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Unabashed LASH

Beauty technology gets an update as eyelash architecture enters a skyscraper era.

October 29, 2005|Valli Herman | Times Staff Writer

SCAN the celebrity tabloids, flip on daytime TV or even the national news and you'll see them. Amid the amazingly ample breasts, the unlined foreheads and the full lips are sets of long, dense, fluttery eyelashes.

You may cynically, and rightly, assume that implants, Botox and collagen have worked their magic on more than a few of these body parts. Guess what? The lashes are fake too.

Look closely at Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, Eva Longoria, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan and a long list of cable news anchors and you'll spot the telltale signs: thick eyeliner (to hide the false-lash strip edges); lashes that nearly touch the brows (only freaks of nature grow them so long); a spidery pattern of spikes that would make Liza Minnelli proud.

The old obsession over big lips has given way to a new fetish for big lashes. It started with the troupes of thick-lashed lasses walking the runways for lofty fashion houses. Fashion magazines and celebrity stylists picked up on the notion, and now the rest of us are buying record numbers of "fortified" mascaras and flocking to salons offering the latest beauty fad: eyelash extensions. False eyelashes have lost their tarty image and are stopping traffic at upscale cosmetic counters, such as at Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue.

And at last, top makeup artists are coming clean about how they make the stars' eyes shine so bright. "False eyelashes are the best-kept secret in makeup," said Vincent Longo. "I've been doing lashes for 22 years, and I don't think false lashes have ever left my kit."

Lash extensions are creating the most buzz. In the painstaking, two-hour process, a technician glues about two dozen individual, artificial lashes onto each eyelid's natural lashes, one by one by one. (If the technician is careless, the glue can catch a clump of lashes; see story, Page 24.) The service is becoming popular nationwide. Locally, it can cost $150 in a Pasadena nail parlor, $250 in a Beverly Hills hair salon or $45 in a Beverly Boulevard permanent makeup boutique. Some practitioners say the single lashes are an aesthetic improvement over the three-lash, semi-permanent lashes that have been around for 30 years or more and that cost less than $10 at a drugstore.

Unlike mascara or false eyelashes, the new extensions can remain in place for four to six weeks. The investment of time and money makes eyelash extensions an option for women who want round-the-clock, low-maintenance glamour.

Never mind the time and expense of upkeep, with refills at $35 to $100. Eyelash extensions are becoming so popular that an Orange County extensions-only salon called Luscious Lashes opened four months ago in Laguna Niguel.

"We live and breathe lash extensions," said owner Sheri Mansur,who charges $175 for a full set; $35 for refills.

Still, mascara remains the top choice for enhancing lashes. There are more mascara varieties than ever -- thickening, lengthening, curling, volumizing, nourishing, stretching, push-up, padded, whatever. Mintel's Global New Products Database counted 176 new eyelash enhancement products, mostly mascara, that were released last year, up from just 48 in 2002.

Though some mascaras may achieve a Tammy Faye-meets-Twiggy blackness, most women aim to look natural, said David Woolf, vice president of sales for American International Industries in Commerce, parent company to Ardell and Andrea brands and the country's largest manufacturer of false eyelashes.

"I call them a prosthetic cosmetic," said Woolf. "They don't want to be seen without them." As a result, once a woman adopts false eyelashes, she's likely to stick like glue to one particular style. False eyelash strips, if carefully handled and kept clean and free of mascara, can last indefinitely, according to Woolf. Further, the latex-based glues for false eyelashes have a long safety record, according to the state Department of Health.

To make that first, crucial experience with false eyelashes easier, American International created $5.49 starter kits for their brands that include adhesive, a moderate style of lashes and an eyelid-wide applicator that looks like an overgrown tweezer.

October is a crucial time of year for the false eyelash industry. Among the many women who don a pair of purple glitter lashes for Halloween, one or two may convert to daily wear -- of something somewhat tamer. But unlike years past, when false eyelashes were sold mainly in drug or grocery stores, lash neophytes now are getting application help at upscale department stores.

As false eyelashes gradually shed their tarty image, cosmetics companies such as M.A.C, Shu Uemura and Vincent Longo have begun offering false eyelashes at Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York or their own tony boutiques, training the sales staff in application techniques.

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