From the catwalks of London, Milan and Paris to the pavements of Hong Kong, something is causing quite a flutter in the world of beauty. Eyelashes are back at the forefront of fashion and have sparked a mini boom in beauty products and treatments that offer improved lash length, thickness and curl without the need for heavy-looking falsies or layers of gloopy mascara. There is something to suit every taste and budget - from lash-boosting serums to increasingly natural-looking extensions - all created to help show off your lashes to their full potential.
'The trend in make-up today is all about accentuating,' explains Karen Grant, vice-president and senior global industry analyst at beauty trends research company NPD group. 'The return in popularity of eye products comes with a shift from strong, playful colours and all-purpose mascaras to products that subtly punctuate and dramatise features around a flawless and yet natural-looking face.'
The look, defined by incredible length and a flattering curl, was seen at several autumn-winter fashion shows recently; even typically lash-shy houses such as Chloe and Calvin Klein sent models out with fluttery falsies, while at Lanvin, Miu Miu and Yohji Yamamoto the trend was 60s mod with coquettish doll-eyed models playing homage to Twiggy and Brigitte Bardot.
Thankfully, the technology behind the latest lash-enhancing products is some of the most advanced in the beauty industry - Latisse, a prescription-only lash lengthener available in the United States, is based on a medical formula used for glaucoma patients, so safety and efficacy has been rigorously tested. In short, you get what you pay for.
Grow your own
Many lash-lengthening treatments are only available on prescription, but a handful of brands are beginning to launch over-the-counter alternatives.
NeuLash (HK$1,170, available at Harvey Nichols) is a lash boosting treatment that promises to transform short, brittle lashes into longer, fuller and stronger lashes that are ready for fluttering in four weeks thanks to a formula boasting proteins and vitamins that help replenish lashes and add shine and flexibility.
Another option offering eye-opening results is Enormous Lash's Eyelash Enhancing Serum and Conditioner (HK$900, available at Harvey Nichols), containing an active complex with hair restorative properties which claims to condition and strengthen to support the lashes' natural growth cycle. The brand also offers a mascara containing a less concentrated dose of the complex which, when used with the serum, is designed to boost the lengthening effects of the treatment. Last month Lancome released its Hypnose Precious Cells mascara (HK$230), promising densified, stronger lashes.
MAC has also jumped on the trend, launching yesterday in Hong Kong its Prep + Prime Future Length Lash Serum (HK$330), a patented lash booster that promises to promote natural growth for longer, thicker and stronger-looking lashes within eight weeks when used twice a day.
Shu Uemura's Lash Builder (HK$330) contains plant-derived ingredients including citric acid and arginine to lengthen, thicken and protect lashes from the overuse of mascara, extensions and false lashes.
And for a more purse-friendly option, L'Oreal Paris' Renewal Lash Serum (US$18.30), available at SaSa, also claims to boost lash growth and prevent lash drop, creating stronger lashes.
Many of the claims among the more expensive brands have been clinically verified. It's worth puchasing from a reputable source, as some alternatives available have questionable safety records.
A longer lash can help frame the eye, so give your long lashes a gentle curl to add femininity and definition. The most effective way to achieve this is by using a pair of lash curlers. For a beautifully natural look, finish off with a light layer of clear mascara and a neutral lip colour.
Shu Uemura make-up artist Yuji Asano recommends using eyelash curlers for a perfect curl. 'Naturally defined eyes are created with beautifully curled, clean and shiny lashes,' he says.
Lightly heat your curlers with a hairdryer to ensure you get a clean curl rather than a harsh right-angle bend in the lash.
Lancome make-up artist Petr Blecha also recommends using a primer before curling your lashes to hold the curve and protect against breakage. 'A mascara primer is a must as it helps condition the lashes so they don't break. It also creates nice curves which stay in play so you can say goodbye to straight or broken lashes,' he says.
Eyelash extensions can offer a dramatically different look in just a couple of hours. Browhaus on Lyndhurst Terrace in Central offers lashes worth batting in as little as 30 minutes thanks to its Express Lash in Bloom treatment (HK$450), which uses lightweight lash clusters to reduce down time, making them perfect for a lunchtime transformation. Its signature treatment, Lash in Bloom (HK4,700), takes a little longer (60 minutes) and uses individual high-quality fibres to create a natural, realistic finish.
'Asians tend to have short, straight lashes that slope downwards which can make the eyes look hooded and tired,' says Browhaus founder Cynthia Chua. 'The Lash in Bloom treatment frames the eyes, making them look brighter and more alluring, giving the face an overall lift.'
Extensions usually last two to three weeks, and Chua says the lashes don't need any special aftercare, but recommends you avoid using water or oil-based make-up removers directly on the lashes.
Elemis on D'Aguilar Street, Central, offers extensions using Japanese and Korean fibres (HK$880), which are available in a number of lengths and styles. Elemis spa's specialist beauty and cosmetics consultant, Katherine Chu, says the spa also offers eyelash perming (HK$580) as well as tinting (HK$330) for those who want to work with the lashes nature bestowed on them.
'Eyelash tinting can give dramatic results to people who wish to give their eyes a boost and make a statement,' adds Sharon Codner, regional spa director at the Peninsula Hong Kong.
'Once you've had your lashes tinted, there is no need for messy glue and the difficult application of false eyelashes.' The Peninsula Spa in Kowloon offers an eyelash and eyebrow tinting from HK$200. A patch test is required 24 hours before the treatment.
For something more daring, Shu Uemura's latest Lash Bar collection, Ethnocolor-scope, is inspired by traditional folk designs (pictured below). The Oriental Arch lashes are designed to accentuate Asian eyes.
Whichever method you opt for, you'll be surprised by the transformational effect longer lashes can create. And with so many options to choose from, there is no better time to get fluttering.