It's amazing how much long, full lashes can brighten up your face. Even the most modest girls who declare they "hate wearing make-up" will execute a couple swift strokes of mascara wand before running out the door into public view. And judging by the looks of #nomakeup selfies taking over Instagram lately you'd think enhanced lashes don't even count as cosmetic anymore.
I personally have fairly long natural lashes to begin with so I strive for a fuller look. Mascara works fine, but anything that promises a fuller effect inevitably results in clumping (and me taking a safety pin dangerously close to my corneas). Especially come Summer - between sweat, humidity, squinting, swimming pools, and salt water - even the most waterproof formulas eventually leave a looming dark shadow under the eyes.
So what's my solution for full and long yet soft lashes? Falsies! Not the temporary peel-off strip kind; those are fine for a night out, but there are two major problems that come into play:
1) There is nothing attractive about a row of lashes that have slowly detached only to be half-hanging off (or forming a third eyebrow).
2) There are few things in this world that will actually make men squirm in anguish and/or disgust more that watching a girl systematically pull a strip of eyelashes off of her face...except of course for when they come off by accident while kissing - or worse, left behind in a bed/bathroom/nightstand like roadkill.
I'm also against getting carried away to the point that you construct an awning over your eyeballs a la Kardashians. But if done properly, semi-permanent lashes can create a full, bold look while being soft and natural.
The easiest (and pricier) option is to get this done professionally. If you live in New York, there's no shortage of speciality salons that focus solely on lash extensions. Outside of a major city you can still find salon that offer this service, but the shortage of competition will definitely reflect in the cost; a full set of falsies can range from as low as $40 (if there's a coupon/Groupon/promotion) all the way up to $200 (depending on the quality and availability in your area). Generally salons feature silk or mink lashes and you definitely want to ask so you know exactly what quality you're getting. The set will last about 3 weeks before the lashes will slowly start to fall off (just like your real lashes) at which point you'll need to get them filled-in to keep the look going.
If you're cash poor or simply don't want to be dependent on a salon the other option (and my personal preference) is to do them yourself. I've found that Ardell's Duralash line is good quality and easy to find. Unlike a typical salon where they apply each individual lash one-by-one, these lashes come in small clusters so the application is faster and easy for a diy. They also come in different length and colors - I opt for knot-free black lashes in short and medium for a really natural effect.
If it's your first time trying, Ardell even offers a starter kit that includes tweezers, all 3 lengths of lashes, and a bottle of adhesive that will last through several applications and a bottle of remover. I won't give a step-by-step tutorial because I think the application is pretty self-explanatory (dip the base of the cluster in a drop of the glue and stick) but there are a few key points to remember:
Don't use strip lash adhesive. Again, a starter kit will include the proper adhesive for this application but in any case you should always use an adhesive specifically designed for semi-permanent individual or cluster lashes.
Don't only use one length for your entire eye. Just like your own lashes, use shorter ones toward the inner corner of your eye and longer as your move to the outer corner (you can buy one length and trim, or do like me and mix two lengths).
Don't try to apply the lashes directly to your eyelid; the adhesive is designed to stick to your natural lashes, so just get as close to the base as a possible.
Don't pull on them when they start to fall off! I can't stress this enough - if you pull on them, you will also rip out your real lashes. Let them drop naturally and if you want to take them off completely buy remover.
Do find a friend to apply them for you. Especially if you both want lashes, it's a lot easier to just take turns applying on each other and makes for a fun girl's night in (but save the drinking for after or you might glue each other's eyes shut).
It may take a couple of tries to get it right the first time, but once you've figured it out you'll love the feeling of soft full lashes and the freedom of not having to wear mascara every time you walk out the door.