Lashes: time for a backlash?

One of the most radical looks on the spring/summer catwalks did not have anything to do with clothes. From Clements Ribeiro and Christopher Kane to Missoni and Proenza Schouler, runway rebellion was fomented from the neck up.

Why? The models had just said no to mascara. Naked lashes fluttered; bare eyes blinked. To everyone’s surprise, it didn’t stop there. Six months later the movement has made the transition from runway to reality. Though many women wouldn’t leave the house without a flick of the (magic) wand, beauty industry leaders are convinced that going mascara-free is finally a credible proposition.

“It’s part of a move towards de-glamorising beauty and creating an updated idea of femininity that’s modern and elegant,” says Terry Barber, director of make-up artistry at MAC. “When it started as a catwalk trend a few seasons ago, wearing no mascara had an extreme, Tilda Swinton-like quality. But now it has a softer feel, allowing a strong lip to look chic without competing against the eyes and preventing a dark eyeshadow from looking over the top.”

Make-up artist Kay Montano points out that exaggerated false lashes have become as ubiquitous as fake tan and breast implants are among glamour models and reality stars. “We’re living in an age when many people want to disassociate themselves from aspects of beauty that now look cheap and tacky,” she says. “People are looking for something classy and understated. Pared-down lashes are becoming a status symbol.”

Barber agrees: “Everything in make-up now is about looking a bit fresh and boyish, rather than cheap and overly done.”

For anyone whose lashes aren’t naturally Bambi-like, this can be a hard sell. However, it does coincide with the rise in new technologically advanced lash boosters which could “persuade many women to try the ‘no mascara’ look”, according to Annalise Quest, general merchandise manager for beauty at Harrods. “Women are always looking for that wonder product that will enhance their lashes, be it a treatment mascara or the new wave of boosting serums,” says Quest.

Latisse – an eyelash enhancement product – has already sold more than 2.5m bottles in the US and is quickly gaining a cult following in the UK since its arrival at LashClinics under the name Lumigan. Produced by Allergan, the creators of Botox, it was formulated in 2001 as eye drops for people with glaucoma disease. Patients saw a remarkable improvement in length and depth of colour in as little as four weeks. In 2008, the product was adopted by the beauty industry after the US Food and Drug Administration approved its use for improving eyelashes. One of the ingredients is thought to increase the length of the hair’s growth cycle as well as increase the numbers of hairs growing. To apply the solution you put one drop on to the applicator and run it along your top lashline. It’s so potent that it requires a consultation with a LashClinics doctor who will provide it on prescription for around £200.

In Harrods the M2 Beauté Eyelash Revitalising Gloss, a light gel applied like mascara, has also gained something of a cult following. Ingredients such as soy protein and panthenol keep the lashes protected and hydrated, encouraging them to grow longer and stronger as well as slowing down lash loss.

Yet not all experts are convinced that the effect is so dramatic. “Serums will give you length but not thickness,” says London lash and brow specialist Daxita Vaghela. “If they are thin it’s just going to make them look long and spidery. You would still need mascara to give real volume.”

For those who are ready to end their dependence on mascara, Terry Barber advises “trying out bold lips first”. He says: “Women are often really surprised how easily they can make it work. If you do crave a touch of definition, try dotting a coffee coloured eye pencil between the lashes and blending it with a finger or brush. It’s a great alternative to the big power lash.”

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