Like hemlines and cocktails, facial features go in and out of fashion, and right now, eyelashes are where it's at.
Five years ago, we might have wanted a plump, pillowy Angelina Jolie mouth, suffering through stinging lip glosses and shots of collagen for it. But these days the focus has shifted to a fat, feathery eye fringe. (Ask the Kardashians.)
"The goal is drag-queen lashes," said Amber Katz, 30, a writer, describing the look she wants on Saturday nights. "Veering into 'I sweat glitter' territory."
For her, and the rest of those craving disco-ready lashes without using falsies, there is an ever-growing arsenal of tools: over-the-counter lash-enhancing serums, semi-permanent mascaras that last up to six weeks and more traditional formulas that claim to impart tarantula-like spikes.
Latisse, the first federally approved prescription drug for growing longer, lusher lashes, was introduced in 2009, and a wave of similar but less potent over-the-counter serums has followed. There are at least 10, all introduced in the past year, that claim to make lashes look lengthier and fuller, from brands such as L'Oréal and Peter Thomas Roth, ranging from $15 to $125.
The products work on the lashes in two ways. First, they contain a molecule similar to the bimatoprost in Latisse, which prolongs the hair growth cycle so that your lashes don't fall out as often.
"It's not entirely understood why or how this type of molecule prolongs the growth phase of the cycle, but scientists know that it does," said Dr. David Colbert, a dermatologist. "And because it does, your eyelashes are in your face longer, so they grow thicker, and there are more of them."
The over-the-counter serums also purport to strengthen lashes by moisturizing them with ingredients such as pro-vitamin B5 and humectants.
"It's really about conditioning and giving the lash TLC," Colbert said. "If you moisturize anything, it's going to look better."
To be effective, the serums should be applied twice a day to the base of the lashes. Recently, DuWop Cosmetics co-founder Laura LaRocca and makeup artist Dawn Watts created the first lash-boosting formula with pigment in it so it can be used as an eyeliner. Called Line N Grow, it comes in black, olive and midnight blue, among other shades. Physicians Formula is introducing a similar product, called Eye Booster 2-in-1-Lash Boosting Eyeliner (PLUS) Serum, in March.
But it takes about four to six weeks of twice-a-day use of lash enhancers to see actual growth, and soon after you stop using them, your lashes will revert to their original, sparser state. Established side effects of Latisse include itching, irritation, redness and increased brown pigmentation of the iris; the over-the-counter products, which are not government-regulated, also are a gamble.
A less threatening solution might be LashDip, a semi-permanent mascara that lasts for up to six weeks. It was created by a makeup artist, Jessica Harley, and a hairstylist, Gina Mondragon, in Chicago.
"No-chip nail polish was a huge inspiration for LashDip," Harley said. "We thought, 'How come we can have semi-permanent anything now but not mascara?'"
Their invention, which is two years old and now available in about 50 salons nationwide -- including Jett Makeup in the Twin Cities, according to the company -- is a gel made of black pigment, acetone and stearic acid that's painted onto the eye fringe. The LashDip application is a three-step process. First, the lashes are cleaned with a sodium-and-aloe soap. Then the gel is daubed on by a cosmetologist or makeup artist to darken and shape the lashes. Finally, it's dried and sealed with a glycol- and alcohol-based finishing solution. The procedure takes 45 minutes and costs about $200.
Not everyone sees a reason to toss their wands yet, though. Jenn Falik, who hosts "Beauty BFF" on MSN, prefers regular mascara to any of the new high-tech options.
"I love that ritual of applying black lacquer to my lashes and seeing the difference different formulas can make," she said. "Adding a lash enhancer would feel like cheating."
For those like her, there's the new M.A.C. Haute & Naughty Lash, for $18, with a dual brush that lets you create either defined, combed lashes or thicker, more product-loaded ones, depending on your mood. Ultraflesh Panthera ($26) is made from natural waxes that will keep your lashes soft and has a comb to help give a cat's-eye look. And Lorac's Multiplex 3D Lashes ($22), which supposedly triple your lash volume, will be out in the spring.
Of course, by then you might be ready to move on to, say, hot-pink cheeks.
Includes staff reports.