Being able to extend the lashes with something other than mascara first became possible in 1911, after Canadian inventor Anna Taylor patented the first ever artificial eyelashes. Her invention included glue-on lashes, or strip lashes, thought to be made from human hair.
It was in the early 2000s that false eyelashes really took off, thanks to celebrities like Jennifer Lopez wearing lashes made from red fox fur to the Academy Awards in 2001 and Madonna wearing mink and diamond lashes on tour in 2004.
In the last decade, lash enhancements have evolved to include individual eyelash extensions, seeing an explosion of professionals training in and providing the service.
“When I first started doing lashes, I never thought it would become my full-time career. Now I have a salon with six employees purely doing lashes,” says Ellie Edwards, West Midlands-based lash salon owner and Eyelash Emporium educator. “It used to be only high-end clients and celebrities who had them – now it seems that every girl has them. The industry has grown so much but I still don’t think it’s hit its peak.”
With 8.5 billion views on TikTok as of May 2023, #lashextensions are currently one of the hottest lash treatments but in 2023 we are seeing increased demand for a more natural look than in previous years, according to the experts.
Natural lash extensions
“We’re seeing a rollback to classic extensions as the ‘skinimalism’ trend spreads to lash extensions,” says Novalash business manager Lauren Nesbit. “Clients are going for more natural, light-textured looks alongside more natural-looking skin and make-up.” In fact, she says, Novalash has recently seen a boost in sales of its Novaminx classic extensions, with clients moving away from wearing volume lashes used to achieve the fuller, heavier style commonly referred to as Russian lashes.
“I think Covid-19 made this push,” says Edwards. “Before the pandemic, it was very much about full-on glam but now, as part of the ‘no make-up make-up’ trend, clients are going for a more natural lash look but with enhancement.”
Edwards recalls that when she first did her training, she would use a 0.25 lash thickness – a far cry from the ultra-thin lashes often used now that go right down to 0.03. “Now, people are using the thinnest lashes they can in an L-curl to look like natural lashes with a lift but with the added length of an extension.”
Lift and tint
#NaturalLashes currently has 438 million views on TikTok. To create the ultimate natural lash in 2023 without extensions, Edwards suggests a tint and lift with shields rather than rods as the perfect duo.
“Since Covid-19, lash lifts have completely changed the game as people want a more natural look, but still want something to enhance their natural lashes,” she says. “Back in the day, we used to perm eyelashes using rods, which gave a far more curled look,” she continues. “Now, people want more of a straight-up lifted look right from the roots so the lashes are more of an L curl that can just be enhanced with mascara.”
Lisa Stone, educator for Refectocil, agrees, adding, “Lash lifts are taking over from lash extensions and that is definitely due to Covid-19 and people getting used to not having them.
“Now, with the cost of living crisis, many people can’t afford their top-ups every two-to-three weeks so are going for something a bit more low maintenance. Lash lifts and tints are also a great way to create that effortless but well-groomed look that is a part of the minimal trend.”
With 2.3 billion and 116.7 million views on TikTok respectively, #lashlift and #lashtint are two big and growing lash trends of 2023. “Lash lifts combined with a brow lamination are the perfect marriage,” says Debbie Law, educator for Nouveau Lashes. “It’s all about enhancing what the client already has.”
The switch to a more minimalist approach to skin and make-up spilling over to lashes could be a big reason why lash serums have become so popular. Spurred on by social media, interest in lash serums has exploded recently. With 916 million views on TikTok, lash serums are undoubtedly one of the biggest lash trends of 2023.
“I think the cost-of-living crisis has had an impact on the rise of lash serums over the last year,” says Edwards, who finds them to be very effective. “We have seen a slight trend in clients moving from extensions to lash lifts and serums as it works out a lot cheaper for them.
Debbie Law agrees that lash serums really do work, adding, “I’ve had clients who have had to trim their lashes.”
Many lash serums contain prostaglandins, a group of lipids including isopropyl cloprostenate. Prostaglandins were originally used for the treatment of glaucoma. A surprising side-effect was the growth of super-long, thick lashes, which got the beauty industry to take note.
While many people use lash growth serums with great success, there are some that experience unwanted effects such as styes or an increase in the appearance of dark circles.
Therefore, it is important to understand the ingredients in serums before recommending them to clients. For anyone who may struggle with prostaglandins, there are now plenty of serums without them on the market – check out our round-up on page 64.
Angel lash pic courtesy of Ellie Edwards
Going back to lash extensions, where we are now seeing more natural looks take hold, Edwards believes the “angel lash” effect will emerge as one of the biggest trends of 2023.
“Angel sets are taking off,” she says. “They’re very similar to anime lashes in that you use a number of different choppy lengths so that it looks more like the natural lash rather than a uniform set.”
With 4.5 million views on TikTok, Edwards predicts that the #AngelLashes trend will push the #FoxEyeLash (4.6 million views on TikTok) trend that dominated in 2022 out of the market.
“The fox eye look is beautiful but isn’t for everyone,” says Edwards. “On some clients, it can look quite harsh because this look uses an L-curl.” For these clients, she normally recommends a softer, cat-eye look.
Wet look lashes
“In regards to lash extensions, we are definitely seeing a move towards wet-look lashes,” says Stone. “This trend gives that a glossy and slightly spiky finish.”
Selecting the right lashes and making it more of a hybrid treatment with a mixture of closed fans, wide fans or singles is what is needed to create a lot of this year’s trending looks, Stone explains.
#Wetlooklashes has 48.1 million views on TikTok and goes hand in hand with a peculiar TikTok make-up trend called “crying girl make-up”. This look favours smudged eye make-up and clumped-together lashes which previously only mascara and tears could achieve.
Anime lashes are a bit of a combination of wet look and angel lashes and originate from the K-beauty trends coming out of Korea.
“The trend started off with strip lashes but has evolved to be mapped by lash techs,” says Edwards. “It can be done by using two different types of curl at different lengths to create that really choppy, cartoonish look that we see in anime and manga animations.”
For her clients who have asked for this dramatic look, Edwards usually tones it down by feathering the lengths rather than having them in blocks, which helps achieve that cartoonish look.
To map this look with extensions Salon Systems educator Ruth Atkins says; "Prepare the lashes as usual and lash map directly onto the eye pads. Mark up five strategic points (central, ends, and equal distance in between). I use Marvelash 14mm and 15mm lashes in D (0.20mm) at these sites, creating spikes at these points. In between use a variety of Mink Style D lashes (0.07mm) in 10mm,11mm and 12mm lengths to fill in."
For a quicker treatment but still creating the same effect, Atkins recommends using the same lash map but applying pre-made fans instead of single lashes.
“Coloured lashes are definitely big at the moment,” says Stone. Law agrees, recalling the ’80s, which was a huge moment for lashes of all colours of the rainbow, with many brands offering a selection of multicoloured mascaras. #ColouredLashes has 15 million views on TikTok.
For Law, adding colour is a must for all of her lash clients. “Nobody leaves my seat without a little pop of colour,” she laughs. “For me, it’s more about complementing the client’s natural eye colour and making it pop. Some purple lashes mapped into a full set, for example, can really make green eyes pop and add a bit of dimension to the lashes rather than them being flat and black.”
Edwards predicts that neon lashes will be huge at festivals this year, adding, “I think it is going to be more of a pop of colour rather than a full-on rainbow effect.”
Meanwhile, Stone is using a lot of red, blue and purple extensions to complement the eye. “All of our techs recommend little hints of colour mapped into the edges of the lash for a more subtle look,” she says.
As for mascaras, we are starting to see colour creep in too, with some brands launching brilliant blue shades for a classic ‘80s throwback.
Ultimately, trends come and go, so all of our experts recommend lash mapping for each individual client rather than going down a one-map-fits-all route.