Ep 35 - Eyelash Extensions and the Glue That Binds Them

Alex Weisenburger

Lash extensions are lovely and luxurious. But have you ever wondered what they’re made of, or how exactly they’re able to stick to real lashes? In this episode of ASCP Esty Talk, Ella Cressman chats with the owner of AW Lashes, Alexis Weisenburger, and explores everything lovely and lashy!

Author Bio: 

About Alexis Weisenburger:

Alexis is a licensed cosmetologist and owner of AW Lashes. She is a major influencer in the lash extension world, with more than 50,000 lash artists following her work and seeking her out for advice and help with their lash skills and building their businesses. She found her passion, natural flair, and ability for lash extensions early in her career and quickly earned both her classic and volume lash certifications. Since 2013, Alexis has become renowned throughout the world for her mega-volume lash work, has been featured in Birdie Magazine, and has been a speaker at several major beauty industry trade shows.

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0:00:49.8 S1: You are listening to ASCP Esty Talk, where we share insider tips, industry resources and education for estheticians at every stage of the journey. Let's talk, 'cause ASCP knows it's all about you. 


0:01:03.5 Ella Cressman: Welcome to ASCP Esty Talk, the Ingredient Decked Out series. Here we explore the fascinating world of ingredients and how they work within the skin, or in today's case, on the skin. I am Ella Cressman, licensed esthetician, certified organic skin care formulator, owner of the HHP Collective, and a total and complete ingredient junky. Now, lash extensions, they're lengthy, luxurious and lovely, but have you ever wondered what they're made of or just exactly how do they stick to your real lashes? Today, we will answer your burning questions about exactly what's in it with Alexis Weisenburger, owner of AW Lashes. Alexis is a major influencer in the lash extension world, with more than 50,000 lash artistes following her work and seeking her advice, with lash skills and even business-building tips. She is a licensed cosmetologist and has been batting her lash skills through the industry since 2013. From a feature in Birdie Magazine to a speaker in several major industry trade shows, Alexis is always willing to share her knowledge and expertise. She has work to develop training programs, and now can add product development to her list of accomplishments. Thank you so much for being here, Alexis. 


0:02:21.9 Alexis Weisenburger: Thanks for having me, I'm so happy to share my knowledge. 


0:02:26.2 EC: What a powerhouse you are, and I am thrilled that you took the time out to answer some questions. And I've gotta say I am addicted to eyelash extensions. Of course, pre-COVID, I had them on and I could not live without them, but during COVID, it was so funny, and this is a question that came up, because I had nine lashes left, which is a testament to my lash artiste, in that it was like, "What the heck? These things are hanging on for dear life. She is so good." But unfortunately, I looked a hot mess. So I had tried to remove them myself with pretty much everything, and to no avail. Anyway, so got me asking the question... What I hear a lot of is what's the difference in glue? Because I see these postings online too, like sensitive skin or black glue or clear glue, and through some of my experiences in trial and error, finding what works for me, retention levels. You have designer glue specific to high altitude, but what makes it different? What makes glues different? Eyelash glues?  


0:03:26.7 AW: So eyelash glues are all going to range in how much cyanoacrylate is in this. So that is a pretty powerful ingredient, and you wanna make sure that it's the lowest level that you're using because it's such a strong chemical. That being said, it has to be in glue, because it's the ingredient that dries the glue. So, unfortunately, lash artistes want to work quicker, and let's be honest, you don't wanna lay there for four or five hours. So, it's an important ingredient, we do need it, but you just don't want something so strong on that sense. So, when I first started doing lashes, I mean, it was a slow dry time and super strong. So I remember, as a lash artist, being frustrated, of like, why can you not get great retention with this high altitude too? It was... Nothing worked in Colorado, and we can barely breathe as it is here, so... Anyways, I started doing research on the ingredients in glue, and it has to be in there. A lot of people have asked, why does it have to be in there? It's such a strong ingredient. Well, unfortunately, we do need our glue to dry. So that's in there, but what I've started noticing is what other ingredients are added to it to make it stronger or less strong. 


0:04:51.6 AW: So that's kind of where I started digging in, and I'm not a chemist, and I am just a lash artiste, just like all my fellow lash artistes, but I just wanted to help them. So what is so great about our clear adhesive is it's, first of all, missing black carbon, and that's what so many people are allergic to. So they were using a black adhesive beforehand, and this black carbon was kind of the trick with this high altitude and this great retention. We took that out, and it has made the world of difference for people struggling with sensitivities, and on the lash artist end, what has made them better retention. 


0:05:34.0 EC: So can you help me with this word, because I did look it up, cyano... Say that for me. 


0:05:39.2 AW: Yeah, cyanoacrylate. 


0:05:41.1 EC: Cyanoacrylate. 


0:05:41.2 AW: Cyanoacrylate. Yeah. 


0:05:45.5 EC: I think in order to understand ingredients, you need to know how to pronounce them, and it's one of my things. So this ingredient is what encourages the glue to dry at different rates, right?  


0:05:54.6 AW: Yes. 


0:05:54.8 EC: So the higher the concentration of... Or the more of the cyanoacrylate in the formulation, the faster the drying time, but the higher the amount, the more opportunity for contraindications or sensitivities. So, in a higher altitude, we have a lot of factors. Now, is humidity a factor in adhesion or retention in the application process? So I've seen some lash artistes who have a humidifier going. 


0:06:24.0 AW: Yeah. So, it has been a factor for a very long time. However, during this whole process, I've been trying to find adhesives that have a great dry time with low cyanoacrylate and still can work in dry to wet climates. So it's been... We've tested so many bottles. We have about 200 bottles just stashed in a bag, at a salon I own, and we have about 15 lash artistes just coming and going, trying these products, as well as we ship these bottles throughout the US to people that I've known for a very long time in the industry, just getting feedback of where the cyanoacrylate needs to be at in the ingredient contents, but to where it's not causing irritations and still having the great dry time that you need. 


0:07:19.1 EC: Hey, guys, stop. Let's take a quick break. 


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0:07:54.3 EC: Let's get back to the conversation. 


0:07:55.8 EC: Generally speaking, you mentioned black carbon, which is interesting because I used to get my lashes done, initially, we used a clear glue and I had  ____ sensitivity, and it was the black glue that actually remedied the situation, but you're saying that black carbon is a potential irritant. 


0:08:16.5 AW: Yes, and it could also be from, over time, you constantly getting your lashes done with that clear glue to switching up that ingredients content for you that maybe got... Helped your allergy, but we put an ingredient in our adhesive in our black glue, and it is PMMA, and that ingredient, for our black adhesive, has helped with our dry time and our sensitivity too. So we're trying to hit both ends of a black glue being sensitive and a clear glue. Also, being at a high climate, I've noticed that people are just more sensitive to everything. I'm sure you've noticed that in the skin, but moving even from Utah to here, there's been people more reactive. 


0:09:07.3 EC: I wonder if it has anything to do with pollution. We're in Denver, so... So what is the difference between regular and sensitive glue? And did you formulate both, or are both of your glues for sensitive?  


0:09:19.0 AW: So, both of our glues are for sensitive, but we took out, obviously, the black carbon to see how sensitive they need to go. So, the black one dries faster, it dries in half a second, and because it has a higher cyanoacrylate on the ingredients, but the clear one, we took out the black carbon, so it can be great for dry time, but it dries in one second. So that sounds like not a big deal, but to a lash artiste, it is. So we give you broad ranges from the one to a half second, so they can pick and also have both options for their clients. 


0:09:58.1 EC: When you think of like... This is a random question but how many lashes go on someone in... I know you have fans and singles, and all these other things, but I mean, on average, on a brand new full set?  


0:10:11.0 AW: This shocks everyone. It is an average... On each eye, you have 150 to 200 lashes on every single eye. 


0:10:19.5 EC: So are there any contraindications for the glue that is part of your intake, when you have a new client that do you look for when you do a consultation? Are there any allergy contraindications that you can think of for the lash glue specifically?  


0:10:33.0 AW: Yeah. So, actually, in nail... When you go and get your nails done, there's cyanoacrylate in their nail glue, because they need it to dry. And so, if I have a client coming in, saying like, "Man, I have a sensitivity to getting my nails done," I immediately think of the clear glue just because I want it to be at a lower rate on the ingredients. 


0:10:57.1 EC: Cyanoacrylate. 


0:10:58.1 AW: Yeah, cyanoacrylate. 


0:10:58.8 EC: I did it. Oh yeah, I said it. 


0:11:01.0 AW: Yeah, you got it. Woohoo. 




0:11:06.1 EC: Alright. Well, that's how they stick, but what are eyelash extensions made of?  


0:11:10.9 AW: Oh my gosh. So this is... I would say every lash artiste is going to be different, but what they all are made of is a synthetic fiber from mink hair. So, back in the day, when I first started doing lashes, they were made out of real mink, and people were getting allergic reactions, 'cause how would you know you're allergic to mink? Can tell it's on your eyeballs. 


0:11:39.7 EC: Oh, wow. And plus the sustainability of that, I'm sure, like poor little minks, and the cleansing factor. 


0:11:47.2 AW: Yeah, exactly. So, we got a little smarter, and we keep getting smarter. So we took the fibers of the mink and we made it to where we can make a synthetic fiber out of it. So it's called synthetic mink, is what they're made out of. 


0:12:07.3 EC: All lash extensions, all companies? Or... 


0:12:09.2 AW: All companies. So, some will be out there, that they still use the real mink, but that being said, you definitely don't want real mink on you. So they're all made of synthetic mink, but that being said, it's like going to go diamond shopping. You know how they all have clarity differences? Well, lashes all have a blackness clarity, and they're all cut different too. So it's crazy to think that you can have a bad batch of lashes or, to some people, they love that batch of lashes, but it's based on the clarity. So some people like a blue black tint to their lashes. Some people like it. Some people like a shiny black, and some people like a matte black. So we like, personally, a matte black, because matte makes it look blacker, so we kind of do the blackest of the black. That being said, that's why there's so many lash companies out there, right? Because you could like that blue tint to it, or you could like a shiny tint, and that's personal opinion, and also your clients too. 


0:13:17.3 EC: Totally. Yeah. I guess then that's why certain clients seek out certain artistes. 


0:13:22.3 AW: Exactly. So, for us, we, once again, just like the glue, we had so many, we just laid them all out on the table, we took a flashlight, we went outside and made sure, in the sun, they didn't have a tint to us. For what our standards are, are different to others, and this is crazy too, is how they're cut. So some people like a tapered lash and some people like a blunt lash, at the tips is what I'm talking about. So when you go and fill your lashes, you can feel if they're soft or maybe they don't feel as soft as the ones I'm talking about, the tapered. And that's also personal opinion, because if they're less tapered, maybe the fuller they look. And then... Or them being tapered, the softer they feel. 


0:14:12.2 EC: More natural. Is there a difference in perceived naturalness too?  


0:14:19.0 AW: Yeah. 


0:14:19.0 EC: I am so funny, I want my eyelash extensions to look like their mine, where I see other people who have obvious eyelash extensions, and they love it, but they want them to touch their eyebrows. I want mine to look as natural... My poor lash artiste, that she's actually... She's amazing, Kaley Pilot. She moved away to Page, Arizona. So, anyone in Page, Arizona, you should check her out, but... 


0:14:40.7 AW: Yes. 


0:14:42.0 EC: She had a tough job with me 'cause I wanted this, that, and I only wanted to sit down for an hour tops. But she did a really great job at doing them natural, looking natural but also still looking enhanced, so I didn't have to worry. I woke up cute everyday. 


0:14:56.8 AW: And so I guess you can kind of attest to our lashes, 'cause Kaley used our lashes, to them still looking full, but yet have that softness taper to them. 


0:15:05.4 EC: Yeah, absolutely. They did. They looked... And people still... It's so funny 'cause now that I wear mascara again, which I hate, people are like, "Oh, where do you go to get your lashes?" I'm like, "These are mine," but it's too soon, she moved away, ouch. 




0:15:20.3 AW: Hey, but you must have some great naturals then. 


0:15:24.2 EC: I do. I do, but I loved what they did for me, and that's what I wanted too. I wanted them to look natural, and there was... And then also, we had another girl here, that she would get them done, but she wanted them to look fake, and she could do either way. So, with the lash glue, anyone who's sensitive to nail glue might be sensitive to lash glues. Is there anyone who is sensitive of mink... Then anyone who's allergic to mink shouldn't wear real minks. 


0:15:50.7 AW: How do you know? How do you know?  


0:15:52.2 EC: I don't know, maybe mmm, you like motor-boated somebody's mink coat, have no idea. But what about the synthetic mink? Are there any allergic contraindications with those?  


0:16:02.7 AW: No. So, mostly... I mean, unless you're allergic to, I guess, plastic maybe, but they're not really made of plastic, it's so hard to know if you're allergic to the lash fiber. It would mostly... I mean, 99.999 would be the glue, for sure. So, with the lashes, it would just be like a preference on your artiste and you. I would say if you feel like your lashes are crunching, you don't like that feel, maybe just suggest to your artiste, maybe having a tapered lash or something a little softer, 'cause they can still get that true fullness, they would just kind of look into more of the volume lashes. But I hate a crunchy fill, so that's just, once again, a brand personal opinion. 


0:16:51.9 EC: Yeah, I don't like crunchy lashes either. 


0:16:53.7 AW: Yeah. 


0:16:55.7 EC: So there's something to be said too in aftercare, and I know that you have... Tell us why you developed your line of aftercare?  


0:17:04.7 AW: Well, first off, it's really hard to find aftercare for lashes that is made in the US. So, when I first started, I had to look overseas, and it was really frustrating because I wanted our clients to be able to go and even open their eyes during it and not feel a sting or a burn. And I couldn't control that because I was just buying it as is, overseas. So I had to be satisfied, but I'm very persistent, and once again, I was trying to find someone to help me formulate what I could do, because in eyelash aftercare, you don't want it to have any oils. So I had to search for a product that could be oil-free but also remove makeups and everything like that, to give them the optimal retention. So, after... Having the aftercare liner, was actually not very happy with, to months and months and testing. And even just going down to the smell, like we like the smell of rose, so our aftercare smells like rose. I liked cherry, but everyone else liked Rose. 


0:18:25.2 EC: Oh, funny. 


0:18:25.8 AW: So, yeah, I sat down with our formulator and we got... It's an amazing aftercare line. It is plant-based, it's oil-free, cruelty-free, really just made from very non-harsh chemicals to take off your makeup, preserve your eyelashes. And it's made in the US. And luckily for me, it's 15 minutes on the road, to where I can go down to Al's office and tell him if we need to correct anything, or... And every batch is made fresh each time, so I have to go down there and make sure it was the formula, exactly how we want it, every single time, versus, like I said, coming in a package overseas, just wasn't for us. 


0:19:15.5 EC: No, yeah. That's amazing. Big fan of anything made in the USA, especially skin care-wise, just because of the regulations, and even though there is some to be desired, as far as regulations in skin care, at least you're able to use the FDA-approved lab, someone that use CGMP, are important key factors, and I know that's what you're using. So you kind of mentioned oils should be avoided for eyelash extension aftercare, and it's kind of well-known. Is there any other ingredients that are maybe not as well-known that are a contraindication for lash extensions, that you know of?  


0:19:50.5 AW: Just wanna be cautious of maybe essential oils. So you'll be reading an ingredient list and you'll be like, "Oh, it says, 'Rose oil'", versus you just kinda want Rose, not the oil. Yeah, those are the main ones. And it always usually says, "Oil," in them, in the ingredients. 


0:20:13.0 EC: Well, amazing. And so both of your lines are now available to the public and to the professionals? Is that for wholesale?  


0:20:19.4 AW: Yup. Yup. Exactly. 


0:20:21.5 EC: Awesome. So do you wanna give a shoutout to how they can get in touch with you? We'll also have your contact information in the show notes, but what's the easiest way to get in touch with AW Lashes?  


0:20:32.8 AW: You can just jump on our website, www.awlashes.com, and you can see all of our amazing products, or education, about us, where everything... All the formulations. You can even see our ingredients, that's something we're very open about, and that's why it's so amazing to be on this podcast because we are not shy of what is in our stuff. You can just go to the very bottom, click on ingredients, see what is going on your eyes, which is important, you have to see. 


0:21:04.8 EC: Yeah, you need to know. And transparency is a great brand decision, so kudos to you. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Alexis,  ____. Well, hope to have you back again on another Ingredient Decked Out series as your line continues to grow. 


0:21:18.3 AW: Thank you. 


0:21:18.7 EC: Is there anything you want to close with or let us know?  


0:21:21.1 AW: I just love the beauty industry and everything you're doing, because it's so frustrating not knowing what you're putting on your face, so I think that's just so amazing and empowerful for all the women to know what you're doing. 


0:21:37.1 EC: Thank you. I appreciate that. And I appreciate you being a conscientious company and bringing only quality to the market. Thanks so much. 


0:21:44.0 AW: Thank you. 


0:21:45.0 EC: Alright, that is ASCP Esty Talk: Ingredient Decked Out, Lashes, lovely, lovely lashes. Please check show notes for more information on how to get in touch with Alexis directly, and tune in for the next episode. 




0:21:56.5 S1: Thanks for joining us today. If you like what you hear and you want more, subscribe. If you wanna belong to the only all-inclusive association for estheticians, that includes professional liability insurance, education, industry insights, and an opportunity to spotlight your sick skills, join at ascpskincare.com. Only $259 per year for all this goodness. ASCP knows it's all about you.

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