You are here: HOME > RESOURCE > LIP INK World > Cosmetic Industry News > Apr-07 > Vivian McInerny

Vivian McInerny

We used to think of eyelashes as little more than lid fringe, hairy filters useful for batting dust and particles away from our precious peepers.

But our perspective has changed in the blink of an eye. Well, actually, it was closer to an hour. That's how long it took esthetician Samantha Buel to adhere 12 black, synthetic, spider-leg-like extensions to her client's right eyelashes, convincing us that lashes are the new beauty frontier. Perfect brows? So last year. Full lips? Kiss off! It's all about lashes -- the longer, the thicker, the better -- and women are going to new lengths to achieve the look. The 3D-Lashes procedure performed by Buel at Jennifer's Spa in downtown Portland takes about two hours for two eyes, lasts about two months and costs $200.

So why do women want Bambi eyes?
Blame our love of makeup on genetic makeup. Our desire to look beautiful may be a survival thing. Experts who study these things, such as professor David Perrett of St. Andrews University in Scotland, are discovering that the definition of facial attractiveness is universal. Whether Asian, African or European, people tend to find feminine features -- wide-set eyes, full lips, raised eyebrows -- desirable in women. These features are most often associated with youthfulness, health and fertility -- essential for keeping the human race in the race. (In men, a strong jaw line, indicating a lot of testosterone, is considered appealing.)

It's not a new desire. In ancient Egypt and India, men and women lined their eyes with black kohl, akin to modern eyeliner. It may have been to ward off the curse of the evil eye, to protect eyes from the glaring sun -- football and baseball players still do it, albeit less glamorously -- or simply to enhance their looks.

Women have been batting goopy lashes since 1913, when a chemist came up with a Vaseline-and-coal-dust concoction for his sister, eventually refining and selling it as Maybelline, according to that company's Web site. But for some, temporary color wasn't enough. Permanent lash dyes caused the death of one woman and blindness in another and were prohibited for sale by the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938. The Food and Drug Administration reissued its warning against permanent dyes for lashes and brows in 2001, but sales persist.

In the '60s, women glued on doll-like false lashes for the day. Twiggy, Cher and Liza Minnelli wore lashes so long, it was a wonder they managed to keep their eyes open. By the time tearful televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker became a font of running mascara in the '80s, fake lashes were mostly worn by drag queens and Halloween tricksters.
In the late '90s, stylists made up models with pale, powdery lashes. The barer-than-bare look never became popular, but it was proof that the eyelash pendulum had swung as far as it could go.

Today, big lashes are up to bat once again.
A few years ago, new-and-improved false eyelashes hit the market. Instead of the hairs lined up on a sticky strip the length of the entire lid, tiny bits can be applied in pieces for a more natural look. lists 198 products just to curl lashes, including portable, battery-operated, heated curlers for the big-eyed girl-on-the-go. Other sites offer home perm kits -- yes, perms -- for lashes.

But wait. There's more. Dr. Jeffrey M. Ahn, an assistant professor at Columbia University, offers eyelash transplants. The surgeon takes a hairy skin graft from the back of the patient's neck and stitches it onto the eyelids, one hair at a time. The procedure, which takes about one hour, is done under local anesthetic. The downfall? The new lashes need to be trimmed regularly: They grow too long.