Former solicitor Niamh O’Reilly has opened a salon dedicated to making eyes look stunning. Helen Carson tries it out
If you’re looking for a marvel-lash way to make an eye-popping impression, then park your peepers in the couch at The Lash Lounge. Opened just seven weeks ago, the boutique-style salon on Belfast’s Lisburn Road is already booked out, such is the demand for the stylish silk individual lashes.
The Lash Lounge is owned and run by former solicitor Niamh O’Reilly (32), who is originally from Omagh but has lived and worked in the city for 15 years. She says: “In LA there is a guy who does nothing but lashes, and he is known as the Lash King, so I want to be the Lash Queen.”
Niamh specialises in tailored eyelash extensions which she applies individually, and it’s a long way from the law books she studied to become a solicitor.
“I did a law degree and was a solicitor, dealing with civil cases and some property, but it just wasn’t for me,” she says. “I also worked for an outdoor sports company for seven years, and after that started a dating agency, Gooseberry, which holds speed-dating events.”
Niamh still runs Gooseberry, but has franchised the business out, so she can focus on getting ladies here the lushest lashes around. “I’ve had 16 marriages as a result of Gooseberry. People send me pictures of their wedding day and children.”
After six years of playing cupid, however, Niamh hankered after a new challenge: “I wanted to go out on my own and I believe lashes are the next big thing. I had the lashes applied myself when I was in London once and just loved them, and it is such a nice treatment.”
Niamh trained at Blink & Go lashes in Newry, then found out a unit was available on the Lisburn Road.
And she had no qualms about launching a brand new specialist business at a time when the double dip recession was dominating the news. She says: “I think it is now or never. If you have the right product, and have confidence in the product, and the right location, why not?
“There is a recession, but ladies love to look good and are not afraid to spend money on that.”
Niamh currently opens the stylish salon around 8.30am, working until 7pm each evening in order to satisfy the demand for the very natural and beautiful eyelashes.
With a period-style chaise longue and over-sized baroque-style picture frame and mirror, this salon has an Alice In Wonderful quality about it.
Customers — which have included a few men — lie on a very comfy couch in the treatment room while Niamh painstakingly applies the lashes, which usually takes around 45-minutes.
The all-black silk lashes are of various lengths and applied with a black adhesive.
“I advise women not to apply mascara over them, because you just don’t need it. The best mascara in the world wouldn’t look as good as these lashes. We have the odd blue lash and this brings out the colour of the eyes, but the black really opens up the eyes.”
You have a choice of natural, which are the shortest in length, right up to sweeping-long ultra-glamorous Bardot-like lashes.
But don’t expect to walk out looking like Katie Price or one of the TOWIE girls, as Niamh says it’s all about a natural look.
“First of all, I find out what women want, then decide which lashes to use depending on the size of their eyes and their lifestyle. Sometimes women ask me for lashes that look fake, but I try to encourage them to try a more natural look.”
She rarely applies bottom lashes, £15, unless it’s a bride who really wants to amp up the volume on her big day.
“The bottom lashes don’t really last longer than a day, as they are near the water reservoir of the eye.”
During the course of our interview she takes several phone calls, and two customers call into the shop trying to book, including a beautician... but the best she can do is put them down for a cancellation.
“All I do are lashes. It’s not like going to a beauty salon where the therapist may not do lashes that often, I do it all day, everyday.”
Many of Niamh’s customers are doctors, as they cannot get their nails done as they work in a clinical environment, or sometimes cannot even wear make-up.
“I think doctors in particular just want something to help them look and feel better. They tell me it makes them look bright-eyed and more awake, doe-eyed.”
The lashes last two to three weeks and are maintenance-free, making them ideal for everyone — from mums doing the school run with no time to wave a mascara wand to those who want a speedy morning make-up routine as they hotfoot it out the door to work.
The lashes are also perfect for summer holidays, especially in a hot climate where mascara has a tendency to run.
At £35 for the natural lashes and £40 for the glam look, Niamh claims the treatment is good value for money.
She also encourages women to come back to have the lashes removed.
“I remove lashes for free, rather than women attempt to take them off themselves.”
All Niamh asks of her customers is to arrive make-up free, and then relax.
After a day of looking at a computer screen for several hours, my eyes feel exactly the same with lashes as without.
Another bonus is the fact there’s no weight to the lengthening marvels.
Niamh says: “If the eyes are the window to the soul, then these eyelashes are the soft drapes.”
For further information contact The Lash Lounge, 447 Lisburn Road, Belfast, tel: 028 9066 1530