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Friday, July 31, 2009

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Lash stash: A Shu Uemura "lash bar" in Omotesando, Tokyo, offers 40 types of false eyelashes and advice on how to wear them. NATSUKO FUKUE PHOTO

ALSO OUT THERE

The eyes have it — false lashes catch on big with Japan's women


Staff writer

Long, thick, perfectly curled eyelashes are pretty much the desire of every Japanese woman.

The problem is that the average Japanese lash is only about 5.8 mm in length, less than half that of a Westerner, according to the Japan Lash Association.

Mascara, hot curlers, mascara base, lash treatment and many other products have all been considered essential makeup tools by Japanese women wishing to emphasize their eyelashes, but the latest and easiest path is simply applying false lashes.

Chiaki Umeda, a Fukuoka Prefecture resident in her 20s, wears false eyelashes on some formal occasions, such as weddings or parties.

"My eyelid is single-edged, and my lashes are very short and few," she said. "I feel I would look gorgeous if I had long, beautiful lashes."

False eyelashes, which provide instant volume and length, have grown increasingly popular in the last two years, according to Takayuki Kozu, sales division director at Koji Honpo Co., which back in 1947 was the first company to market fake eyelashes in Japan.

"Sales suddenly jumped in the past two years. Current sales are triple those of two years ago," he said.

For Kozu, the rapid sales increase shows that false lashes are now accepted by a lot of consumers, ranging from teens to women in their 70s.

Elderly users apply false lashes to cover up their short, thin lashes, while teenagers use them on a daily basis to make their eyes look bigger — like the fashion models in magazines, Kozu said.

"Young women don't think false lashes are too much. They are a daily necessity."

Ami Nakano, spokeswoman for Shu Uemura, a cosmetic brand established by globally renowned makeup artist Shu Uemura, said sales of their false lashes have also been soaring the last two years.

"The best part of false lashes is that your eyes look dramatically different," said Nakano, noting it is the only three-dimensional makeup component on the face.

"Your facial impression will look different as well if you change the angle of the lashes," she said. "If you point them upward you will look cool. Downward and you can make a mild impression."

With Shu Uemura's 40 different types from simple to fluffy to sparkling, Nakano said, changing lashes is like changing shoes and accessories.

The simple type, varying in price from ¥1,575 to ¥3,675, can be used 20 to 30 times. Shu Uemura, whose false lashes have been popular with celebrities, including Madonna, launched "lash bars," special counters designed to sell and offer advice on false lashes, first in the U.S., then Europe and finally in Japan in 2005.

"Japanese used to think false eyelashes are for special occasions or only for young people, but an increasing number of people are buying them for daily use," said Nakano, who counts herself among the daily users.

Tomoko Hamasaki, a 27-year-old legal firm assistant in Tokyo, thinks that's a bit much because false lashes make a woman's eyes too different than the original. However, false lashes do have a "magical effect," she said.

For those who prefer a more natural look, lash extensions, a synthetic hair applied to each natural lash, is another route.

Shigehisa Sato, chairman of the Japan Lash Association, said a great number of salons that apply lash extensions have opened in the last few years because women want their lashes to look natural.

Extensionslast about a month and stay on even when taking a bath, so women don't need to spend the time putting them on every day, he said, adding the main customers of lash extensions run from teenagers to women in their 50s.

Due to the sudden popularity of extensions, salons with less experienced staff are opening, too, Sato warned.

"It's possible to damage eyes if less experienced staff apply lash extensions. It's important to learn about the mechanism of eyes as well as have the skill."

He recommended that customers check if a salon is certified by the association.

Although it is mostly women who want long lashes, some men aren't adverse to the notion.

"When we held a party called 'Eyelash Night' last year, there were quite a lot of men who asked us to apply false lashes," said Nakano of Shu Uemura.

She said they wanted to try the brand's premium editions, such as those made with colorful lashes or feathers.

"There was a salaryman working in Roppongi" at the party, she said. "Perhaps he found it fun to look different."

In this occasional series, we focus on hot topics, people, events and trends in today's Japan.


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