On one of the coldest days of 2022 (thus far), I made the decision to have a Self-Care Saturday. Yes, in 14-degree weather and all. This would include getting my toes done, treating myself to lunch, and getting my lashes done for the first time. Anyone who knows me knows that I typically lean towards the no-makeup makeup look and only stick to foundation, brows, and mascara but in the spirit of trying something new and not letting fear get in the way of my appearance, I decided to take a leap.

When I pulled up to Joire’s Spa & Studio in Brooklyn, New York, I was met with a steep flight of stairs that would lead me to the peaceful oasis. Once I made it to the top of the steps, I was greeted with a smile by two women behind a white desk that read the name of the business. It was such a place of serenity and I was in total awe that a Black woman created a sanctuary in my hometown dedicated to self-care and the mental well-being of other Black women. When I asked founder Nikita Gibson about the inspiration behind the foundation of Joire’s Spa & Studio, she shared that it was her love for self-care yet not having a place to go to and implement her love for taking care of herself. “My schedule has always been hectic, balancing work and the dedication I have to my family life,” Gibson confided in ESSENCE via email. “I wanted to create a space where women who live similar lives – who may be balancing competing priorities in their life – could go and get all their self-care services at one location. I have always valued the importance of not settling and living the best life I deserve and doing that all started with caring for self. Many women reached out to me and shared that they admire that about me and aspired to make self-care their priority but did not know how or didn’t have time to weave self-care into every aspect of their lives. This inspired me to teach, educate and communicate how to do it.”

Her love and appreciation for self-care extended far beyond her own journey, but she wanted to make sure that other Black women, such as me and other ESSENCE women, could feel the love within themselves. “I think it’s critical to create a space where women can communicate, share and feel free. At its inception, Joire’s was created with Black women in mind since it was a result of my lived experience and my need to embrace my femininity and immerse myself in an environment where peace is a priority and self-love championed everything. Since we opened, we have become a space where all women could explore and embrace their femininity, talk, learn and share amongst one another. Self-care really transcends all of our differences and sharing and learning from each other is such a beautiful experience. My goal is to teach women, all women, to fall in love with themselves,” Gibson continued to express.

As a businesswoman herself, Gibson makes sure to prioritize her own mental health and wellness practices. She cites meditation and delegation of tasks as her top two sources of self-care, in addition to taking herself on dates, embarking on restful vacations, and one-night staycations at local hotels. “I have really learned to surround myself with a great support system – in my business and my personal life. From a business standpoint, I rely heavily on my team so I’m not overwhelmed. Truly it’s bigger than my business,” she explained. “I’m a mom and wife, those two things are a priority so when I begin to feel discombobulated or overwhelmed, tapping out and putting myself first happens very quickly.”

After coming in from the cold outside world, I was instructed to go to the bathroom to wash my hands, and rightfully so, considering we’re still in an entire pandemic. Once I checked in, the Joire’s staff offered to take my coat and gave me a menu for beverages in an effort to make my wait time more comfortable – and boy, was it?

While I was tempted to ask for a glass of wine at the bottom of the menu, I knew that it was only 1:15 PM EST and even if it was 5 o’clock somewhere, that wouldn’t be the move. Instead, I asked for a cup of their hibiscus tea, which is said to be especially helpful for those like myself with oily skin. I tried to savor the flavor of the brewed tea with honey, but I knew that my lash technician was waiting for me and I was all too excited about the process. After finishing my hot beverage, I walked to the back of the room where my designated technician, Cotori Lightfoot, was waiting for me with a table for me to lay on and a ring light standing over it. We exchanged greetings and she gave me the rundown about how the process would go, but before I would prop my legs up and shut my eyes, there were questions that needed answers. What lashes did I want?

When asking a Joire’s Spa & Studio lash technician about ways to prepare prior to my appointment, they assured me that all I needed to do was come with a clean face with no makeup or residue. That also includes oily skin products and mascara, which meant that my handy-dandy Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil would be left out of the picture for the day. While I know I’m not the only one who has never gotten lashes before, a lot more women are becoming more dependent on lashes for a full look, but why not just use mascara? “Beauty and convenience,” a lash technician told ESSENCE when justifying the choice of lash extensions. “Isn’t the goal to wake [up] and look and feel beautiful? Clients love to get their lashes done because they can just wake up and go. It also accentuates the eyes whether you’re a no-makeup kind of woman or if you like to get dolled up daily. Lash extensions are that finishing touch that is a game-changer.” They were right – I wanted to elevate my look and have a more convenient process, especially in the wintertime.

Originally, I went into this thinking that I would want the most simple, natural-looking lashes they’ve got. I go for a more no-makeup, minimalistic makeup look so I didn’t want to rock the boat on my daily routine so I thought that their Classic Lashes would be the best fit for me. Once I told her more about my personal preference and style during our brief consultation, she suggested starting off with a bang for my first lash set – the Simplicity Lashes. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do bang – like ever. Though I was a bit hesitant at first to have lashes long enough to tickle below my eyebrow line, I trusted my designated lash technician and wanted to get the full-on lash experience for the first time.

I laid back comfortably to position myself as best as possible for Cotori. As she taped my eyes shut and secured a light piece of paper under my eyes, I thought in my head, “What did I get myself into?,” but I laid back, relaxed, shut my eyes and let the sweet sound of the R&B ambiance whisk me into a short nap. I even caught myself lightly snoring a bit, but woke myself up in time to not cause a disturbance and save myself from slight embarrassment. “Are you awake?,” Cotori asked and surprisingly that was enough to render me conscious back into the real world. I sat up to see myself in a handheld mirror and was instantly impressed. These eyelashes really did a number on my face. The Simplicity Lashes had a cat-eye effect that allowed my eyes to go from short to long from the inside of my eyes to the outside and were just long enough to where I didn’t look unnatural. I was in love, to say the least. But, how do you take care of them once you’re back into the outside world?

“Lash extensions are very low maintenance on a day-to-day basis. The one thing you can do is wash them with a lash shampoo, which Joire’s spa also offers,” a Joire’s Spa & Studio lash technician told ESSENCE via email. “This keeps them clean while also helping with retention. The cleaner the lashes the longer they will last, [but] just be gentle.” With this in mind, I absolutely had to purchase the lash shampoo following my visit.

“Keep them clean, be gentle on them – no rubbing, pulling, or tugging – and brush them through with a spoolie brush daily. Other than that, you can wake up and go,” the technician continued to advise. For the next few days, I was absolutely in love. My eyes did have a noticeable difference and I don’t think I’ll ever be going back to mascara again unless absolutely necessary. Joire’s Spa & Studio did one thing – that.

Fast forward nearly a week later, my eyelashes did take some getting used to. Per my expectations, they began to fall out after about a week and a half of use, which was anticipated because I knew I’d be wearing a lot of makeup the following week and following up with rigorous wash routines afterward. I found myself readjusting my nighttime and daytime skincare routine to accommodate the lash shampoo, and I couldn’t really use my Just Beauty CBD eye serum, or else my eyes would become irritated from the product. Otherwise, I got many compliments on my eyes. It did save my going out routine a lot of time as opposed to carefully applying mascara for minutes on end to give myself a falsies-inspired look. In conclusion, I’m booking my fill-in appointment for Joire’s Spa & Studio as we speak to continue my journey with the lash extensions life. My lids will never be bare again!