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Deals & Steals

Benefit Cosmetics LLC

I got eyelash extensionsFirst there was the initial application. That cost $400. Then the touch-ups every three weeks at $100 each.

Yes, I'm aware it sounds like a coke addict's tally after a heavy binge. But I'm talking about eyelash extensions. I blew $700 on my eyelashes in two months. I know, it sounds crazy, but those two months were the most glorious eight weeks of my cosmetic life. And I'd do it again if I could scrounge up the cash.

Let me first explain that I'm not a makeup kind of girl. Ask any one of my friends and they'll probably wonder out loud if they've ever seen me all made up. My morning beauty routine -- on good days -- involves an eyelash curler and some mascara. Done. And maybe that's why the eyelash extensions appealed to me. I've always wanted big, thick, doe-eye lashes. My naturally scrawny sets have very little in the volume department.

So I tried it.

Have I ever made such a big impulse purchase for such a small item before? In a word, no. Not for any item, big or miniscule.

But on this day, I dipped into my wallet and selected from the basic single silk extensions ($300), double silk ($400) or the amazing mink hair ($800). I chose middle of the road. I sat in the chair, leaned back, and kept my eyes shut for two hours. My eyelash expert is known in New York for her work, so I felt comfortable letting her redefine my lash line. And I had no idea how customizable it is: She talked to me for 15 minutes about what shape I wanted, analyzed the shape of my face, asked me what kind of industry I worked in (to find out how big would be too big for work), and set to work.

The silk lash extensions were glued one by one to my own lashes, which Is why it took so long. She used the tiniest of tools to align the lashes to produce a beautiful fan shape. After sitting patiently, she unveiled the new me, and I LOVED it. They felt a little heavy and little "overdone" for my usual look, but I quickly grew accustomed to them. Friends and acquaintances asked me what I'd had done -- something, they swore, looked different.

I had to be careful with my new lashes. No artificial ingredients on them. They were so lush that mascara was completely unnecessary, though. The most difficult part of dealing with them was showering or washing my face. If they got wet, the water weighed them down and the glue stung a little bit. So water and I had a tricky relationship for a few months.

I combed them lovingly every night and applied a nutrient complex to keep the bonds strong. I dropped in for one-hour touch ups ever few weeks. I was a master of lash maintenance.

Until one day, when I saw one large lash hit the bathroom countertop. My lash expert told me they would eventually fall out, and the time was here. Slowly, they either fell or got a little wonky on my lash line and I had to remove them. I knew I didn't have the money for a new set, so this would be the end of my Bambi lashes.

Then I began to look something like a bad drag queen. Some spots were bare -- my own puny lashes poking through -- while others showed the overgrowth where the extensions had moved out and away from my eyelid as my natural lash grew. As they turned sideways, I had to delicately and sometimes painfully remove the fakes -- my own lash oftentimes coming with it.

I made them last as long as I could: I got two and a half months out of them. Then I was left with my own lashes, which were sparse and lighter (this is common: natural lashes lighten when they're covered with extensions). I gobbed on the mascara, but nothing looked as good as those fakes.

Someday I'll get them again. When I can justify another $700 superficial purchase. But we all have vices, don't we? Some covet handbags, other shoes. Mine comes in the one-quarter-inch silk variety.

Maureen Dempsey is a freelance writer who has been on staff at Marie Claire, Vogue and Lucky.

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