the lash question

  • unnatural lashes
  • and a really long-winded piece on tinting eye-lashes
  • no, this is not about flagellation, or, le vice anglais; sorry if you were looking for that sort of thing

Gingerrama in a state of nature: a rare daylight sighting


Some redheads have the guts to go au naturel. Unfortunately, I don’t. Few people have seen me without something on my lashes for some decades now. A long time ago, living in student accommodation, I would remove and reapply eye makeup in the morning: keeping it on all night just in case there was a fire-alarm, so I wouldn’t have to go outside naked of mascara. I was very anxious about such things. Still am. Slightly less so, though; the rehabilitative powers of true love do mean that, for several years, I’ve been able to “remove my eyes” at night and “put my eyes on” in the morning, and feel fairly safe and comfortable about it. It also helps to have a splendid sumptuous dressing-gown, heavy velvet, down to the ground, with a giant hood. As fire alarms in the middle of the night have been known to happen to grown-ups living in proper grown-up housing too; albeit less nightly frequently.

I also worry about mascara running during the day. Now, I have this bad habit of living in rainy places. Hence interests in tinting and in waterproof mascara. (There will be more on here on waterproof mascaras, and on their removal… with mention, I promise, of specific products.)

Gingerrama with mascara, tightliner, and concealer. Painted strumpet or what?

Black mascara on the redheaded: can actually look fine. More than that: so fine that I’ve reconsidered my long-held devotion to the maxim that redheads look best in brown mascara, and black’s too dark/stark. Let’s face it: whatever you wear will clearly not match your hair, let alone your eyebrows. While a rich brown’s good, most browns are greyish and not good. And darkening eyebrows is a very dangerous thing – very hard to get right, and not make brows – or worse still, hair – look tinted. Also, the black tones down pinkness on eyelids (though I’m still using concealer/base as well), and makes eyes look clearer and brighter – I guess makes the whites look more blue. Brown might still be better with lighter reds and blondes, and on really cool-toned skin; freckles seem to warm skin up just enough to carry the black.

Tightlining on the redheaded: if you have pale and/or fine lashes, just do it. You’ll not regret it. It will change your life. But do it in browns not black (or grey-blacks, or cooler tones): black looks off, wrong, too harsh, and kills the whole more-luscious-lashes effect. Not too dark either: slightly lighter than your lash colour adds to the perspective-illusion-trick that give you fuller-looking lashes at the roots. Plummy burgundies and some shimmer are manageable too, lift hazel-gold flecks in eyes, warm things up (but careful on the colours in the formula, depending on known sensitivities etc.)

Lash tinting: do your research first (on methods and salons), patch test for 24 hours first, and if you decide to go with this, make sure it’s someone you really trust and know is good.

I used to have my eye lashes tinted in Europe, for many years. Either brown-black or blue-black. Very nice, supposed to last for 6-8 weeks, but that’s calculating on average growth rate of a whole lash.

In practice, roots start to show in a week, mascara definitely needed within two weeks, and completely grown out in four. I reckoned it’s more of an idea for a special occasion or a vacation than for everyday. I should add that apparently tinting is illegal in many places, and dangerous as the hydrogen peroxide could be harmful if it lands in your eyes, and may have caused blindness in some cases. I did have a very entertaining telephone conversation with a lady at NJ’s department of whatever-it-was, in which she told me that ELT was illegal in NJ because it causes blindness. I pointed out I’d been tinted, and furthermore had had it done several times over the last ten years or so, and that I was not blind. This caused some consternation: I must be blind, and not have noticed.

Apparently there’s a new tinting technique using vegetable dyes and no hydrogen peroxide???

False eyelashes: not tried, contact dermatitis with all current glues. Boo hiss.


First done as teenager; off and on for years; and I have dyed lashes recently when going away on vacation and will be swimming frequently. In the 80s and 90s, I had them done (in Europe) in Clarins salons, who used the mildest peroxide on the market and a very gentle vegetable dye. I have sensitive, delicate, irritable skin; and quite sensitive eyes; and frequently wear contacts – and this was fine. I’ve had it done more recently with a new technique, that uses no hydrogen peroxide (aka bleach) and worked just as well.

The results are very impressive: every lash is there, and particularly striking if your lashes are naturally light (mine are pale reddish-blonde). If yours are light and you haven’t tinted before, start with a more gentle brown; I went all the way to blue-black, which is amaaaazing. Makes the whites of eyes whiter, and is highly effective even on people who don’t really need to tint their lashes …

How long the dye lasts depends on your lash growth rate, how dark they are naturally, and how much “root” you’re happy to put up with. If you’re in the sun, wear sunglasses (yet another reason to do so) as lashes will bleach. Mine grow very fast, so roots were noticeable after 2-3 weeks (and I’d have to go back to mascara); being short-sighted, the roots started to bug me when they were probably barely noticeable to anyone else. Estheticians will tell you the dye will last 4-8 weeks; an honest one will say 4-6, and mention the “depends on your lashes” proviso.

I stopped dying regularly for two reasons:

(1) the price – it was cheaper to buy a more expensive mascara, than to get re-dyed even every month;

(2) had to stop while in the US – living in NJ for most of this last decade – as some Official wit, in their infinite wisdom, had made tinting illegal, as “it makes you blind.” I was solemnly told that if I had dyed my lashes, I *must* be blind, and hadn’t noticed yet. Love the logic.

Having said that: If getting the peroxide-based version, make sure it’s with someone reputable, careful (and expensive) – and Clarins salons highly recommended! If it gets into your eyes, it will hurt, may damage your eyes, and – in a very few extreme cases – may indeed cause more severe permanent damage. But do try to get the new formula stuff, as it is safer. Has been available in Europe for some time (legally, I add), and Canada; don’t know about other countries, or individual states in the US.

When getting lashes done, some things to watch out for:

(1) They should perform a patch test on you for 24 hours (of all solutions being used). Don’t ask: this is a good test. If a salon offers you an immediate appointment, or doesn’t insist on a patch test, walk straight out the door. It doesn’t bode well for health & safety, basic hygiene, knowing what they’re doing, or just being careful and doing their job with care. Eyes are precious and delicate, and just not worth the gamble.

(2) Even if you’re not wearing any eye make-up, they should clean your whole eye area anyway, right at the start of The Session. I’d recommend removing your own make-up just beforehand, as I tend to do this more thoroughly (and with a firmer hand) as I can see more of it up close.

(3) They should apply a thin layer of Vaseline or sim. on the eyelids and around the eye, to prevent dye transferring to surrounding skin – and very fine hairs.

(4) And half-moons of soaked cotton wool under and on top, to keep the dye restricted to lashes.

(5) And you shoud be given pads of cotton wool soaked in cool water (or other light solution) to keep on top of eyes, while the dye takes.

(6) The dye should be left on for the appropriate time, neither too little nor too long.

(7) Your esthetician should always be careful but firm, and especially so when it comes to the next stage: removing pads, rinsing out the eye, cleaning around it. A good one (ex. Clarins) will turn the whole tinting session into a mini-facial for the eye area, ex. using their makeup remover before and cream afterwards…

(8) If you’re uncomfortable or distrusting at any point, make this clear, and be prepared to get up and leave. Do not be afraid to be insistent about criticising someone else’s choice of background music.

(9) You get what you pay for, in my experience. But unless you’re rich, frankly I wouldn’t recommend tinting as a regular thing.

(10) I do not recommend home tinting, unless you really know what you’re doing, AND have patch-tested first. There’s the question of formula (the regularly-available ones irritated my arm-skin within seconds..). It also takes a lot longer, as you have to do one eye at a time, with all the time for dye to take, and cleaning, and so on, times two. I did get hold of pro stuff through my regular tinter, some years ago, with the promise to alternate doing it myself with returning to her – and ended up just going back to her anyway.

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