Last year’s Google searches found women obsessing about their lashes – with ‘how to apply magnetic lashes’ and ‘what is a lash lift?’ both featuring in the top ten beauty searches of the year. Pinterest searches for ‘lashes’ also rose by 152%.
When I wrote a beauty column for a newspaper a few years back, to my surprise, most queries from older readers were about lashes, or lack of them. And today my older friends constantly quiz me about how to make their lashes longer and fuller. And why wouldn’t they? Long, voluminous lashes frame the eye and look youthful and pretty, whatever your age.
During my (almost) three decades in the beauty business, I’ve tested and tried a host of products. So, which are the best treatments and tricks to give your lashes that longed-for lushness?
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Super lash serums
I use a lash serum regularly. You might be sceptical, but today’s serums really do work to help stumpy lashes grow longer, thicker and darker. You may even see more individual lashes start to sprout.
Expect to see a difference after about a month of daily use, and to have lashes bumping against the lenses of your specs after three.
The daddy of lash serums is Latisse. This powerful prescription-only solution was used to treat glaucoma patients, until it was discovered that one side effect was to make eyelashes grow like weeds. If you are a suitable candidate, doctors at the online dermatology service dermatica.co.uk can prescribe it for £39.99 a month, delivered.
But non-prescription, less pricey alternatives can also be effective. Right now, I’m seeing results from a brand called Long4Lashes picked up from Amazon (£13, 3ml), but I’ve previously been pleased with the growth I’ve seen using Revitalash (£74, 2ml) and Rapidlash (£30.46, 3ml).
Non-prescription lash serums tend to describe themselves as ‘conditioners’, but the secret to their magic usually depends on synthetic prostaglandins – chemical compounds naturally present in the body, and which are the active ingredient in Latisse.
Pros and cons of prostaglandins
Potential downsides of prostaglandins include irritation and dry eyes, a red or purple stain along the lash line and possibly even permanently darkened eye colour, though the latter is rare. They can also shrink fat cells around the eye. If you have hollow eyes to start with, they may make your eyes look more sunken. On the upside, if you have puffy, heavy lids, they can create an eye-lift effect. All these side effects – bar eye colour change - appear to be reversible when you stop using the product. Unfortunately, so is the lash growth.
Avoid using prostaglandin-containing lash serums if you suffer from dry eyes. Otherwise, reduce the risk of side effects by only applying a single swipe of your brush on the upper eyelid. Never use enough to cause drips or you’ll get product in your eye or grow hair on your cheeks. Wait for the serum to dry before applying creams. When your lashes are long enough, try reducing use to a couple of times of a week.
Germaine de Capuccini Full Lashes Eyelash & eyebrow growth serum (£46.35, 8ml germaine-de-capuccini.co.uk)
This densifying booster gel is designed to lengthen and thicken eyelashes and eyebrows. Paint the clear serum on directly to the root of the eyelashes to stimulate the hair production, much in the same way you'd apply a thick coat of eyeliner, then close the eye and massage the serum in gently. Germaine de Capuccini products are fully vegan, not tested on animals, and are committed to their goal of becoming carbon-neutral - for example, since July 2019 the company have stopped using cellophane in their packaging.
Mavala Double-Lash (£12, 10ml amazon)
Designed to target weak and short eyelashes, Double-Lash by Swiss beauty brand Mavala strengthens and protects each individual eyelash, resulting in fuller, longer and healthier lashes. It comes in a small bottle with a short mascara-style wand for easy application; simply sweep on to your lashes from root to tip every night before bed.
Not all mascaras are equal in creating the fluttery, natural-yet-full lashes we all want; clumpy, brittle spider legs are not a good look. Pick volumising mascaras over lengthening ones, and stick to two coats.
Smudging can be a problem for those of us who have developed watery eyes, hooded lids, have oily skin or experience hot flushes. The solution? Tubing mascaras. These miracle-workers shrink-wrap lashes in a water-resistant coating that never, ever smudges. The tiny tubes stay put until gently massaged off with warm water. Usually the price you pay for staying power is lack of volume, but I’m currently on my second tube of Blinc Amplified Mascara. I also recommend Trish McEvoy Lash Curling Mascara. For evenings, I love Estee Lauder mascaras because they make my lashes thick and voluminous yet keep them soft and never spiky. Sumptuous Infinite is the one in my make-up bag right now.
How to apply mascara for maximum lash impact
For your fullest, longest-looking lashes, curl first with an eyelash curler, then work the brush firmly into the roots and wiggle it up through the length of the lashes, gently pushing them upwards and slightly towards your nose for a lifted look. Hold lashes in place for a few seconds with the brush to keep the curl as they dry. Turn the brush upright to catch the tiniest lashes on outer and inner corners.
Looking after ageing eyebrows and lashes
Fake (lash) it
Most of us have faded tips to our lashes and on no-makeup days, a tint helps reveal every vital millimetre. Go for black whatever your age for the prettiest eye-emphasis.
For a semi-permanent curl that makes a dramatic difference, try an LVL lash lift. The treatment involves perming your lashes upwards, then tinting them. You need to keep your eyes tight shut during the 45minute treatment, so it’s not for the claustrophobic, but the effect can rival extensions, which can be tough on your natural lashes and best reserved for special events. A lash lift costs from £30 to £65 and lasts up to eight weeks. Find a trained LVL technician.
And what about those magnetic false lashes? These clever fakes work by sandwiching your own lashes between two strips of false lashes with tiny, invisible magnets embedded in the strip. I’m the world’s clumsiest woman, and I’m too old to want to look like a Kardashian, but even I managed – eventually - to get them on. And what’s more, I loved them! The trick? Lay one set of lashes on top of your upper lash line, then pull up your lid with one finger and nudge the second set into place underneath. The magnets snap the two sets of lashes together, and they felt far more secure than old-school glued lashes.
The effect is striking rather than subtle and I wouldn’t dream of wearing them in the day. But for Hollywood glamour at night, especially if you are expecting to be photographed, they could be fabulous. Plus, because there’s no glue, you can reuse every set up to 15 times.
Lola's Lashes: Sapphire Lash starter kit (£35 lolaslashes.co.uk)
These magnetic lashes come with a magnetic eyeliner, so you apply the eyeliner as you usually would (to your upper lash line), wait a few minutes for it to dry (it must be completely dry, not tacky) and carefully apply the eyelashes. Each eyelash row comes with five tiny magnets that cling to your eyeliner; they're incredibly easy to apply, and they don't need you to have existing eyelashes already (so perfect if you suffer from eyelash loss for any reason).
There are three styles to choose from: Sapphire (the most natural), Diamond (longer and more voluminous) and Ruby (show-stopping glamour); in all honestly, Sapphire is more than glamorous enough if you're just after an evening look that will impress (Diamond and Ruby are perhaps best left to Hollywood starlet-esque young things...).
If you've ever struggled with applying fake eyelashes before, we can say with confidence that those days are over - so long as you can apply liquid eyeliner, with these magnetic lashes, you'll never struggle again.
Here’s my pick of the best lash enhancers for a flutter that’s set to stun:
Developed by an opthamologist to help his wife regrow her lashes after chemotherapy, this lash serum contains conditioning agents, peptides and a prostaglandin analogue. It really works to grow longer, healthier, more luxurious lashes, as long as you keep using it.
From £52 for 1ml revitalash.co.uk.
Gosh Eyelash Growth Serum
Here’s a bargain-priced, prostaglandin-free serum for anyone concerned by potential side-effects or who have found other serums irritate their skin. This serum uses a peptide - Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17 - to boost growth and promises longer, thicker softer lashes in just two weeks.
£9.49 for 10ml superdrug.com
Instant Effects Lash and Brow Volumiser
This hybrid lash conditioner, enhancer and primer swipes on like a mascara and claims to thicken lashes by 20% within two minutes and thicken lashes and brows by up to 40% after two weeks. Apply at night for a cumulative effect or wear under mascara to softens brittle lashes and add oomph to lashes. The invisible formula allows your mascara to look more dramatic without multiple coats. It incorporates the same peptide as in the GOSH serum and is prostaglandin-free.
£40 for 7ml myinstanteffects.com
Benefit They're Real! Tinted Primer
Lash primers may seem a step too far in your routine, but they allow you to build volume without having to apply clumping coats of mascara, plus they protect your lashes. This one, from Benefit’s hugely successful They’re Real! Collection works brilliantly, plus it comes in a mink-brown tint so you can wear it alone for a natural ‘I woke up like this’ look.
£21.00 for 8.5g benefitcosmetics.com
Blinc Mascara Amplified
Blinc invented tubing mascaras and this buildable, non-smudge, no-flake formula takes the innovation a step forward, with more volume and length than ever. It’s sweat-proof, tear-proof, water-resistant and great for sensitive eyes and contact-lens wearers. It also comes in black and dark brown. Apply to clean, oil-free lashes for the best hold. For even more luscious lashes instantly and over time, layer it over blinc primer (£22.20) which contains lash-growing peptides plus moisturisers.
£22.20 for 3ml blincinc.com
Trish MacEvoy Lash Curling Mascara
Say goodbye to panda-eyes with a volume-boosting, curl-promoting tubing mascara that will never smudge or smear and comes off without the need for eye-makeup remover – just gently ease away the tubes with gentle pressure and warm water. If you prefer a slimmer brush, opt for Trish’s High Volume mascara at the same price.
£22.50 for 5g libertylondon.com
Estee Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Mascara
At last! A lengthening mascara which also adds fluffy volume. Fibres both plump and extend stubby lashes, while resisting smudging and flaking, sweat and humidity. The dual-acting brush has a comb for length and separating lashes and short bristles to add volume – and it really works. Removes easily with makeup remover or wipes.
£26 for 8ml esteelauder.co.uk
Collection Lash Surge Mascara
Providing plenty of pigment and volume, this bargain best-buy compares well with mascaras five times the price. If smudging is an issue for you, opt for the waterproof formula. It comes in both Black and Brown Black for those who prefer a softer look.
L’Oreal Castor Oil-Enriched Paradise Volumising Mascara
One of the newest mascaras from L’Oreal, it conditions lashes and offers a spectrum of looks from natural to spectacular depending on how many coats you opt for. It feels light on your lashes too.
Eylure Luxe Magnetic Mink Effect Lashes Opulent Accent Lash
Not for the faint-hearted, but if you are willing to practice your application and yearn for Joan Collins-style glamour after dark, these magnetic lashes might be just what you are looking for. The half lashes fit on the outer corners of the eye and demand plenty of eyeliner. Apply mascara beforehand. The neat compact keeps them safe so you can wear them again and again.