Check out this great article in the New York Times by Judith Newman! Read the whole thing by clicking on the read more tag or go straight to the original post here.
“YOU look so ... glamorous,” says a fellow mom at my son’s Sunday morning soccer game. “Thank you!” I reply, slightly puzzled, as I’m wearing no makeup, yoga pants, a puffy jacket and a “Dog Is My Co-Pilot” T-shirt.
She stares at me, with a look more concerned than admiring, until I remember. “Oh, you mean the lashes,” I say.
“I didn’t want to embarrass you,” she whispers conspiratorially. I cringe a little as I realize my eyelash extensions gave her the impression I’d recently done the walk of shame from someone’s apartment and had forgotten to remove the damning evidence.
Tragically, my days for that walk are behind me, but the extensions had worked: they had given me that tiny jolt of youthful eroticism, even on a dreary Sunday morning.
Later that day, while I was still in soccer mom mufti, a cabdriver about 20 years my junior stopped his cab (even though he was off duty — score!) and during the ride asked me out for coffee. He said I had beautiful eyes. This kind of thing happens to me approximately never.
For the next few weeks I continued to think of the extensions as my Mrs. Robinson lashes, remembering that Anne Bancroft had lured Dustin Hoffman with her own set of alarming feather dusters.
I had always enjoyed having thick, curly eyelashes. When I was a kid, between the eyelashes and the ringlets, the Shirley Temple moniker got thrown around a lot. My eyes were expressive, I was told, and if eyes are windows to the soul, I always thought my lashes were a pleasant window treatment.
But age had taken its toll, and they had thinned out in the last few years. I thought I could use a bit of time travel on the cheap. And maybe it was my imagination, but I’d noticed that everyone, be it teenagers or grandmas, suddenly seemed to have lashes that would make a llama jealous.
As it turns out, I wasn’t hallucinating. In 2010 Women’s Wear Daily reported that while most beauty sales had been flat, false-eyelash sales were up about 6.2 percent, to $44 million annually. Lash extenders, prescription and nonprescription, were batting their way into everyone’s makeup bags, and there are now eyelash extension emporiums in New York and Los Angeles with names like Wink, Barbi Eyelashes and, inevitably if infelicitously, Eye Do.
At these places, where in addition to the rather dizzying variety of lash lengths and textures that can be yours, you can buy tiny ornaments to affix to the lashes. “Right now there is so much lash lust,” said Lindsay Ebbin, the national retail and makeup director for Red Door Spas, which recently added lash extensions to its services. “With celebrities like Katy Perry, Adele and Kim Kardashian, well, thicker and longer is what everyone wants.”
Hard to argue there. And with the economy still shaky, women are looking for a quick fix that doesn’t break the bank, and just like a new lipstick, a $10 pair of false eyelashes or $20 mascara with lengthening fibers woven into the goo (sample name: Illegal Length by Maybelline) give satisfaction.
“Eyelashes are the new breasts,” said the writer and former call girl Tracy Quan, who blogs about pop culture and sex for The Daily Beast. “Maybe you can’t invest in larger breasts right now,” Ms. Quan said, but an inexpensive pair of lashes can also give you an instant lift. Presumably so when you tell him, “Hey, I’m up here,” he’s actually looking up there.
It’s hard to deny the heart-melting effect of a pair of long lashes delicately lowered and raised, as everyone from Disney animators to Vladimir Nabokov could tell you. ( “I composed a madrigal to the soot-black lashes of her pale-gray vacant eyes,” Nabokov wrote of his Lolita, capturing Humbert Humbert’s tenderness and illicit passion in one line.)
Long lashes are innocent and seductive at once; who can forget the tremulous tears on Elizabeth Taylor’s lashes in “National Velvet,” presaging a lifetime of lash envy? (Taylor was actually a kind of mutant, with a natural double set of lashes.)
On the other hand, in the wrong circumstances, people gifted with long lashes can seem suspect. A woman who bats her long lashes can seem to be flirting — but the gesture, according to body language experts, also indicates she is about to ask for something. And men? The actor Alan Cumming, who has extraordinary lashes, tells the story of filming “Emma” and being accused by his co-star Greta Scacchi of trying to upstage her by wearing falsies. “I was playing a vicar,” he said incredulously.
The desire to make eyes more powerful weapons of seduction is hardly new. Kohl was used to darken eyebrows and eyelashes in ancient Egypt (fixatives included honey and crocodile stool); darkening and lengthening lashes involved many products over the years — ash was popular — but became closest to what we know now with the development of petroleum jelly in the 19th century.
The idea of actually gluing on eyelashes began with the film director D. W. Griffith who, while making his 1916 masterpiece “Intolerance,” decided he wanted his star, Seena Owen, to have lashes that brushed her cheeks each time she blinked. Since that’s a bit of a stretch for natural lashes, he enlisted a wigmaker to fashion tiny strips of human hair and affix them to her lids. (The look was bizarre and the movie tanked; but her co-star George Walsh married her, so the lashes must have counted for something.)
It wasn’t until 2006 that the Japanese pioneered a more natural-looking method of affixing lashes with very temporary glue, one by one.
Newer still is Latisse, the prescription eyelash lengthener. It came on the market in 2008, after doctors discovered that the active ingredient in a glaucoma drug, bimatoprost, had the startling effect of causing patients to grow long, luxuriant lashes. (Linda Branagan, a health care consultant from San Francisco who was diagnosed with glaucoma last year, said, “I am pretty happy to have great lashes as a side effect of not going blind.”)
It works well — in fact, a little too well. Ellen Marmur, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, shows patients how to trim the eyelashes while holding them steady with an eyelash curler. “Otherwise, they get so long they interfere with their glasses.” (After about a month, you don’t have to use Latisse every day; twice a week will suffice.) Even the rather alarming side effect of the drug — that it can make blue eyes darker — hasn’t deterred clients. “And by the way, it’s not really true,” Dr. Marmur added, “though it can make hazel eyes darker, by increasing the number of dark specks of pigment in the midst of the green.”
It did deter me. I have exactly the kind of hazel eyes that were just daring Latisse to mess with them. So I opted instead for the lash extensions. Because I was a little nervous about anyone hovering around my eyes with pointy instruments, I, just as any Kardashian would, paid $500 to Courtney Akai, widely thought to be the diva of eyelash extensions in New York.
“Welcome to my Pink Palace,” she cried as I walked in, and indeed it was floor-to-ceiling pink. A shrine to Hello Kitty stood in one corner. She patiently discussed types of extensions, colors (pink or green: an option!) and length. I decided to be bold, though not purple-lash bold; just kind of a couple of millimeters longer than I thought I’d be comfortable with. And I was right.
“You have to be a little O.C.D. to do this all day long,” Ms. Akai said, as she cheerfully and meticulously glued 90 to 130 tiny silk hairs to each of my own lashes. It took about two and a half hours, and she did only the top lashes (she can also do the bottoms). Since I asked for a glue for sensitive eyes, I was told they would probably fall off within two weeks. Yet they’re still there three weeks later, making me look like a superannuated Betty Boop.
Next time (if there ever is a next time, because even after an hour of lying motionless like that, I felt the need to join the Rockettes to regain my sanity), I would pick something a bit more natural. I just don’t live a big-lash life. It was like walking around with a tiara all the time, while not, in fact, being the queen or Miss America.
Diane Ackerman, the naturalist and author of works like “A Natural History of the Senses,” summed up the current craze best for me. “Eyelashes evolved to keep debris out of our delicate eyes, and long ones do suggest femininity and youth,” she said. “But the ones woman are wearing now look more like an accessory than makeup, the equivalent of high-heeled pointy shoes for the eyes.”
And there’s something about these eye accessories that may be glam and sexy — but at a distance. They don’t invite intimacy. They’re for making statements, not love. “If you enjoy the tenderness of entwining eyelashes with a loved one until you’re not quite sure whose eyelashes are whose,” Ms. Ackerman said, “then your own silky strands work best.”