Being Modern: Eyelashes

Poor eyelashes. Two hundred or so hairs tasked with protecting the eyeball, they have the misfortune of residing where everyone can see them, and so bear the yoke of human vanity.

A quick survey of some of the market's leading mascaras shows that lashes can be "volumized" (barely a verb), millionized (yikes) and subjected to Maybelline's latest offering, which promises "explosive volume in rocket time". Leaving aside the question as to quite what "rocket time" actually is, it's clear that, as far as the make-up industry is concerned, a naked lash is a pallid, scrawny waste of face space.

In fact, we've been slathering those helpless hairs with expensive gunge for thousands of years. Ancient Egypt was awash with foxy ladies – and gentlemen – scanning for clumps, and by the time the Victorians were checking each other out across the ballroom, mascara had earnt its place in the make-up bag.

Enough? Never! Falsies came next. Not only did they add length and lustre, they also gave one's toilette an air of danger; beauty comes in many guises, but rarely is it an eye socket full of glue.

One would hope that the new millennium might have freed us from such absurdity, but no. Since 2004, those with a few quid to spare have had the option of extending their lashes using silk, polyester, human hair or mink. And there's always a bit of good old CGI. Look carefully at the bottom of the screen next time you see a supermodel giving it some smoulder in a TV advertisement, and you may well catch the phrase: "Shot with lash inserts and enhanced in post-production."

Fancy a flutter? It's all very well if you're rich, brunette or a camel, but for the rest of us, such lash perfection is utterly unobtainable, and not without risk. Hold on to your mascara for more than three months and there's a decent chance that you'll be applying a delightful coat of bacteria, while, for the unfortunate few, extensions can cause eyelashes to give up the ghost entirely.

Yup, the whole despicable business is absolutely batty.