Go on, flaunt those fake, flashy lashes

From left: Reality television star Kim Kardashian West and singer-songwriter Nicki Minaj sporting spiky eyelashes; Adele's trademark dense fluffy eyelashes channel retro glamour.
Reality television star Kim Kardashian West (above) and singer-songwriter Nicki Minaj sporting spiky eyelashes.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
From left: Reality television star Kim Kardashian West and singer-songwriter Nicki Minaj sporting spiky eyelashes; Adele's trademark dense fluffy eyelashes channel retro glamour.
Reality television star Kim Kardashian West and singer-songwriter Nicki Minaj (above) sporting spiky eyelashes.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
From left: Reality television star Kim Kardashian West and singer-songwriter Nicki Minaj sporting spiky eyelashes; Adele's trademark dense fluffy eyelashes channel retro glamour.
Adele's trademark dense fluffy eyelashes channel retro glamour.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Women no longer need a special occasion to put on dramatic fake eyelashes, thanks to celebrities, reality TV and social media

WASHINGTON • Whether you talk about celebrities on the red carpet, TV anchors, a former first lady or the barista at your local Starbucks, eyes are rimmed with thick dark fringe.

In this era, women of all ages have eyelashes so long and lush that a sideways glance is akin to a monologue on femininity, personal power and the irresistible pleasures of Sally's Beauty Supply.

What was once make-up reserved for a special occasion has become everyday glamour.

False eyelashes are everywhere.

Delicate butterfly wings. Furry caterpillars. Spidery appendages. Lashes that recall a long-ago era - the 1950s and 1960s - of effort and agreeable artificiality.

Fussy, fake lashes are a counterbalance to today's who-gives-a- hoot sweatpants and hoodies. And they are their own form of 21stcentury feminism - Chimamanda Adichie style.

If a girl likes make-up, "let her wear it", the acclaimed novelist advised last year. "Women have learnt to be ashamed and apologetic about pursuits that are seen as traditionally female, such as fashion and make-up."

Big, spiky, dramatic ones helped turn Kim Kardashian into a reality- show mogul.

Dense fluffy ones are fundamental to the retro glamour of singer Adele.

ABC drama The Catch would lose a smidge of its glittery, cat- and-mouse panache without the coquettish lashes of star Mireille Enos.

And wispy strips are part of the make-up arsenal of any female news anchor worthy of a close-up.

Since 2012, false eyelash sales have grown by 75 per cent.

By at least one estimate, it is a US$170-million (S$238-million) market.

And there is still room to grow.

Some wearers aim for subtlety. They do not want you to notice their lashes as much as they would like you to simply admire how their eyes just seem so big and beautiful.

Others revel in the sheer audacity of their falsies, layering two strips of lashes on a single lid.

So what if one strip is not quite tamped down? Yes, that is a cream-coloured blob of errant glue. There is glory in the fakery.

According to Eyelash magazine - a trade journal - the most indemand lashes are those framing the eyes of Kardashian, her halfsisters Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and actress Angelina Jolie.

False eyelashes are ubiquitous in other countries as well, says Mr Carl Ray, the well-travelled make-up artist to former first lady Michelle Obama.

Mrs Obama may or may not be wearing false eyelashes - one will have to zoom in close on all those fancy dinner and inauguration photographs and judge because Mr Ray is not going to discuss the state of her lashes.

Some natural lashes look robust, thanks to many, many coats of mascara. And some people use the lash-growing serum Latisse.

In general, however, Mr Ray does not recommend that clients wear false eyelashes to, say, a parent-teacher conference or the grocery store.

"I recommend them for pictures and special occasions."

He adds: "When you wear lashes, you don't have to wear much make-up. You're always camera ready."

False eyelashes "change the shape of your face", says Ms Kelli Bartlett, director of make-up artistry for Glamsquad, the in-home beauty Swat team that recently opened in Washington, DC. "They elongate the shape of the eye."

For those attempting the no- make-up make-up look, lashes become key.

"When you have a flirty lash and eyebrows, you feel on point."

Ms Bartlett confides that she has been called "the lash whisperer".

"I can get them on in under 90 seconds."

Search Amazon's beauty category for false eyelashes and one can find more than 15,000 listings. There are cruelty-free lashes, reusable ones, human hair types, synthetic mink options and real mink varieties.

Students of popular culture might remember that singer Jennifer Lopez wore red fox eyelashes to the Oscars in 2001 - along with a see-through Chanel dress.

And pop icon Madonna wore mink and diamond lashes during a promotional tour in 2004.

"Mink is considered the Rolls- Royce of lashes," Ms Bartlett says. They are soft and light.

But, really, how heavy can even cheap lashes be?

One could go to a boutique cosmetics company such as MAC and spend US$17 on a single pair of lashes. Or, do what the vast majority of women - and a lot of make-up artists - do and head to the nearest drugstore for a pair of Ardell lashes for as little as US$3.99.

What is driving all the lash love? Reality television. Celebrities. And social media.

Make-up tutorials on YouTube, including one by Adele's make-up artist, have demystified the application process, which frankly has not changed since Hollywood first started putting them on starlets' lids during the early part of the last century.

"Think of the women in the 1960s and 1970s who put them on every morning," says Mr Ray. "Practice makes perfect."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Go on, flaunt those fake, flashy lashes'. Print Edition | Subscribe