Beauty


When screen legend Bette Davis was asked by the Tonight Show host Johnny Carson 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.

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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 fertilizer, 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 color 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.”

My lashless eye appeared reptilian, freakish. The average upper eyelid flutters between 100 to 150 lashes. Mine now had zero.

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Good to go, I go and grow while immersing myself in all things lash related, starting with falsies—a rage that started in 1916, when silent-film director D. W. Griffith 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 supersparingly (definitely not to be confused with superglue sparingly), and only one that comes in a tube with an eyeliner-like applicator. Of all the fakes that I tried, I loved Ardell Faux Mink with invisiband best. They’re wispy, weightless, and ultra au naturel. And cheap!

Ardell Faux Mink Lashes, $5.99; ulta.com shop now

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Magnetic lashes aren’t pricey, either. I ordered an array, and not one of them worked. No amount of time and patience and help from my next-door neighbor 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.”

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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 am going to investigate the latest innovation in mascara at LVMH’s top-secret Hélios Research Center, a two-hour drive outside Paris. Rumor has it that their rad scientist Yohann Bichon has masterminded a new formula using a covert ingredient popular with NASA engineers, which 90 percent 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 authorization.…” Why is it that just reading the rules makes me want to break them?

Benefit Comestics BADgal BANG! Volumizing Mascara, $24; sephora.com SHOP NOW

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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 and 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 vice president 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 makeup 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.

This article originally appears in the April 2018 issue of ELLE.

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