Do your eyelashes make you look older? It’s not something I had considered until I met celebrity lash technician Camilla Kirk-Reynolds to try out a new ‘gel’ lash extension technique, which instantly wiped five years off my face.
Gel manicures took nails to the next level a few years back. Will this long-lasting lash technique do the same for our eyes?
I visit Camilla Lashes, as she’s known to her A-list and royal clientele, at her unbranded rooms in London’s Notting Hill.
It feels very clandestine — her name isn’t even on the doorbell. In fact, Camilla is the soul of discretion, not least because she’s bound by so many non-disclosure agreements.
Victoria Woodhall (pictured) visited celebrity lash technician Camilla Kirk-Reynolds to try out a new ‘gel’ lash extension technique, which instantly wiped five years off her face
While she’s happy to name the actresses she’s worked with on film sets — Kristin Scott Thomas, Renee Zellweger and Jessica Chastain — she can’t talk about her royal clients, other than to say: ‘If you watched the wedding, you saw my lashes.’
As one of only a handful of people in the UK, and less than 50 in the world, to offer new ‘gel’ lash extensions, she’s in big demand. So what makes this new technique so much better?
Partly it’s the fact it can be tailored to each client, giving a very natural lift to ageing eyes.
But what women really love is that these extensions last 30 per cent longer than the conventional ones, don’t fall out when they come into contact with oil from your make-up or skincare and are only a fraction more expensive.
Camilla says her time-poor clients love them so much 90 per cent have switched to them.
I come from a family of heavy brows — both my mother and grandmother had an upper-eye lift at my age, 53, and it’s something I’d earmarked for ‘one day’. Could gel lashes give me the illusion of lift without the knife or needle?
VICTORIA BEFORE LASHES TREATMENT: Gel manicures took nails to the next level a few years back. Will this long-lasting lash technique do the same for our eyes?
Camilla is confident. ‘One of the biggest compliments my clients get is when people ask if they’ve had Botox because they look so much fresher.’
The drawback is that you have to spend two or three hours in a chair with your eyes taped shut. Camilla tells me it will all be worth it for the amount of time I’ll save in the mornings and evenings, not having to put on or take off mascara or eyeliner.
Age has it in for our lashes, as aesthetic doctor Pamela Benito explains. ‘When oestrogen levels start to decline [with the menopause] lashes become thinner and shorter, because of the destruction of hair follicles. As a result, our eyes will look tired, smaller and older.’
A sagging eyelid can make our lashes all but disappear, says oculoplastic surgeon Dr Sabrina Shah-Desai. It makes your eyelashes point downwards, ‘giving the impression of fewer or almost no lashes’.
It would be wonderful if the treatment helped me look younger — but I’m concerned it could damage my lashes and leave me bald.
We all love gel nails, but the polish can do serious damage to the surface of nails when it is peeled off — it should be removed safely by manicurists with a special acetone-based remover. And what about the UV light used to cure the nails? I don’t want that near my eyes!
Camilla reassures me that Gel-Lys (pronounced ‘jealous’) uses safe, low-level LED light, which is often used in facials.
There’s no concern about lash damage, either — gel lashes are actually kinder than conventional extensions because they use a gel rather than traditional glue, ensuring the extension bonds in a flexible way. Glue leaves lashes more brittle.
Camilla asks me what kind of look I’m after. ‘More awake,’ I say. She is used to correcting flaws and asymmetry. ‘Every face is different. I have never designed two sets of lashes the same,’ she says.
I lie back on her heated spa bed under a blanket. Many clients nod off, but I’m squeamish about having my eyes touched and find the eye pads that I have to wear to cover my bottom lashes (she is only doing the top) uncomfortable.
Because I’m nervous, Camilla does one eye at a time, as opposed to her normal method of switching between both. She allows me breaks and puts me at my ease.
With the precision of a watchmaker, she spends the next three hours using tweezers to dip around 250 lashes per eye into adhesive and apply them one at a time, fixing them with an imperceptible beam of LED light.
VICTORIA BEFORE LASHES TREATMENT: Each of Victoria’s lashes had two extensions stuck to it, making it look three times as thick and creating volume
Each of my own lashes will have two extensions stuck to it, making them look three times as thick. This creates the volume that gives the mascara look. I can’t see or feel anything.
I am sent home with a lash brush to keep them tidy and some lint-free cotton buds for washing them. I’m to steer clear of flannels or cotton pads on the lashes as they create lint that can get caught in the hairs — if you try to get it out you will probably pull the lash out.
Camilla also asks me to replace my sleep mask with one designed not to touch the eye, only the area around it. If I can, I should sleep on my back.
The next morning is a revelation. I look like I have slept in my make-up but somehow it’s stayed on perfectly. I just splash my face with water, add a bit of concealer and lipstick and go.
My new lashes look like my own on steroids, natural but noticeable. I can see a definite, almost cat-like lift at the outer corners where the lashes are longer. My eyes look pleasingly bigger, too — that expensive eyelid surgery can wait.
I message Camilla the next day to reserve my slot in her crammed diary for £260 ‘infills’ — touch-ups I need every five to seven weeks, as opposed to the two-to-four-week refresh for conventional lashes.
If I keep these going, I’ll never have to go back for a full set.
Over the next few days I’m still delighted with how I look and have a much shorter make-up routine. It’s not cheap, but as someone who never spends money on manicures, blow dries or waxing, this is one salon treatment that will make me part with my cash.
A beauty treatment that saves time as well as turning back the clock — that’s something I can invest in.
GEL-LYS Lashes cost £460 for a full set of top lashes, and £260 for top lash infills (camillalashes.com).