash Lift at Allongee

As she finished this step, I heard yet another timer go off. 

Timer For Each Eye

I realised Kayo had set alarms on two different phones - one for each eye. She explained that the timing for how long the solution remained on each peeper had to be very precise, to avoid over-processing and create lashes that were too curled or brittle. As she removed Serum 1 from my right eye and painted Serum 2 on, I asked if either of the phones were hers, so she could at least check her messages while we were waiting for the serums to work. She sounded rather surprised when she said no, and that Allongee therapists put away their own phones while working to avoid unnecessary distractions from what they believed was very delicate work.

I felt a bit bad at chatting so much to her then, but she said that it was pleasant, though that's possibly just her high-level Japanese service. But at least she now knows the meaning of 'agak-agak'. This thought inspired me to continue my chatter while Serum 2 took another 10 minutes or so to do its thing. Did you know Kayo's hometown is Hiroshima? 

5. The Cleanup

Once again, both timers sounded, and it was time to remove the second solution, with wipes made for this very purpose.

Finishing Lash Lift

Once the cilia were all clean and non-sticky, Kayo removed the silicone rods. You can already see much more defined my eyelashes are.

Finishing Lash Lift

She then continued to cleanse the fibres, to eliminate any smidgen of residue.

Finishing Lash Lift

She then applied a lash conditioner using a freshly cleaned applicator.

Finishing Lash Lift

And just 1.5 hours after I had stepped into the salon, I was done.

(I believe it would have been an hour 15 or even just sixty minute if I didn't keep asking Kayo questions.)

Now, It was time for the reveal.

It's not extensions-level dramatic, but I was pretty impressed at the difference.

From having lashes that were stiff as a board and not very visible...

Before Lash Lift at Allongee

I suddenly had flirty, fluttery ones. 

After Lash Lift at Allongee
After Lash Lift at Allongee

I liked that they immediately perked up my gaze and made my eyes look larger, but also didn't look overdone, so that my kaypoh relatives wouldn't be able to catch on and comment on how they never indulged in such vanity. Also, while I don't usually wear much eye makeup beyond liner, I did feel that I looked more girlish and alert. They lifted lashes also proved to be totally fuss-free. I had a bath almost immediately after the treatment, to no ill effects. Kayo said the only thing I needed to avoid was eyelash curlers, which would be redundant and possibly damaging.

But what if I wanted to dial up the drama? The next test was to see how the lifted lashes would perform with good old-fashioned mascara. About a week after the lash lift, I had an event where I was expected to glam up, so I broke out my cosmetics:

After Lash Lift at Allongee

My sister was sure that I was wearing falsies and I had to assure her I was not.

This was just after a five minute eyeshadow-eyeliner-single-coat-mascara routine. No eyelash curler of course, and good riddance.

After Lash Lift at Allongee

I was excited as heck at how doll-like they looked... and these weren't even the full-on J-curls.

After Lash Lift at Allongee

They also helped me look much more groomed and added interest to my facial features, even with a mask on.

I think I'd definitely recommend lash lifts at Allongee for an understated, low maintenance but transformative eye makeover, that a coat of mascara can scale up to sensational when needed.

Though of course, now that I've witnessed and enjoyed first hand Kayo's skills and service, I am curious as to their other offerings.

Maybe I'll go for the full-on J curls next time. Or if I ever feel like surrendering to the drama, their lash extensions: 

...Or even their tinted extensions to flaunt my (deeply buried) inner fashionista.

Thinking of trying a lash lift? Share your experience with us at Beauty Undercover!

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