Insider Interviews: Camilla Kirk-Reynolds: Lash Extension Expert
As one of the world's most in-demand lash artists, Camilla is regularly flown around the globe by her high-powered clients. Here we talk to her about how it all began, her long-lasting technique & find out the beauty experts she loves.by Amy Wilson Wyles
Camilla spotted the need for lash extensions while working as a make-up artist on Hollywood blockbusters. As one of the first people trained to do them in the UK, it’s fair to say she has always been an industry trailblazer. Having discovered her latest technique, Gel Lys, in the USA, she’s making headlines for having the longest-lasting lashes in town.
Job Title: Eyelash Extension Specialist
Famous For: Flawless lashes and now thanks to her new Gel Lys technique, extensions that last 50% longer
Clients/Fans Include: Won’t disclose but we’ve heard that major royals & Hollywood stars are amongst her most regular clients.
Years In The Industry: 16
I do not come from a beauty therapy background. I was a make-up and hair artist in the film industry working on films such as The Other Boleyn Girl, The Duchess and The King’s Speech. The Other Boleyn Girl was the third film I ever worked on and the film that changed my life forever! It was one of the first period feature films to be shot in HD, something every make-up artist was dreading as the clarity could make you look more ruddy than you already did which they would have to counteract, and it left nothing to the imagination.
I noticed that Scarlett Johansson was having her lashes tinted dark brown, Natalie Portman was wearing black mascara and Kristin Scott Thomas was having strip lashes made for her by hand, with real hair. I wanted to create something that was more than tinting but less than mascara and that wasn’t as time and resource-intensive as hand knotting ‘real hair’ strip lashes. I went around and asked the other make-up artists I was working with, some of whom had up to 25-30 years plus experience – and when I learnt that nothing had been created to fit this criteria, despite it being 2006, I was completely baffled!
I was at a make-up trade show about a month later and there were only two stalls with this mysterious new technique: eyelash extensions. I remember when I was told that you applied one hair to each natural eyelash, I laughed! I never thought anyone would have that the patience or desire to do it; why not just buy a strip? I also didn’t like the look of them. All the sales girls had very long and fake-looking lashes and that was exactly what I did not want. I wanted to recreate a look that if I were working on a period film and there was a close up of the face in an IMAX and the face was over 10 foot high, you wouldn’t be able to see the join nor see that they were fake lashes. I didn’t want to be able to see the ‘clumpiness’ of mascara but I also wanted more than just tinted lashes. I wanted to complement and enhance the eyes, without even the most scrutinising of watchful eyes being able to spot them.
It was so long ago, no one knew what they were. Everyone I knew and loved told me not to switch and thought I was mad for suggesting I spend so much on a course that no one even knew about. Yet there was something in me, I knew I had to learn this new skill. Because everyone was so against it, especially my parents, I set about learning how to do it in complete secret, with my sister as the model and used my inheritance from my grandfather to pay for the (in 2007 aged 21 seemingly vast sum of £1500) course.
I was already very good at intricate detail and having made facial hair and wigs for the film industry, I had no difficulties dealing with individual hairs. So I learnt how to do it and picked up the skill very quickly. I always say it’s the one thing I’ve never had to work at, despite working harder with eyelash extensions than I have with anything else!
I actually never intended to work with the general public. I envisaged only working in the film and TV industries to create the looks they desired for characters. I turned down so many potential clients willing to pay a lot of money, before one TV producer I worked with wouldn’t take no for an answer. She said it was the best beauty treatment she ever received and it made me realise that I could actually still make some money on the side, rather than just waiting for the next film and TV job to come along.
Winning my first ever competition was a career high. I’d been doing lashes for 10 years at that point and never entered one as I didn’t like how biased they tended to be (in most the judges are teachers with their own educational courses and they of course favour their students). The reason I chose this particular one was because it was the first ever ‘blind judged’ competition for lashes, so I was only ever a number and only judged on my workmanship and skill. It was also the biggest in the world at the time and I wanted to know where I stood in regard to the rest of the world’s lash technicians as it’s quite an isolated industry and you can’t always tell from photos how good someone is. I entered in two different categories, because I offer both Classic and Volume (two different techniques) and won first place in both categories. It’s probably one of the best moments in my life to date!
Another highlight would be when I got a phone call from my longest standing VIP client who I unfortunately cannot name due to confidentiality reasons. She has been a loyal client for over eight years now and has been an A-list celebrity since I was a teenager. I was with my business coach and was talking about who I would like as clients in an ideal world and the next thing I knew I got a call from her PA. One of my royal clients had passed me on to her PR. I nearly fell off my seat! Since then she has never seen another lash tech anywhere in the world; it means a lot to me that she holds my work in such high regard.
Three of the biggest business lessons running Camilla Lashes has taught me is that nothing equals experience; you can’t and won’t be taught that on any course. Secondly, when you employ people, you will get messed about and it’s not always your fault. Make sure you treat your employees well and with respect, then if you know it’s no fault of your own. Finally know your own worth – you do not have to deal with clients who do not respect you. I like to treat all my clients with the same level of respect; they do not need to be royal or a celebrity for me to respect them any more or less. In return I hope similar will be given back to me.
My key advice for someone hoping to get into the lash industry would be to not try to be the cheapest, but to try to be the best.
My Lash Rules & The Lowdown On Gel Lys – My Long-Lasting Technique
The lashes I use today are the same brand that I’ve always used. They have always been the best quality on the market, although I regularly try other brands to make sure they still are the best choice.
It is the adhesive connection that is different. The new adhesive is far more flexible and longer wearing and is not affected by external factors, such as water and oil, due to the fact it cures completely instantly (I liken it to gel polish vs regular polish) unlike traditional adhesive.
The marketing for the product says it lasts up to 33% longer but I would go so far as to say it can last up to 50% longer. Of course, it is not just the product that gives me longevity. I have been known throughout my career for my longevity, even when using regular adhesive. So I have applied my techniques to this new product which I believe is what makes it last so much longer on my clients than advertised.
If you are someone who doesn’t have an issue with your natural lashes but is allergic to regular adhesive, then it could be a game-changer as it’s an excellent problem solver for those with allergies. That being said, longevity can still be affected but on the upside you can have extensions – something most who have bad reactions do not think is possible.
I love working with people with Trichotillomania & post-chemotherapy. Probably the biggest thing to bear in mind is that eyelash extensions attach to the natural lashes, therefore the weaker your natural lashes, the more natural your extension may need to look. Volume in a situation like this is your best bet to enable to have as much depth of colour whilst maintaining a light weight of lash. After Chemo I suggest waiting a minimum of 6 weeks once you see your hair starting to grow back but if you can wait 8-12 weeks that would be even better. I find that when I see clients with Trichotillomania that their condition actually improves, because they do not desire to pick their lashes anymore.
Magnifying Glasses: I can see without them but they stop my eyes from becoming tired when seeing multiple clients.
Surgical Masks: I’ve been wearing these for many, many years now – even before Covid. I probably only have one or two clients who remember a time when I worked without them! I do not like working so close to someone’s face without wearing one, I just feel like it is more hygienic with one.
Temperature and Humidity Measuring Clock: This enables me to not only keep an eye on the time but also guarantees the optimum temperature and
Lint Free Applicators & Micro Brushes: I will only work with clean lashes. These applicators and brushes are what I like to use to clean clients’ lashes and what I recommend they clean their own lashes with at home. I don’t think there has ever been one client in my whole career whose lashes I didn’t fully clean before starting a set or infill of extensions.
Facialist: Joanne Evans at Skin Matters. We have worked together and she is the only facialist I’ve found who respects eyelash extensions in her treatments. She also has a wealth of experience and used to be a nurse, so what she doesn’t know isn’t worst knowing!
Workout/exercise class: My favourite PT of all time has to be the wonderful Annamaria Bodzas. She is so much more than a PT and will help you with all aspects of training, plus she never gives up on you.
Manicurist/pedicurist: Since becoming qualified in doing nails in 2010, I do my own nails and I’m super fussy, so as yet I’ve not found anyone I like. However I did have the best pedicure I’ve ever had at the Parklane Hotel in Cyprus.
Masseuse/favourite treatment to unwind: I love a good massage, but I’m still on the hunt for the best person; I particularly love head massages and hand and feet massages.
Eyelashes: I’ve never been happy with the lashes I’ve had from anyone else; in fact, I’ve used all my bad experiences to enhance my work for my own clients. So I do my own lashes. I did my own lashes for my wedding, both top and bottom, and I am back doing them again now. It’s hard work and quite tricky but very rewarding, but now with the current global situation I have time to maintain them properly.
Favourite spa destination: It has to be the spa at the Qualia Hotel on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays, Australia. The whole experience of being there was just wonderful. They really offer the five star service that so many promise but never live up to.
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