I’ve always had weedy eyelashes – pale, fine and stubby. I am the anti-Bambi, basically. And, before you all start, yes, it is absolutely a #firstworldproblem and nothing that can’t be solved with 8,000 coats of mascara. But, sometimes, I wonder what it’d be like to do mascara-unfriendly activities, such as running or swimming, and still look vaguely awake. Or, what it’d be like to leave the house au naturel without someone asking if I’m unwell or have been crying.
Lots of my friends swear by eyelash extensions, so I decide to give them a whirl. I go to a local beautician for a half set along my top lash line, rather than the full works. I’ve been warned a full set can look a bit Katie Price. The treatment involves lying on a bed, eyes closed, for about an hour, as she painstakingly glues individual false lashes on to my own ones. It’s a slightly strange experience, but I’m completely thrilled with the results: my lashes are long, dark and glossy without looking overly fake. I head off on holiday to a French beach the next day, delighted that I’m apparently free of faffing around with mascara for the next two to three weeks.
But, then, disaster – my new extensions start to fall out. With my own teeny lashes now starting to be intermittently visible along my lash line, I start trying to painstakingly dab mascara on to these ones, while avoiding the extensions, to even things up – so, ironically, it’s all now more of a faff than before. Then things get worse – the departing falsies start pulling out my natural lashes or snapping them off halfway down the hair shaft. A beauty-industry friend will later suggest that the extensions – which come in different sizes – may have been too thick and heavy for my fine lashes. I have to abandon mascara entirely as it only highlights the hotchpotch of different lengths. So, now I look like a total weirdo.
Back home and desperate, I drop 41 quid on RapidLash Eyelash Enhancing Serum because the reviews on the Boots website are so glowing. It contains "Hexatein 1 Complex" – me neither, but apparently it’s a mix of proteins, vitamins and moisturising ingredients – and you paint a line of the clear goo along your lash line every night before bed. Beauty editors I know have raved about these lash serums for the past few years, but I’d never been inclined to splash the cash until now. More fool me – it turns out to be the best £41 I’ve ever spent. It takes about three weeks to see a difference, but my lashes spring back to life, longer, stronger and glossier. For once, do believe the hype. Over the course of the summer, I basically go from having the worst lashes I’d ever had to the best.
After six weeks of RapidLash, emboldened I decide to ramp things up. I go for LVL treatment at the Vaishaly clinic in London (approx £80), a process that’s been around for a few years and is now popping up at salons nationwide. Length-Volume-Lift promises a more low-key look than extensions, as it enhances your own eyelashes. They are chemically straightened at the root, to lift them up away from the eye, and then tinted. It lasts longer than extensions – two to three months – and you don’t need to go back for infills. For the 45-minute treatment, I lie down, eyes closed, with a plastic shield protecting my eyes. A solution is applied and left to set for a few minutes and, once it’s removed, the tint is painted on. Anyone who had a perm in the 80s (*reluctantly raises hand*) will recognise the pungent smell of perming chemicals, a variant of which are used here. My weedy lashes lift a lot – I’m slightly alarmed by how vertical they are when I first look in the mirror but, thankfully, after a few days they drop a little. It’s a subtle look, which gives the appearance of wearing one coat of mascara – just enough to make me look more alert and less ragged in the mornings.
While LVL is certainly effective, it’s best for those with longer lashes that refuse to curl. The lift part of the treatment made my stubby lashes look even shorter. So, I’ve ended up going back to basics: hunting down a brilliant mascara. Lancôme’s Hypnôse Drama is my long-term love, but I’m currently having a deep flirtation with Chantecaille’s Faux Cils – it really suits my delicate lashes, building them up slowly but surely. Honourable mentions also go to Burberry’s Cat Lashes, with its hourglass brush that seems to apply just the right amount of formula, Charlotte Tilbury’s Legendary Lashes, which is as dependable as all of her products, and L’Oréal’s Mega Volume Miss Hippie, a good budget option at around £8. But my new absolute favourite is Benefit’s They’re Real!, from the brand that excels on all things lash and brow. The wand has a thin brush, with tiny bristles that go right round the tip – meaning you can get into all nooks and crannies. Plus, you can layer this over their primer for added oomph (or wear the primer alone for a low-key daytime look). A note on application that I can’t believe it’s taken me decades to realise: if you’ve got fine lashes that are easily overloaded, wipe the brush on a tissue to remove excess product. This banishes clumping and the chance you’ll look like Alice Cooper by lunchtime. And I’m also back on the lash – my nightly squidge of RapidLash, that is. That Bambi better watch his step.