“You’re not gonna put on lashes? Like, none at all???!!”
I’ve heard some version of that exasperated inquiry at some point during almost every theatrical production I’ve been in. The revelation that I don’t like wearing false eyelashes has stopped pleasant conversations dead in their tracks and caused even good friends to gasp and side-eye me with gazes of judgement and confusion.
False eyelashes for everyday wear have grown immensely in popularity, but more on that later. To fully understand my personal place as an Eyelash Outsider, I ask you to consider that I’ve been a stage performer since I was very young, beginning with dance recitals from elementary school age.
While “dance recital” is a rite of passage for many children that doesn’t always translate to “stage performer” I was able to get scholarships to some pretty advanced places in NY, and their recitals were more like full-scale productions than a chance to smile for your dad’s camcorder, makeup included. The littlest girls were spared the Toddlers and Tiaras treatment, but the rest of us were absolutely expected to take the stage in full beat faces while still little girls.
My mother wasn’t around as much as the other girls’ moms were, so I learned how to apply makeup by watching, having bought some from the drug store with whatever money I got from my grandmother and aunt palming me folded-up twenties on Sunday visits like Henry in Goodfellas. Lashes weren’t something I could figure out by watching, so I let them go.
When I got deeper into my teens, experimenting and swapping makeup tips with friends at school, I also started going out more and hanging out with a few guys who did drag, who tried in vain to get me into the lash life. I could never quite get the hang of the application, and if someone else applied them for me, even well, they felt awkward and heavy, like my eyelids were doing deadlifts at the gym and running out of steam before finishing a set.
In Broadway musicals, of which I’ve done a few, not wearing lashes is so unheard of that one rarely announces it out loud, they just do an extreme cat eye with liquid liner and hope no one notices. I recently had a beautiful moment with an actress I was meeting for the first time who was talking about eye makeup and blurted out that she never wears lashes. This woman, who has an impressive NY stage resumé, used language like “I can’t believe I keep getting away with it!” as she confessed, “Sometimes I’ll wear them for the first week [of a production] while the makeup designer is around and then…buh-bye!”
As she mimed ripping invisible lashes from her eyelids and tossing them in the trash, I felt such a kinship. Sure, there are tons of theatrical endeavors with natural or experimental makeup designs, but for traditional Broadway musical theater, which is what I’ve mostly done? LASHES OR GO HOME.
As the years have progressed, I’ve gone back to trying with the lashes, because I do like the way they look on many people I see rocking them, and goodness knows that long, full, natural lashes were not in my portion of blessings at birth. I wore them in one show where I was meant to look outrageous, gluing outsized lashes right to my eyelid, and my sketch comedy ultra-conservative character Cookie Carter wears them, but they’re always askew.
Prime example of storytelling born of actual deficiency: I suck so much at applying lashes that I made that part of her character, with her flapping and falling lashes often becoming a comedic bit.
Fast forward to the middle of 2016, when technology has provided options for everyday wear and semi-permanent application in salons, and I’m still over here thinking I might like to rock some for a night out when I’m just Pia and not playing a character, but having mentally decided at some point long ago that I just can’t “do” false lashes.
They’ve been around for ages of course, with multiple designs appearing in the late 1800s, and then receiving a US patent in 1911 by a woman named Anna Taylor. But as time marches on, so many things that used to be accessible only to people in a particular field, like coding and lace-front wigs, are being practiced and purchased by whoever cares to.
And false lashes? I just didn’t care to. I had given up. Such was my mood when I got an email offer to try out a sample from a new line. I get lots of offers for samples; I only write about the ones I really love. I try some things and choose not to say anything about them, and some things I don’t try at all.
Lashes are in the latter category for me, and I truly scrolled by the email, thinking, Oh I don’t do lashes. I think I had just left an especially productive therapy session, because suddenly a little voice from within me said …but what if you did?
And THAT is how I came to be sitting across from the lovely Sirine Swed, creator of new lash line Battington Lashes, for a private coaching on the art of eyelashing.
The first thing Sirine advises is to use an eyelash curler on your own lashes, “to help match the bend in the silk lashes so everything looks like one.” Dammit I was already lost in the sauce at step one because, though I do own an eyelash curler, I rarely touch the thing, and I thought it was an option instead of false lashes. Oy.
Next, you take the lashes out of the case, hold them against your eye to measure them against the length of your own natural lash line, and trim them to fit. “Some people think they can just put them on out of the package,” Sirine told me, “but I’d say about 90% of people need to trim them, and you can also cut them completely in half to add fullness only at the center or outer edge of your eye.”
Then Sirine advises applying a light coat of mascara to your natural lashes (more news to me) and then drawing a thin line of lash glue to the band, adding, “make sure you apply a very light strip [of glue] because the lighter the strip you put on, the better they’ll stay on your eye. A lot of times people think the more glue they put on their eye, the better it will stay, and that’s not the case at all.”
You have to wait at least 30 (and up to 60) seconds before actually applying the lashes. According to Sirine, this is non-negotiable: “You absolutely have to let the glue dry for thirty seconds. You need it to get a little gummy. A lot of times people think it’s been thirty seconds but thirty seconds can actually feel like a long time, you have to count.”
The moment has come to place the lash band as close to your natural lashline as possible. This is where I really go off the rails, but Sirine says reassuringly, “The good thing is, once you put them on, you still have time to move them around. Sometimes people feel like 'Oh, I put them in the wrong spot, I’m stuck.’ No, you can still wiggle them around to where they need to be, and then hold them firmly in place until adhesive is set.”
As far as specific lash glues, Sirine recommended TrueGlue, which is another revelation! TrueGlue is the world’s only all natural, cruelty-free, non-toxic, latex-free eyelash adhesive. The only ingredients are rosewater, chamomile extract, biotin, candelila wax, pullulan, geranium, glycerin and castor oil, which actually moisturize your natural eyelids while functioning as an adhesive. I’m thrilled to have found out about True Glue, as my fear of irritation from eyelash glue is at least half the reason why I’ve avoided them.
But it’s a new day and this old dog has finally learned a new trick!
Battington Lashes come in 6 styles, each named for notable women from history. I started with the Earhart, the lightest and most subtle design.
I feel like this is what my natural lashes would look like if they grew more; a natural (for me), polished look that felt like there was nothing at all on my eyes.
This is one of the “3-D” multi-layered styles, the Bardot. They look like a lot, but they feel like next to nothing. Once I trimmed them, I felt good about applying them (finally!) and I was surprised to not feel that weighted-down feeling I’ve had in the past.
A gal could get used to this!
Before founding Battington Lashes, Sirine worked in the pharmaceutical industry and she wore lashes to work every day. She told me, “I’m obsessed with lashes, but what’s been on the market up to this point has been mostly synthetic or mink.”
Synthetic lashes tend to feel brittle and heavy, and they might last through multiple wears if you take care of them. Mink lashes are much more natural feeling, but they’re animal cruelty. Human hair and silk lashes feel the most natural, but they’re used mostly in individual lash extensions, which Sirine began wearing when she got tired of heavy false lashes.
When she began getting individual silk extensions and preferred the lighter feel, she wondered why this feeling wasn’t available in strip lashes: “I started searching the market and at that time there weren’t really any strip lashes made out of silk—I only found one company that made them, but I wasn’t in love with the band.”
Strip lashes generally come on a rigid plastic or acrylic band, so Sirine aimed to replicate that light extension feeling by using silk lashes on a cotton band, which makes Battington Lashes lightweight, comfortable, and wearable up to 25 times.