BUT: once you get the hang of it, you’ve got it for life, and it’s like having your old eyelashes back - which, it goes without saying, feels pretty great.
(If any chemo patients are reading this, I'd recommend you stop here: for the length of time it’ll take you working how to get the darn things to stay on, your old eyelashes will have grown back. It’s not worth the hassle, seriously.)
Step 1: prepare your base
For a ultra-realistic look, you'll need to apply liner with a smudged smoky edge as outlined in this earlier post.
Step 2: cut your falsies
Needed: good-quality realistic false lashes (pictures: Ardell Fashion Lashes in 'Luckies')
The reason most lash-free ladies’ first attempts at falsies (including mine, may I add) fail miserably is that they are just too long. They literally don't fit your eyelid. But: if you start with short, manageable ‘mini-lashes’ applied to the outer corners of the eyes, and slowly work your way up to longer and longer sets, then voila!
You want to buy well-made falsies which are reasonably thick and not ridiculously long. My absolute favourite brand is Ardell real human hair lashes, their Luckies style in particular, which are well priced (around £5 last time I checked) and widely available in Boots.
Remove the lashes from the pack and cut each lash in half. Discard the outer half of each - you’ll be using the inner half. (Most lashes, unless they’re designed to look purposely artificial, start short at the inner corners and get much longer as they move outwards.)
Step 3: prepare your falsies
Needed: eyelash curlers (pictures: Boots Essentials Eyelash Curler)
One reason false eyelashes often fail is because without the 'cushion' of natural lashes for them to sit on, they can droop sadly downwards, which doesn't look good. Combat this by firmly clamping your half-lashes in an eyelash curler for a few seconds, so that they curl upwards far more - this may seem a small step, but is really quite important. (A note on eyelash curlers: since you're not curling them on your face, I actually prefer this compact kind of curler, as it's easier to control and you can curl one section of the lash at a time.)
Step 4: apply the glue
Needed: good quality eyelash glue (pictures: Duo Adhesive)
My number one eyelash glue is Duo Adhesive which is available from MAC stores. It’s pricey (around £10), but totally worth it.
Apply a thin band of the glue to the lash strip - not too much, not too little. Try and apply it to the top and side of the strip, not the underside. Let it dry for about half a minute - this is important, otherwise the lash won't hold on your eye.
Step 5: stick 'em on!
First, make sure the eyeliner you've already applied to your eyes is completely dry before going in with the lashes - wet liquid liner + glue = no lashes.
In front of the mirror, take one of the lashes and hold it in front of your eyelid in the position you want it to stick on. Slowly and carefully, move it straight towards your eyelid until the strip connects with the outer half of your eyelid. Don't place the strip too close to the edge of the lid or you'll get glue in your eye. (This is where the nice thick sweep of liner you've already applied comes in: it essentially hides 'the join'.)
Taking care not to blink suddenly (keeping your eye relaxed, even half closed helps), keep holding the lash on your eyelid, applying slight pressure so you’re basically pushing it onto the lid. Make sure you’ve angled it so that the lashes are nicely fanning upwards, not drooping downwards. (Some people advise you use tweezers for this, but I don’t think you can apply the necessary pressure across the lid using them.)
After about a minute, gently take your hand away - and there you go.
At least, that's the theory - but I'm almost certain that by this time, you will have either got glue in your eye, lost the eyelash, or had it fall off at the last moment. You’ll also be paranoid about them then falling off within half an hour, which they inevitably will the first few times you try. (This is why you'll want to carry your glue around with you in your bag when you go out, for quick touch-up jobs). However, practice makes perfect, and after a while, it'll be a breeze - plus your lashes will look fantastic.
Reusing your lashes
You can totally reuse these lashes if you are gentle removing them. You also need to carefully peel off the old glue that will remain on the lash strip - it’ll a black gunky clump from the eyeliner it was stuck to - in order to reuse them again.
Be really gentle in doing this, using a sharp thumbnail, because if you rip it off too fast you will rip off the hairs too.
Initially, false eyelashes are an expensive habit, as you’ll be needing a new set every two or three days (the lashes will be getting gunked up with clumsy glue application, or becoming ratty-looking quickly from removing the old glue). But after a while, you’ll be able to make one set last up to two weeks, which will save you from bankruptcy!
The next step
The end goal is to trim your lashes a little less short every time you apply new ones, so that after a month, you’ve worked your way up to lashes that stretch the whole length of your eye - just like your old natural ones did. You probably won't want to extend all the way to the inner corner of your eye, as the lashes will keep jabbing the corner, making you tear up - and tears and eyelash glue do not mix. (By the way, if like me you are one of those people who gets instantly teary eyes in the wind or cold, make sure not to let your lashes extend all the way to the outer corner of your eye, as this is where the teardrops collect, and they'll melt your glue. A lesson learned the hard way...)
Enjoy your lashes!