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Latest fashion trend extends your eyelashes

FROM A PURELY practical standpoint, your eyelashes are there to help keep dirt and sweat out of your eyes.

But anyone who's ever wielded a mascara wand or seen a flirtatious flutter of fringe knows that they have another function: To make your eyes look pretty.

Don't discount this evolutionary perk. A little hubba-hubba is what guarantees that the human species continues.

And the newest way to get an eyeful of gorgeous lashes is eyelash extensions.

These aren't false eyelashes, which are glued to eyelids in a strip or in individual clumps for a day or evening and removed before bedtime. They're extensions of each eyelash.

Here's how it works: An esthetician trained specifically in this technique separates each eyelash and, using a medical-grade surgical glue, attaches a synthetic eyelash to the real one.

It's time-consuming sometimes it takes more than two hours and pricey $200 and up. And on some women, the lashes only stay on four to six weeks including a touch-up halfway through.

But the results are startlingly natural-looking and pretty, and many women who've had it done say they don't regret a penny.

The trend? Extend

As trends do, this one started in Hollywood.

Kristin Liang, who does eyelash extensions at her Burlingame business The Lash Bar, says it's still relatively new in Northern California. She's been an esthetician for three and a half years, but only started doing lashes last fall.

Several companies provide training and supplies to cosmetologists and estheticians. Some of the big names are Lavish Lashes, NovaLash and Xtreme Lashes.

Liang got her training through Texas-based Xtreme Lashes.

"It's kind of a science," she says. "It's like surgery. It's really precise, and it takes an attention to detail and a good eye. I love it."

In fact, the founder of Xtreme Lashes, Jo Mousselli, was an ICU nurse before she started the company.

She noticed that many women have short lashes.

"Mascara can only do so much for you," Mousselli says. "So I saw there was a need to enhance the lashes."

Since the process takes time and money, many customers do it only for a special occasion.

"It's nice for a wedding or a honeymoon," she says. "But there are people out there who really do love these lashes and become addicted to them. It's no different than having hair extensions or nail extensions. When you have something that helps your self-esteem and makes (you) look beautiful you're going to keep having it done."

Doing it right

But before you plunk down a couple of Benjamins for serious lashes, check up on your esthetician.

Palo Alto property manager Libby McBrian says the first time she had extensions done, the esthetician glued the lashes to her eyelid instead of her own lashes a big no-no.

She had them re-done by Menlo Park esthetician Mary Ely.

"I wanted it to look natural instead of fake, so Mary got to clean it up," McBrian says. "Some people like the thicker, more dense look, but I like it to be a little sparser and more natural-looking. Nobody knows I have false eyelashes on, but everybody says 'What's different?'"

To keep your fringe fine, you need to avoid rubbing your eyes, washing your face too vigorously, and give up mascara, especially sticky waterproof stuff. But most women don't mind the last one, because even mascara-free, their lashes look pretty darn good.

"The bottom line is the more you baby them, the longer they'll stay on," Ely says. "Some people really just want them for a special occasion, and they're going to put mascara on and let them all fall off."

Women who keep them on say that splurging on lashes lets them skimp on their other makeup.

"I always have them," McBrian says. "I don't have to wear one stitch of makeup anywhere else, and I look like I have makeup on. My face, because I'm not glooping stuff on it, is clearer, and I'm a happy camper."

To extend? Or not?

- To find a salon, try the manufacturers' Web sites:, or Ask where your esthetician was trained.
- Putting on extensions is time-consuming. If you find someone who claims to be able to do it in less than an hour and for less than about $150, be skeptical.
- Lashes should never be glued to the eyelid. The surgical adhesive should not smell bad or make eyes
- If you sleep on your stomach, rub your eyes a lot or are committed to mascara, lash extensions may not be for you.