In 1911, a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor patented false eyelashes in the United States. Taylor's false eyelashes were designed with a crescent-shaped strip of fabric. The fabric had small pieces of hair placed on them. Now it's a totally conventional beauty ritual, but if you think about it, it's very strange.
Why would someone stick a chain of false eyelashes to their real eyelashes? It made us think, and it turns out that false eyelashes have a long and rather tortured history, dating back to ancient Rome. Sure, the people you know who love to wear them Kim Kardashian, any good drag queen, wear it easily, but sometimes it was a look that could literally kill. Unfortunately, we must start this story with a bit of rudeness. To understand why false eyelashes were created, we must first look at why long eyelashes were considered an attractive feature in the first place.
In essence, this obsession with longer lashes comes from the idea that eyelashes get shorter with age. In ancient Rome, the author Pliny the Elder helped make long eyelashes even more enviable when he postulated that they were related to chastity. As a result, women strived to have the longest eyelashes possible. In the 19th century, hundreds of years after Pliny made that statement, eyelashes regained popularity and, this time, they didn't come true.
In 1899, for example, there were stories of women who had eyelashes implanted on their eyelids with needles, according to Racked. And yes, it was a popular procedure, even in capitals like Paris. Around this time, the weakest of heart tried to stick human hair to their eyelids instead of threading it, but the method was not very successful and the hair would often fall out. If only they'd known about 20 years from now, they'd get the innovation in eyelashes they really needed.
There's a little discussion about who actually created the type of false eyelashes we know and love today. In 1911, a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor patented artificial eyelashes for the first time, using a fabric crescent implanted with tiny hairs. In 1915, Karl Nessler, a hairdresser known for his permanent waves, opened a hair salon in New York and sold eyelash services, promoting false eyelashes in his salon as, according to the New York Times, “a guardian against the glare of electric lights”. He also hired showgirls to sell them and beat customers.
But it wasn't until 1916 that counterfeits began to become really popular, and it was all because of a picky Hollywood director. Griffith was filming Intolerance with actress Seena Owen when he saw her in a Babylonian outfit and thought, “Something isn't right. In other words, the technology wasn't exactly good. Just reading that, you would think that false eyelashes are some kind of fly trap or Venus torture device.
A lot of people were still skeptical about false eyelashes in the 1920s, but the story was different among fashionistas. During the 1930s, Vogue gave them its seal of approval with ads showing more ingenious false eyelashes, some loaded with gold and platinum beads, Racked reported. Naturally, Hollywood stars of the 1940s and 50s loved good false eyelashes, and women like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth wore them to photo shoots to make their eyes look bigger and, well, eye-catching. While in the 1940s and 1950s everything revolved around glamour, the makeup aesthetic of the 1960s was more adventurous, innovative and youthful.
One person at the center of this movement, of course, was the Twiggy model, whose signature look included large lashes that accentuated her already prominent eyes. Although the most iconic images of Twiggy showed her with eyelashes painted directly on her face, she also wore a lot of false eyelashes. Other models of the time followed the example of Twiggy, such as Jean Shrimpton and Penelope Tree, who frequently appeared on the pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, showing women all over the world how extreme their beauty could be. There's no real explanation for this, aside from the fact that trends come and go, but the 1970s and 80s weren't the main decades for false eyelashes.
The makeup of the 1970s was much softer and more natural, and in the 1980s, things like blush and dark lipstick were more popular than huge lashes. Some women, like Cher, continued to use them, as she would. With the lashes worn by some of the most famous women in the world, they became popular. False eyelashes are now sold anywhere there's makeup, from Walmart to Nordstrom and everything in between.
They are currently embraced by almost all the celebrities on the red carpet, and also by drag queens, with the aim of looking as glamorous as possible. When you think of false eyelashes, what type of look comes to mind? Is it the modern and bad aesthetic that both sensual celebrities and influential people love? Is the explosive look of the 90s inspired recently by Pamela Anderson? Maybe it goes back even further: icons from the '50s like Sophia Loren, or even flappers from the (originals) crazy '20s. As with most beauty inventions, the history of false eyelashes—including the reason false eyelashes were invented—is a legitimately crazy story with experimentation, pseudoscience, and application methods bizarre enough to give even the most ardent beauty lovers goose bumps. Today's path to fake ones may have been chaotic, but knowing it will make you even more thankful for the rows and rows of easy-to-use eyelashes that cover the shelves of every drugstore in the United States.
Get ready: it's time to venture into the history of false eyelashes. While eyelashes serve some biological function by acting as an early warning system if debris, dust, or other foreign agents get too close to the important eyeball, their cultural importance is purely aesthetic. While they're not inherently feminine (everyone knows people of all genders with long, broad eyelashes), they're considered a feminine trait, though it's not entirely clear why. Some experts theorize that it has to do with the relationship between youth and what society considers feminine beauty standards, while others speculate that long, dark eyelashes enhance the whites of the eyes and become a kind of indicator of health.
However, the most accepted idea today is that long eyelashes simply make the eyes appear larger and, in most cultures, big eyes are one of the most important factors of “feminine beauty” in general. So it makes sense that the recorded use of false eyelashes dates back to the Roman Empire. Eyelash improvements, such as rudimentary masks and even curling tools, also have a long history in ancient and Ptolemaic Egypt, but it was a Roman philosopher (the first influencers, actually) who perpetuated the idea that eyelashes fall out with age and sexual promiscuity. Suddenly, the Romans became very important to have the longest and most luxuriant eyelashes possible thanks to botanicals, kohl and even minerals.
Eyelash trends came and went over the years (in medieval times, it was fashionable to shave them all together with the eyebrows to show the forehead, which was considered the sexiest part of the body long before the BBL), especially when reports appeared about a real application of eyelash extensions at the end of the 19th century in Paris, although its version requires needles that implant synthetic hair directly into the skin. Although this odious sewing was taking place in 1899, it wasn't long before a different interpretation of false eyelashes appeared, which look much more like modern false eyelashes. The first patent on false eyelashes was issued in 1911 to a Canadian woman, but five years later, it was an American film director named D, W. Griffith, who was looking for a more dramatic and exotic look for his protagonist.
Although the false eyelashes designed by the wig maker of the production were effective, since they were made of human hair and chewing gum, they were irritating and harsh. I can't imagine why. Perhaps the biggest change occurred when production materials were transferred to plastic in the 1950s. Synthetic fibers, no different from today's most popular styles, were easy to reproduce and mass produce, which in turn made false use more regular and widespread.
Nowadays, you can choose false eyelashes made of plastics and other synthetic materials, as well as real animal hair such as mink. They are considered essential to full-scale glamour for everyone from celebrities to teenagers on prom night. Later, Owen suffered severe allergic reactions, and the style became so popular that by the 1930s, 20 million pairs of false eyelashes were sold a year. Eyelash extensions were invented and patented in 1911 by Anna Taylor.
She owned a beauty salon in New York. Taylor is credited with being the first person to apply false eyelashes commercially. And then natural trends appeared in the 1970s, and even more so in the 1990s, and false eyelashes fell, as they so often had, on tea cups, losing prominence. While COVID affected the eyelash extension industry like any other industry, it's not going away anytime soon because eyes are now even more important, thanks to masks that cover the lips.
According to the beauty magazine Marie Claire, humans were retouching and beautifying their eyelashes in ancient Egypt, although it wasn't until the late 19th century that people discovered that they could lengthen them with human hair. However, eyelash extensions came into the spotlight when celebrities began openly crediting false eyelashes for their beautiful eyes. With such a dark and dangerous history and such an exhausting application, it's surprising that false eyelashes are so popular. From then on, false eyelashes became so popular that many other companies such as Revlon and Max Factor launched them commercially, while celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy and Rita Hayworth preached them as an essential beauty tool.
That's probably why, at the end of the 19th century, when long eyelashes were back in fashion, some absolutely crazy treatments were being offered. Although Regnault won titles as an actress, novelist, and journalist, she didn't invent long eyelashes. . .