MADONNA'S BEEN BUYING diamonds again, but she's not wearing them on her fingers. She's said to have spent US$10,000 on diamond-studded eyelash extensions. From jewel-encrusted, mink and metallic to plain, old dark and natural - eyelash extensions are the newest beauty must have. Celebrities such as Madonna, J-Lo, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Naomi Campbell and Jessica Simpson have all bought into the trend that originated in Asia. Extensions are individual lash-like fibres attached millimetres above your eyelashes, where you'd usually apply eyeliner. Experts say they're becoming more popular because, in most cultures, long lashes are a sign of femininity. Lashes also open up the eyes, and make women look and feel years younger, they say. 'Eyelash extensions give the face a fresh appearance,' says Elaine Chui, spokeswoman for Hong Kong's spa consultancy Paua Group. 'When applied by an expert, the effect is subtle. The extensions can be trimmed to achieve a natural look. Full, long lashes help to round the eyes. Individual lashes - which are usually applied on the outer eye area - give a glamorous look and add instant drama to any face.' Frederique Spa make-up artist Ruby Wan agrees. 'The impact eyelash extensions have on the face is to give you a wide-eyed, sparkly look - and they emphasise eye make-up,' she says. 'Clients often request extensions on special occasions to thicken sparse eyelashes or to add length to short ones.' Tracey Chung, 33, had semi-permanent eyelash extensions for a friend's wedding. 'I have very straight, short lashes,' she says. 'I wanted to look glamorous on the night, and someone told me semi-permanent extensions were a fast way to achieve this. 'I chose to have them at the outer end of my eye, and they were individually glued on, above my outer lashes. They only put in three or four; it was really quick. It looked amazing from the front, but a bit weird from the side. Only two people noticed I'd had it done.' Financial consultant Phoebe Lee also tried extensions - and was also impressed with the result. 'The process is pretty easy,' she says. 'They tape down your lower lashes - to make sure they don't glue your top and bottom lashes together - then they use a glue to attach the extensions. 'To begin with, it looked fabulous. Not only did it change the whole look of my face, but I didn't even need to use mascara. Although the process isn't uncomfortable, wearing the extensions can be irritating and itchy. 'At the end of the day, you want them off, but you can't get them off because they're glued on. You can't pull at them because you're scared you're going to pull your eyelash off too. And they seem to act like flytraps, attracting dirt and debris. But when they're first applied, your eyes look so good you can deal with the aggravation.' Eyelash extensions come in soft black and dark brown for a natural look, all the way through to the more colourful blues, purples, greens and golds for special occasions. Colours can be chosen to match your eye shadow. The extensions typically last three to four weeks, but can fall out within days. If you're left with holes or patches, you can get touch-ups. And if you want them removed, Chui strongly recommends going back to your salon. 'If you try to pull them off [yourself], there's a chance you'll damage your natural lashes,' she says. If you're looking for something cheaper and more temporary, brands such as MAC and Shu Uemura false lashes that are more sophisticated than the severe styles of the 1960s. Shu Uemura has 45 styles, including jewel-encrusted, metallic pink and blue, patterned and interwoven. They're lighter than the old-fashioned versions. 'It's a quick-fix accessory that you can wear every day,' says Anita Yuen, director of beauty at Harvey Nichols. 'And it can help enhance your total look for special occasions. Wearing false eyelashes is becoming more common. Both natural-length and dramatic will be a hot trend.' As well, you can get eyelashes tinted and permed, which can also enhance your appearance. Jennie Brewis from the Firm says perming is particularly popular with Chinese clients, but most people choose tinting. It takes between 15 and 45 minutes and prices start at HK$100, depending on the service. Frustrated by her short and straight lashes, Chung has tried extensions, perming and tinting. 'I've always used eyelash curlers,' she says. 'Although I find the plastic ones are more effective than the metal ones, it takes time and the effects aren't long lasting, so I decided to try perming. 'It certainly made a difference. The therapist squeezes the eyelash around a polystyrene rod and then applies the perm lotion. It's painless and obviously much milder than the one they use on your hair. I fell asleep. It looked amazing, but when new lashes start to grow in they point in a different direction, so they can get a bit tangled. 'I might do it twice a year, although therapists say you can do it more often.'