By Laura Oberle The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)
They are a sign of femininity and beauty, fluttered by flirts and lavishly drawn on cartoons for gender identification.
When it comes to eyelashes, one thing is clear: The longer and fuller, the better.
For centuries, women have sought cosmetic remedies to artificially enhance their lashes.
But sometimes using mascara and an eyelash curler isn't enough; now many are turning to lash extensions for that added "pop."
False eyelashes date back to 1916, invented for the film "Intolerance."
Human hair was woven through fine gauze and applied to actress Seena Owen's eyelids.
Since then, technological advances have made eyelash extensions safer, longer lasting and more natural looking.
Synthetic extensions are attached to individual eyelashes with surgical grade adhesive. The extensions eliminate the need for mascara.
And it's all the rage, even in small towns.
Faces Day Spa on Hilton Head Island, S.C., began offering lash extensions two years ago.
It quickly became the spa's most popular service. With only two beds available for lash extension clients, technicians found themselves taking up massage and facial tables to keep up with the number of appointments.
Eyelashes were demanding a place of their own, and in September, Faces opened a Faces Lash Studio.
"I feel sexier with them," said Bethany Woernle, an esthetician and lash technician at Faces Lash Studio. "When you wake up, you don't have all that mascara running under your eyes. I can walk the dog and look good."
Takiya Smith opened Beautique Lash and Brow in Beaufort, S.C., in 2010 with the thought of running a modest business with a stable clientele. But that small business quickly grew; there are now four locations -- in Beaufort, Bluffton, Savannah and Dataw Island. Smith is hiring technicians to keep up with the growing demand.
"This is an industry that's not going anywhere," she said.
Beaufort resident Katrina Light has been getting eyelash extensions at Beautique for the past year.
"I've always been fascinated by long eyelashes," Light said. "They're the first thing I notice about people, even men, and I've never had very long lashes."
As a sergeant for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Department, she works nine-hour beach patrol shifts in the summer.
"With extensions, you don't get the raccoon eyes," Light said. "I can go without makeup and (I) look a little done up."
Light works with mostly men and when she got her first set of lash extensions, they noticed something was different about her. "Did you get a new haircut?" they asked. "Is something different on your face?"
"They noticed something different, but they couldn't nail it," Light said. "The women did notice and asked if they were real. I've received a lot of compliments from girls."
She loves the look of lash extensions, the way her eyes, even without makeup, look brighter and bigger.
She believes they also make her look a little younger.
Like every other part of our body, eyelashes age. As we grow older, our eyelashes become thinner and shorter.
According to Tisha Martin, an esthetician at Serendipity Medical Spa on Hilton Head, we start to see a drop-off in eyelashes after age 30.
Smith has had clients who came to her after they were convinced their friends had had cosmetic surgery.
"They accentuate the eyes, making you look more youthful," Smith said. "They have a natural curl, so they open up the eye area."
One client came to Smith after she accidentally tore her eyelashes out with a lash curler. Smith applied lash extensions to the tiny hairs remaining while the client's natural lashes grew back fully over the next year.
Smith has also worked with chemotherapy patients who lost their lashes during treatment, which includes her only male clients.
The cost of the initial set of semi-permanent eyelash extensions range from to $60 to upward of $250, with more dramatic looks costing more.
The faux lashes will gradually fall off, and clients can get regular fill-ins to maintain the lashes, which cost between $30 and $70.
"By the two-week mark, you usually see enough shedding that you need a fill in," Smith said.
"We no longer offer eyelash extensions because of the damage it can do to lashes, especially now that Latisse is available," Serendipity spa owner Carrie Vormohr said.
Latisse is a prescription topical treatment applied to the base of your upper eyelashes, which grows and thickens the individual's own lashes. One prescription, which includes 70 doses, costs $175.
Martin said Latisse should be applied daily for the first prescription, but can be applied every two or three days after that for maintenance.
"When you stop, the effects stop," Martin said. "But after eight weeks of use, most people will cut back because their lashes are getting even too long."
While Latisse carries a risk of darkening the iris, Martin said that only occurs in patients with brown or hazel eyes, and only happens if the serum is dropped directly into the eye.
She said the most common side effect is redness and mild irritation, in which she advises clients to apply the treatment at night.
Martin said that lash extensions could come back to the spa based on the demand.
"Lashes ... they are 'the thing' these days," Martin said.