My, What Big Eyelashes You Have!
The pursuit of long, thick and dramatic eyelashes is not a new one. As far back as ancient Egypt, both women and men were grinding lead sulfide with other ingredients to make kohl, which they applied to the tops and corners of their eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes. This was most likely used as a protection from the sun and possibly to ward off evil curses. However, the look was decidedly chic. In nearly every corner of the globe since 4000 B.C., women have been pursuing the illusion of bigger eyes through shadows, liners, and especially eyelashes.
Eugen Rimmel (yes, of London) created a lash darkener called mascara as early as 1840. In the early 1900s, a man named T.L. Williams mixed coal dust with Vaseline and named the concoction Maybelline, combining the name of his sister Maybel and the main ingredient. Shortly thereafter, Hollywood began applying false lashes to its leading ladies that were made of everything from human hair to fringe. Mascara in tube and wand form, as we know it today, was introduced by Helena Rubenstein’s cosmetic company in 1957. And then, not much changed in the world of lashes – until recently.
In the 1990s, a prescription eye drop called Lumigan was being used to treat patients with glaucoma. In the third round of trials for FDA approval, clinical researchers at manufacturer Allergan noticed that an anecdotal side effect to Lumigan was that patients were growing prolific eyelashes. Not that anybody was complaining. Allergan, no stranger to cosmetic product potential (and profit) as the makers of Botox, began to see the possibilities. Lumigan was reborn as Latisse and approved by the FDA in 2008 as the first and only prescription drug to help grow longer, thicker and darker eyelashes.
Latisse works by keeping eyelashes in their anagen, or growth phase, longer. The result is that more lashes grow in, take much longer to fall out, and become darker in color through an increase in melanin. Instead of dropping the medication directly into their eyes, Latisse patients use a small brush to apply it to the top eyelid where the skin meets the eyelashes. This is done nightly before bed after all makeup is removed. (Author’s Hint: Squeeze just two drops into the Latisse bottle cap and dip the brush in once for each eye. You won’t accidentally lose any product and the brush will be more “wet.’ Plus, your Latisse bottle will last nearly two months instead of one.)
Don’t become discouraged if you don’t see much change after a month or more of use. Most people report an eyelash bonanza at or around 8 weeks of use. Full results are seen in 16 weeks. You may choose to go on “maintenance” applications of 1-3 times per week once you reach your desired length. If you quit using Latisse, your eyelashes will gradually go back to their natural selves.
Side effects are minor and include occasional eye itchiness, some redness in and around the eye and a slight darkening of the eyelid. All are reversible once Latisse is no longer used. Many patients are concerned about a permanent darkening of the iris, but this has never been reported by any Latisse user. The FDA required the warning when a very small number of Lumigan glaucoma patients reported iris darkening. It is highly unlikely with Latisse because it is applied to the skin and not the eye itself.
Latisse is the first product proven to actually grow real lashes from the inside out. But we can’t forget the other major improvement in the eyelash industry – the recent revitalization of the age-old practice of false lashes. No longer simply a strip of messy glue and drug-store lashes that pop off your lids as soon as you leave the house, falsies have gone modern in the form of eyelash extensions.
Today’s eyelash extensions offer high-glam, instant results and are made from either synthetic nylon hair or the combed and sterilized fur of a live mink, as made famous by Jennifer Lopez.
The eyelash extension procedure involves individually gluing 40-60 false lashes per eye to your existing eyelashes about 1mm from where they meet your eyelid. The process can take 1-2 hours, and it’s important to choose a provider with plenty of experience. This will not only help to eliminate mistakes and keep your eyes safer, it will likely save you valuable time.
The medical-grade adhesive provides strong bonding for each lash but does take a few days to fully “set.’ Newly extended lashes must stay dry for the first 12 hours and kept free and clear of pools and saunas for several days. Avoid oil-based makeup remover, as this will also break down the adhesive. A sealant is used to extend the life of the lashes, but maintenance is still needed every few weeks to replace the lashes that have fallen out along with your natural ones, which may unfortunately fall out quicker than normal with extensions. A full set of eyelash extensions without maintenance will last about 2 months.
Most eyelash salons have plenty of designs and lengths, from “office-safe” looks to Kardashianesque stunners. Some providers even offer a rainbow of colors, sparkles and pearls. Users say you can’t beat the dramatic and instant results, but rubbing your eyes after eyelash extensions is big no-no. That’s a tough one for some people. Once someone tells you not to rub your eyes, it’s really hard to think about anything else!
A full set of eyelash extensions costs $250-$400 and monthly upkeep is usually $50-$100. Latisse has an average retail price of $130 for a one-month supply (see author’s hint above). While extensions provide instant gratification, they will eventually fall out and possibly pull your own lashes along for the ride. Latisse forces you to wait a few months, but your lashes will eventually be skimming the lenses of your sunglasses. Whatever your choice, your lashes are sure to be amazing. We’ve certainly come a long way from coal dust and Vaseline.
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