The History of False Eyelashes

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Every youth movement thinks that what they have now is far better than what came before it. And although this belief may have some truth to it, there really is nothing new under the sun, just the reinvention and rebranding of what has been before.

Exactly the same can be said for false eyelashes, which are definitely nothing new. Even though it may seem to some that they’re only a recent trend, because of the rise of social media sharing sites like Instagram and TikTok, false eyelashes have been around since ancient times.

In this article, Luxe Luminous is taking a look at the history of false lashes. We’ll discuss where these beauty staples came from, and where they’re going!


The Real History of False Lashes

Adorning our eyes is nothing new. Just take a look at the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians and you’ll see painted, mascara-ed eyes.

They believed the eyes are the windows of the soul. On top of that, both men and women used eye makeup to symbolize a person’s status.

So, the more eye makeup a person wore, the higher their status was in society. Just think of Queen Cleopatra, and you get the picture. However, the ancient Egyptians mainly used kohl as eyeliner and green eye paint that was made from malachite.

It was the ancient Romans that took this a step further that adding color to the lids!

Women in ancient Rome used cosmetics to show off not only their status, but also their wealth, and health. Author Pliny the Elder, who died trying to rescue his family after the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius, wrote about how women also adorned their eyelashes.

In his most famous book, called Natural History, Pliny the Elder spoke of women’s daily ritual to stain their eyelashes to make them appear longer in the pursuit of beauty. They used a substance known as calliblepharum, which was made with the ash or rose kernels as its main ingredient.

However, Pliny the Elder was also what would be definitely considered prudes today, because he believed that it was important for women to extend their eyelashes in order to prove their chastity.

He wrote that, “eyelashes fell out from excessive sex”, which made many women obsessed with having the longest lashes possible!

Completely Plucked

Fast forward to medieval times, and this form of adornment was well and truly buried. Ladies of higher status at the time went so far as to completely pluck away any hair on their bodies, including their hairline, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

Like ouch!

And even though they still covered themselves in veils, they tortured themselves because the leaders of the medieval church were telling them that any display of hair meant that they were committing a sin and offending God.

Thank goodness this trend stayed well in the dark ages.

C’est Chic

It was left to the Parisians (who else?) to revive the look of artificial lashes, going so far as to implant them into the eyelids.

Yes, you read that right.

An account in the United Kingdom’s Sheffield Daily Telegraph in March 1871, depicted how a genius in Paris, France was helping women without eyelashes.

It was left to the Parisians (who else?) to revive the look of artificial lashes, going so far as to implanting them into the eyelids.

This beauty technique, which was written about as not being painful (yeah, right), a fine needle with dark human hair was threaded through the skin of the eyelid. Within 20 years, several hairdressers in the West End of London were also offering the service.

Meanwhile, on the West End stage, there were also actresses using another form of ‘strip’ lashes, which were also supplied by London’s more established hairdressers.

These were made from adhesive tape that was suitable for use on the stage, although they were too heavy and bulky for daily use.

Secret of the Silver Screen

It wasn’t until 1911 that false eyelashes in the more modern sense made their way onto the scene. Anna Taylor, a Canadian inventor, was the woman who patented glue-on strip lashes, which were initially made with human hair.

However, it was a few years later, in 1916, when false eyelashes really took off. During the making of silent film Intolerance, it has been reported that the director, DW Griffith, felt that Seena Owen, the actress playing the Princess Beloved, needed lashes that brushed her cheeks to make her eyes shine.

Enter stage right, and a wigmaker was appointed to create false eyelashes for Ms Owen, so that her eyes looked larger and brighter on the silver screen.

He used spirit gum to glue human hair to her own lashes, which eventually caused her eyes to swell shut, according to the memoir of her co-star in the film, actress Lillian Gish.

However, because the appearance of longer lashes on Owen worked for her role in Intolerance, other Hollywood starlets soon took up the look.

Because the technology to keep them fixed on the eye was limited, though, and it wasn’t socially acceptable in daily life to wear heavy makeup, this appearance remained on the silver screen until the end of the Second World War.

Cinema’s golden age of the 1950s gave us actresses like Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe, who men adored and women aspired to look like. And this is when false eyelashes began being seen on the average woman for special occasions like cocktail parties and weddings.

Body Pop Art

And then came the 1960s, where all the rules of beauty seemed to be thrown out the window, and the cult of popularity and individualism made headway. Think of the rise of model/actresses like Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, and even Cher in her early days, and you’ll find dramatic false eyelashes that were now starting to hit the mainstream.

There’s even a famous picture of Twiggy with false eyelashes attached to her bottom lashes. Many women would even wear two or three sets of false eyelashes layered on top of each other to create over-the-top eyes that popped. They even experimented by adding rhinestones and flower petals during the Summer of Love.

Lashes Take A Back Seat

By the time the 1970s rolled around though, the collective angst felt after the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, as well as being embroiled in the Vietnam War, meant the flamboyancy of makeup left the building.

And although the disco scene saw glamorous outfits, as well as glitter on many faces, false eyelashes took a back seat for most women during this period, only really making a comeback in the 2000s with the rise of social media sharing. Oh, and the drag queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race probably helped, too.

And although the disco scene saw glamorous outfits, as well as glitter on many faces, false eyelashes took a back seat for most women during this period, only really making a comeback in the 2000s with the rise of social media sharing.

Are Falsies Here To Stay?

In more recent years, false eyelashes have become very fancy, and even extremely expensive. In 2001, J-Lo wore red fox fur eyelashes to the Academy Awards, which beauty enthusiasts claim was the start of the reinvention of the fake lash extension.

By the time 2004 came around, during her Re-Invention world tour, Madonna wore mink and diamond false eyelashes that apparently cost $10K a pair. And in the same year, luckily for us, NovaLash became the first global lash extension distributor of eyelash extensions, bringing the look to the mainstream where it truly took a foothold.

By the time 2004 came around, during her Re-Invention world tour, Madonna wore mink and diamond false eyelashes that apparently cost $10K a pair.

Today, false eyelashes are worn on the daily by so many, thanks to the wide range of styles and application methods on offer, as well as the proliferation of influencers wearing them in their Instagram and TikTok posts.

These days, you can find false eyelashes being sold even in the most basic of beauty stores, as well as online retailers like Amazon. So, no matter what kind of appearance you’re after, you’ll be able to find a pair of false eyelashes to suit your day-to-day and more dramatic party looks.

If you’re new to false eyelashes, we can recommend the perfect kit to get you started. The KISS So Wispy Lashes Multipack #09  provides five pairs of easy-to-apply and natural-looking lash extensions that will even be attractive to the seasoned lash enthusiast.

KISS So Wispy Fake Eyelashes Multipack #09, Easy-To-Apply Lightweight False Eyelashes, 100% Cruelty-Free Natural Human Hair, Reusable and Contact Lens Friendly, 5 Pairs Black
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These lashes are made with lightweight 100% real human hair that will give your eyes a demi-wispy appearance that is suitable for everyday use. They’re also reusable and great for contact lens wearers, so you can take your place in the history of false eyelashes with confidence.

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).