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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lashing Out!

Discover the income-generating power of eyelash extensions.

In the beauty world, there has always been a focus on the eyes—our “windows to the soul.” Cosmetic chemists, makeup artists, and even dermatologists are constantly working to develop new products and techniques that play up this key feature. While lash growth serums seem to have staying power, and the latest mascaras certainly work wonders, by far the best way to create the length and fullness women want is with professionally applied eyelash extensions.
Unlike lash strips, extensions are applied one at a time to a woman’s natural eyelashes using long-lasting adhesives. 
Each set of lashes is completely customizable, as most extension brands offer an enormous range of lengths, colors, and curvatures. Spa-goers can swim, shower, and exercise with the lashes, and most women find they don’t even need eye makeup when the extensions are applied, which saves them time, too. “It’s a wonderful service to uplift your look without drastic procedures or injectables,” says Jessica Babcock, head of education and training at Reese Robert Beauty.
While Hollywood was the first to embrace extensions—starlets sport them on red carpets and at photo shoots—their popularity has since trickled down to the mainstream. Today, when most beauty categories are falling flat, false eyelashes are one of the few sectors that continue to grow. Sales of fake lashes grew 6.2 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to Nielsen data.
Yet possibly the best part about lash extensions is that your spa is already set up to offer the service. There’s no need to purchase expensive machinery or upgrade your treatment rooms, as lashes can be applied while a client lies on a massage table. And the low cost of the products and tools used compared to the cost to the consumer for the
service allows for revenue to quickly begin rolling in. “Professionals can add eyelash extensions to their array of existing services and watch their income double right away,” says Faith Kim, global marketing and sales manager for JB Lashes.
Here’s a look at the numbers: Training an esthetician or cosmetologist to apply lash extensions usually costs around $2,000. That typically includes certification for the lash stylist, a starter kit with all the products needed to do hundreds of lash applications, and marketing materials to get your lash business up and running. Most spas and salons currently charge anywhere from $200 to $500 to apply a full set of lashes, which can take anywhere from one to two hours. Clients also need to return to the spa at least once per month for a refill application in order to maintain their lash look. The pros agree that in less than 10 lash applications, you can start seeing a return on your initial investment. “Spas and salons are realizing what a huge opportunity this is to remain profitable during a time when many consumers are starting to see their beauty services as luxuries,” says Jo Mousselli, president of Xtreme Lashes.
With their relatively high cost to the consumer, extensions are certainly a luxury, but one that women increasingly want. “When we ask our students why they decided to invest in extension certification, more than half of them say it is because customers were asking them for the service but going somewhere else to get them done,” says Mary Jane Dana, founder of Lavish Lashes. “They didn’t want to keep losing the business.”
Once a client gets extensions, she is also more likely to return to your spa in order to maintain her investment. “By offering this service, you can attract women to your spa for the lashes, but once they are there, they will want your other services, too,” says Jeannie Owens, founder of Lash Out! spas in California and New Jersey.
It’s important to understand the training and time commitment involved. Applying around 60 lash extensions to each eye can be a tedious, time-consuming process. “There is a long learning process with extensions,” says Owens. And rightfully so, as lash stylists work close to the eye area. Plus, the success of your lash business depends on the quality of the service provided. You’ll never get repeat clients or referrals if women are unhappy with how their lashes are applied or look.
Most lash brands offer initial training sessions that last for one or two days. These startup sessions should include hands-on training and information about the products and tools used, safety instructions, and tips on tailoring lashes. Lash stylists should also learn how to conduct a consultation with clients in order to create the desired lash look and teach clients how to properly care for their lashes. Continuing education is also an important part of the training process. “Applying lash extensions is an art,” says Babcock, which explains why most companies offer more advanced levels of training and certification.
Once you’re ready to offer lash extensions, it’s important to market the service. Word-of-mouth is probably the most effective way. “Applying lashes to employees, friends, and influential women in your community is the best strategy to draw attention to the new service,” says Ali Moon, director of marketing and public relations for NovaLash.
Another marketing strategy: “Require your lash stylist to build his or her own portfolio of before-and-after photos that showcase his or her talent, and then display those images in a digital photo frame along with information about the service in your spa’s reception area,” suggests Dana. Lash extension brands should also provide basic marketing materials that can be displayed.
While offering your service at a reduced price might seem like a good way to entice clients, some promotions may discourage potential clients. “Customers who would typically value the quality of your service and be willing to pay top dollar for it may be turned away if your prices are too low,” says Dana. Instead, try offering the first touchup for free with the purchase of a set of lashes. This will give clients the chance to fall in love with their lashes and ensure they return for future refills.
It can also be helpful to get involved with local bridal events, beauty events, and charity auctions. You could also host a beauty night at your spa and conduct a demonstration of a lash application. Doing demos—or posting a video on your spa’s website of the lashes being applied—can help answer potential client questions. No matter how you introduce women in your community to the world of lash extensions available at your spa, be sure to open their eyes to the beautiful possibilities the service provides.—

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