By Sarah Hainesworth
The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Lasharm Ellis has been extending her lashes for the last five years.
“I get my lashes done every other week,” the Gambrills woman said. Ellis, a national insurance account manager, uses her appointments as a time to unwind. “It’s very relaxing,” she said.
Hoping to spread the latest beauty craze, Lash Moi co-founder and CEO Julie Nguyen opened a salon specializing in eyelash extensions in Gambrills.
With nine lash specialists, plus six at her original Bowie location, Nguyen hopes to capitalize on the demand for fake, long and luxurious lashes.
“You can’t feel them, you don’t know they’re there,” said Nguyen. “I think it really enhances a woman’s look, it’s an instant eye lift.”
Over the last few years, lash extension services have popped up in nail salons, hair salons and spas.
In 2012, false eyelashes and adhesives generated $80.5 million in retail sales in the United States. Only makeup remover and makeup applicators topped lashes on the list.
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In order for lash extensions to be applied, the lash specialist isolates the lashes one by one using tweezers. Single lash extensions are applied to each natural lash and a medical grade adhesive keeps the lashes in place for up to a month.
Clients return for touch-ups once or twice a month for the lash specialist to refill in lashes that have fallen off.
Nguyen believes Lash Moi is the only salon in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area that specializes in eyelash extensions.
“When they opened the Gambrills location it was perfect because it’s two minutes from my house,” said Ellis, who has also received eyebrow tinting and waxing services at the salon.
Nguyen worked as a hair stylist prior to becoming a lash specialist.
In 2006, she and her sister Emilie Bjornson developed a passion for lash extensions and decided to make it their specialty.
In 2009, the pair opened Lash Moi in Bowie, later opening the Gambrills location in September 2013.
Depending on the service, appointments can take 45 minutes up to 90 minutes. Lash Moi also offers waxing, cosmetic tattoos, gel-based mascara coating, eyebrow tinting, tanning and temporary lashes.
But the semi-permanent lashes, ranging from $60 to $300, make up most of the business. In order to maintain the extensions, Lash Moi suggests clients return for refills once or twice a month. Refills range from $35 to $85.
Lash Moi encourages clients to schedule appointments, although it keeps a waiting list for walk-ins.
“A lot of people are surprised they just can’t walk in and get it done,” said Nguyen. “It’s not like a nail salon.”
She has built a lot of connections with the business.
Lash Moi is the official eyelash sponsor of the Washington Redskins cheerleaders, Miss Maryland USA and Miss Maryland Teen USA.
The arrangement offers a discount to the cheerleaders and beauty queens.
“I’m very proud of Julie and her team at Lash Moi. Their success is a result of patience and lots of hard work,” said Judy Wilson, CEO of Greater Crofton Chamber of Commerce.
“They knew that they would eventually be expanding their business from their site in Bowie to the Crofton/Gambrills area.
They wisely joined GCCC even before they moved to their new site creating interest and curiosity in the community. By the time they finally opened their doors they had already grown an eager customer base.”
The second Lash Moi location represents a personal turnaround for Nguyen, who filed for personal bankruptcy in 2010.
Her first full-service salon in College Park was hit hard by the economy at the same time she was going through a breakup and dealing with the death of a loved one.
“All of these three major events combined led to a huge financial strain in which I exhausted almost all of my funds to attempt to keep my house,” she said in an email.
She then invested her remaining savings.
“I decided to focus solely on eyelash extensions because Emilie and I are very passionate about this service. It feels so rewarding to see the reactions of all the women that we service and that at the end of the day, make this journey worth it.”