Eyelash experts share the ins, outs, do’s and don’ts of competition lashing.
“‘I’d love to compete, but I don’t think I’m good enough yet.’ People say this to me all the time,” says Emily Lee, competition director of Lash Wars, America’s biggest eyelash competition held at the International Beauty Show (IBS) Las Vegas. “But how do you know what you need to improve if you don’t compete?” she asks.
Trying your skills in a lash competition is no small undertaking, but it’s one of the fastest ways to push your technique, artistry and professionalism to the next level. “It’s kind of like taking a class where several top, well-respected trainers—the judges—critique your work and tell you what you can do to make a great set into an amazing set. Even if you don’t win, you still can’t lose,” says Lee.
The competition scene also throws you together with some of the most passionate and talented people in the business, says Lash Wars 2016 Classic Champion Liz Bussey, owner of Glow Lashes in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. “If you follow lash forums, you’ll know people’s names and even their work, but at a competition you get to meet them in person and really connect.” Being around likeminded pros can boost your drive for success and creativity, and those connections could become lifelong ones that you can count on throughout your career.
Finally, if you pull off a win, you’ll enjoy industry recognition that can help you grow your business. “Within hours of winning the NovaLash LASHoff Lash Artist of the Year, my Instagram business page had 58 new followers,” says 2017 winner Sarah-Anne Barham of Sarah-Anne’s Beauty in Felixstowe, England. “It gets your name out there in the lash world, and other lash artists start to recognize your name and your work.”
Ready to get the ball rolling? Read on for advice from recent winners and top judges on how to choose, prepare for and compete in eyelash competitions.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Before you can be a contender, you have to choose a contest. As you weigh your options, consider the hours you’ll spend prepping and competing, along with the cost of entry fees, supplies and travel expenses for yourself and a model. Some competitions require no travel at all (unless you win). Others can take you to international hotspots like London, Paris or Moscow.
Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes lies Lash Wars. Organized by the National Eyelash Education and Safety Association (NEESA), every June Lash Wars draws lash artists from around the world to Las Vegas to vie for cash, product prizes and lashing glory.
If you’re not ready to hit the road with a model in tow, consider an online competition, such as the photo- and video-centric NovaLash LASHoff. “What makes LASHoff unique is that you can do it on your own time,” says NovaLash project and product development coordinator Vanessa Max. “This allows you to choose the best model and time that works for you. Once you get the look you want, you can start taking pictures and videos for submission.” In addition to cash prizes, LASHoff winners become NovaLash brand ambassadors, enjoying PR and travel opportunities with the brand.
For a mix of online convenience and free travel for finalists, master trainer and My Brand Lashes founder Hilaree Brand likes the Paris- based Les Victoires du Regard, which she just finished judging in April. It starts with online photo submissions, and then narrows the field down to 15 finalists. “Then, the finalists are flown to Paris to compete in person to win massive crazy prizes. I really think of all the competitions, this one is by far the classiest,” says Brand.
“Eyelash extension competitions are so popular in Europe that there is practically one or two every month,” says Lee. “All the ones that I’ve had the pleasure to judge have been very well-organized, including World Lash Moscow, Sculptor Lash Kharkov [Moscow], The Lash Games in London and London Lash Battle.”
When shopping for a reputable competition, take a good look at the rules, suggests Loreta Jasilionyte, U.K.-based master trainer, frequent judge and founder of Flawless Lashes by Loreta. For example, rules should stipulate that final judges are not allowed on the competition floor until judging time. It’s also a good sign if a competition emphasizes the importance of infection control practices, says Lee.
As a rule, model choice can dramatically help or hurt your chances in a lash competition, says Lee. “Look for a model who has striking, fairly symmetrical features with healthy, beautiful natural eyelashes that are medium brown to black,” she advises.
A model with clear skin, nice brows and a dramatic eye color can also give you an edge, says Brand. “After judging more than 300 online entries in Les Victoires du Regard, I will tell you the ones with the brightest eye color, most symmetrical eyes and top brows did the best in the Overall points category. The eyes don’t have to be bright blue or bright green; they could be black-brown or very, very light. But a striking color seemed to add to the overall score. You’ll notice this in Russian competitions, too,” Brand adds.
“For all categories, ideal model characteristics are pretty much the same, but if you’re competing in a Volume category, don’t choose a model who has crazy long natural eyelashes,” notes Jasilionyte. With Volume lashes, your No. 1 goal is density, she explains. The longer you go with the natural lashes, the less dense the extensions will appear. Lee adds one more caveat: “If you’re entering in a Fantasy category, you are creating a full-body look. This means you’ll want your model to match your theme and overall presentation. Some competitions require the model to put on a short show, such as dancing, reciting a poem or other theatrics. In this case, you would look for a model that also possesses such skills.”
If you’ve never worked on your model’s lashes before, do a test application to make sure she’ll tolerate extensions well in a competition setting. You want someone whose eyes don’t water easily or get bloodshot. If she needs frequent restroom breaks or her eyes get fluttery during application, find a different model.
For video-oriented competitions that emphasize your on-camera presentation, the prep and competition phases merge into one. Barham allowed herself two weeks to create her winning NovaLash LASHoff entry from start to finish, which included writing and memorizing a script for her on-camera work. “I used the same client for my video and my before-and-after pictures to save time,” she says. “Also, for the day of filming, I wrote down an agenda for my videographer and a bullet-point list of the shots I wanted her to film of me so we wouldn’t forget any of the important ones.”
For in-person competitions, our experts recommend choosing a model two-to-three months before competition day and starting right away on a customized lash design. “If after a month you’re still uncertain about the shape, reach out to one of your mentors, or take a class on styling,” says Brand. Once the design is wow-worthy, you can focus on improving your speed.
Take this time to read and reread the competition rules until you know them almost by heart. The rules should also tell you what tools and accessories you can and can’t use on the competition floor. If the rules permit, bring a full kit, plus a few notable extras:
A Digital Clock - Touching your phone to adjust a clock timer or refresh the screen can cost you points for sanitation. “If it’s permitted, I would recommend bringing your own digital clock that you can glance at easily,” says Brand.
A Portable Humidity Source - Come prepared for unpredictable humidity levels, says Brand. For example, the indoor air conditioning in Las Vegas is cranked up so high that no humidity is left to help your lash adhesive cure. “There are ways to bring up your humidity [levels] as long as those tools are approved through the organizer,” says Brand. “There are water bottle humidifiers that hook up to a battery pack and you just click it onto the water bottle.” At the very least, pack a nanomister or nebulizer.
An Array of Adhesives - Some contests require you to use a sponsor’s lashes and/or adhesive. If you’re free to use your own adhesive, bring as many different options as you can, advises Jasilionyte. You never know what humidity conditions will prevail on the competition floor, and it helps to have choices.
Hand Sanitizer - “Products-wise, most competitions will give you disposable mascara wands and hand sanitizers, but never expect them. You don’t want to be caught without a hand sanitizer,” says Brand.
Comfort Aids for Your Model - Neck pillows and bolsters will help your model stay relaxed for the long haul, says Brand.
Ready, Set, Lash!
On the day of the competition you’ll meet a few very important people: the greeter, the floor judge and the final judges. “Make sure that you know who those people are,” says Brand. “The greeter is the one who tells you where you need to be and what the rules are. Listen to that person because you can easily be disqualified for being in the wrong area at the wrong time.”
The floor judge will inspect your overall setup and gel pad application, and will be judging you through the entire lash application process, checking for cleanliness and tweezers pressure, and making sure the model’s eyes aren’t open.
To impress the floor judge, keep your area neat and tidy. “Floor judges want to see how organized you are,” says Brand. “Also, don’t blot your adhesive on the gel pads. Judges do not want to see that. They want to see it nice and white. And if you have to write your lash map on the gel pad, make sure you don’t use black ink, because a floor judge might think it’s glue.” She advises using a colored ink, like green or pink, to head off confusion and prevent losing points unnecessarily.
A group of five or six final judges will evaluate your final work. Judging is blind, which means judges aren’t permitted to see the lash application process or even know which lash artist worked on a given model. What they’re looking for may vary slightly depending on the competition and the category you’re competing in, but key the skin of the upper lid slightly up, whether the model has hooded eyelids or not,” she explains.
Styling/Overall Impression - It’s not uncommon for models to show up with eyebrows that are poorly shaped or overdue for a wax. This may hurt the judges’ overall impression and can even compromise your lash-styling efforts. “If you know how to style lashes the right way, you’ll follow the same patterns that you use to shape a brow,” says Brand. “Styling is so huge.”
–by Elizabeth Turner
[Images: Courtesy of The Lash Games]