WHEN MORE IS MORE a one-woman campaign for lash regrowth
When screen legend Bette Davis was asked by Tonight Show host Johnny Carson to name the best way an aspiring actress could get into Hollywood, she replied simply: ‘Take Fountain’ – referring to the avenue that runs parallel to Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. Bette was right. It’s still faster. I know, because not long ago, I was speeding along Fountain in the back of a cab, late for an interview, applying mascara and curling my lashes, when, in the midst of my squeeze, squeeze, squeezing, the brakes were slammed: my body jerked forward and back, and I was left staring in shock at the Shiseido curler in my hand, where my eyelashes were gripped, ripped from my lid. Next, an ear-splitting scream and a check in my compact’s mirror. My lashless eye appeared reptilian, freakish. The average upper eyelid flutters between 100 to 150 lashes. Mine now had zero. More frantic research: depending on when lashes are pulled in the growing cycle, total regrowth can take about two months. How patient could I be?
At the first sight of eyelash stubble, I decided to expedite the bloom using Latisse fertiliser, prescribed by my dermatologist, Sheryl Clark, MD. ‘Within two weeks, your eyelashes will get longer and darker,’ she assured me. ‘Keep using it and they’ll get thicker.’ Given my pale skin, Clark warned, my eyelids could turn red, but discontinuing Latisse diminishes the redness. (Yes, it happened, and yes, it did.) I also asked her thoughts on the warning in the package insert about the risk of having your iris colour turn brown. When an identical product called Lumigan is used directly in the eye to treat glaucoma, a very small number of patients have gotten brown flecks in their irises, Clark explained. ‘There’s never been a case that I’m aware of when using it for eyelashes,’ she said. ‘One thing I have seen, and it’s not common: you have fat cells behind your eyeball and it can shrink those adipocytes and make your eyes look a little sunken. Stop Latisse and it returns to normal.’ Good to go, I go and grow while immersing myself in all things lashrelated, starting with falsies – a rage that began in 1916, when silent-film director DW Grifth outfitted his Intolerance star Seena Owen with a bespoke set sewn by his wigmaker and applied with spirit gum. A century later, I tested nine fake makes, their application being the beauty equivalent of an extreme sport that, to win, requires 10 000 hours of practice, patience and an occasional Ativan. My hard-earned tips, so you don’t end up with ‘llama lashes’, that drag-queen delight, or with your eye sealed shut: avoid lashes mounted on a black strip – a sure bust for counterfeiting. Never use the whole strip; cut each in half and apply to the outer lids for a cat-eye effect, or mid-lid for round, eye-opening impact. Use glue super-sparingly (definitely not to be confused with super-glue sparingly), and only one that comes in a tube with an eyeliner-like applicator. Of all the fakes I tried, I loved Ardell Faux Mink with invisiband best. They’re wispy, weightless and ultra-au naturel. And cheap! Magnetic lashes aren’t pricey, either. I ordered an array, and not one of them worked. No amount of time, patience and help from my next-door neighbour got them situated anywhere close to correctly. I even asked my dermatologist to give them a go. ‘I couldn’t get them on!’ Clark reported back, warning that removal was tricky too. ‘You have to slide them apart,’ she explained, so you risk pulling out your real lashes sandwiched in between. Over time, ‘you can scar the follicle and if it’s gone, you can’t make a hair. They never grow back.’ Two months post-whiplash, my own eyelashes are back big-time and my lash mania is at an all-time high: 30 000 feet over the Atlantic on an Air France flight, to be exact. I’m going to investigate the latest innovation in mascara at LVMH’s top-secret Hélios Research Centre, a two-hour drive outside Paris. Rumour has it that their rad scientist, Yohann Bichon, has masterminded a new formula using a covert ingredient popular with NASA engineers, which 90% of testers said gave them a ‘dramatic increase’ in volume. Bright-eyed and bushy-lashed, I pull into the LVMH laboratory parking lot, where I’m met by a man in black who insists I sign a form in which I agree to behave and follow ‘the Fundamental Safety Rules’, which include: ‘I don’t run. I don’t deactivate safety devices. I don’t touch electric boards without authorisation...’ Why is it that just reading the rules makes me want to break them? I enter the LVMH mother ship, a massive steel and glass structure, where I’m greeted by hunky model astronauts in silver space suits so tight you can see the rockets in their pockets. (Seriously.) ‘We’ve been working on this mascara for four years,’ says Julie Bell, Executive Vice-President of Global Marketing & Innovation at Benefit Cosmetics, unveiling a tube of BADgal BANG! Volumizing Mascara on the screen behind her. ‘For four years, we’ve tortured our scientists!’ She laughs... but is she kidding? Bell turns the floor over to LVMH Research Executive VicePresident Bruno Bavouzet, who isn’t so much tortured as just très French, and très proud of the 300 scientists and researchers who work on their brands (which also include Dior, Fresh and Guerlain). On cue, Bell hands out tubes of BADgal BANG! ‘You’re going to see something that’s never been shared with anyone,’ she says, leading us up to the second-floor laboratory, where we receive lab coats and protective glasses and are invited to dip our fingers into beakers of hard wax, pigments, polymers, soft wax and the silver bullet: ‘aeroparticles’, a space-age, almost-lighter-than-air substance that allows buildable, weightless lashes. Three coats later, my lashes look astronomical indeed. The next morning, I take off for New York, having still not taken off yesterday’s mascara – determined to test the claim of its 36-hour staying power. (It did stay, and then some; and I can only hope it doesn’t retain that power in my washcloth.) Back in Manhattan, scrolling through Instagram photos, I catch a post of Hilary Duff’s arm bearing a fresh tattoo in fancy script: ‘Take Fountain.’ I wonder if Duff knows just how Bette Davis really, truly got ahead in Hollywood. The answer was in her make-up bag. ‘Do you want to know the secret of my success?’ Davis asked her biographer, Charlotte Chandler. ‘Easy. Brown mascara.’ No surprise, it’s all about the eyes.
Containing a covert ingredient popular with NASA engineers, Benefit BADgal BANG! Volumizing Mascara, R295