History of Lash Extensions

Ancient Rome

To understand why humans even created fake eyelashes, we must first break down why long lashes were seen as a desirable feature in the first place.

At its core, this obsession with longer lashes stems from the idea that lashes get shorter with age. In ancient Rome (about 79 A.D), author Pliny the Elder helped make long lashes even more desirable when he implied they were linked to being chaste.

"Eyelashes fell out from excessive sex, and so it was essential for women to keep their eyelashes long to prove their chastity," Pliny incorrectly claimed. As a result, women strived to have the longest lashes possible.

19th Century

They did what?

In the 1800s, almost two thousand years after Pliny made that assertion, lashes came into favor again — and this time, sh-t got real. In 1899, for instance, there were accounts of women having lashes sewen into their eyelids via needles. And yes, it was a popular procedure, even in capitals like Paris.

Around this time, the more faint of heart attempted to glue human hair to their eyelids instead of threading it, but the method wasn't too successful, and the hair often fell off.

If only they'd known that in 20 years or so, they'd get some of the lash innovation they needed.

1910s Hollywood

There's a bit of a disagreement over who created the kind of false eyelashes we know and love today.

In 1911, a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor first patented artificial lashes, using a crescent of fabric implanted with itty bitty hairs.

In 1915, Karl Nessler, a hairdresser known for his permanent waves, opened a hair salon in New York and sold lash services, promoting false eyelashes at his salon as, according to the New York Times, "a guard against the glare of electric lights." He also hired chorus girls to sell them and bat their lashes at customers.

But it wasn't until 1916 that falsies started to become truly popular. A picky Hollywood director. D. W. Griffith, was filming the movie, Intolerance with actress Seena Owen when he took one look at her in Babylonian attire and thought, "Something is not right."

Reportedly, Griffith wanted Owen's eyelashes to be "supernatural" and practically "brushing her cheeks." Hence, he ordered the film's wigmaker to glue lashes made of human hairs onto Owen's eyelids using spirit gum. But, of course, this ended in disaster, with Intolerance costar Lillian Gish writing in her memoir: "One morning she arrived at the studio with her eyes swollen nearly shut. Fortunately, Mr. Griffith had already shot the important scenes."

In other words, the technology wasn't exactly great. Click here to watch Seena Owen in the film.

The 1920s and 1930s

"When a fair young thing looks at you mistily through her long, curling lashes, do not fall for it until you investigate," a columnist wrote in 1921, according to the Times. "The long, curling eyelashes may not be hers, except by right of purchase."

You'd think that false eyelashes were some Venus flytrap or torture device. But, of course, many people were still skeptical of false eyelashes in the 1920s, but it was a different story among the fashionistas.

Through the 1930s, Vogue gave them their stamp of approval with ads featuring more artful fake lashes, some laden with gold and platinum beads, Racked reported.

The 1940s and 1950s

Quite naturally, Hollywood starlets in the 1940s and '50s loved a good fake eyelash, with women like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth wearing them in photoshoots to make their eyes look more extensive and more, well, eye-catching.

What made them a generally better product in the 1950s was the introduction of plastic materials fit for fake eyelashes. No longer were lashes made of human hair or fabric, but durable thin plastic — which is how some are still manufactured today.

Click here to watch a fascinating 1949 factory video showing how they made the strip lashes.

The 1950s and 1960s

While the 1940s and '50s were all about glamour, the 1960s makeup aesthetic was more adventurous, innovative, and young.

Of course, one person at the center of this movement was the model Twiggy, whose signature look included large lashes that accentuated her already prominent eyes. Though the most iconic images of Twiggy showed her with lashes painted directly onto her face, she wore plenty of fake eyelashes, too.