The History of Eyelash Extensions

Classic eyelash extensions seem like a timeless classic that will never go out of style, but when did eyelash extensions start to gain popularity? Who invented classic lash extensions and what other innovations paved the way to the treatment we know and love today? 

Well…

3500 BC - Ancient Egyptians use oils and often malachite to thicken and lengthen their lashes and brows. This is less of a beauty statement and has more to do with keeping the harsh sun out of their eyes. 

753 BC - Roman philosophers suggest that long lashes were a sign of morality and virginity, and short lashes a sign of ageing. Due to this, people turn to enhancing their lashes to appear more moral and youthful 

Mid-1800s - After women in the middle ages took to plucking out their lashes and brow hairs (ouch!) to show off their foreheads, Queen Victoria’s perfumer (Eugène Rimmel) developed the first ‘mascara’ (petroleum jelly and coal dust) to accentuate the eyes. 

Portrait of a Lady by Rogier van der Weyden (c.1399–1464)
Portrait of a Lady by Rogier van der Weyden (c.1399–1464)

1899 saw Parisien women sewing (yes, SEWING!) hairs into their eyelids to obtain those longer, more fluttery lashes (here’s the link detailing the procedure, read at your own risk - content warning for body horror and drug use)

1911 - Canadian inventor Anna Taylor obtains a patent for false lashes - today’s strip lashes - which take off well. Not long after, German hairdresser and inventor Karl Nesser begins using similar strip lashes in his salon to shield the eyes from the harsh overhead lighting. 

1916 - the silent film industry takes off, seeing actresses using their eyes to convey emotions that they cannot put across in words. Even then, these lashes were more like what we know as strip lashes today, with wig hair being sewn into gauze and glued onto the eyelids. There was some puffing and sensitivity of course, but they took the viewers by storm nonetheless, and soon everyone wanted longer, thicker lashes! Shortly after this, the Roaring 20s come into effect, with skirts getting shorter and lashes getting longer and flirtier! 

Bebe Daniels Eyelashes in 1920s silent cinema
Bebe Daniels Eyelashes in 1920s silent cinema

The early 2000s saw a rise in what we know today as cluster lashes - they weren’t quite the classic eyelash extensions we know right now, but the lashes - made from synthetic fibres or sometimes animal fur - were applied to the lashes instead of the eyelids. The trend came to the west from South Korea, who had been developing methods of lash enhancement for a few years by then. 

The 2010s were a time where the eyelash extensions industry truly began to boom. The extensions themselves became finer so as not to cause damage due to their weight, but techniques improved so much that lashes look fuller than ever. In addition to looking much nicer, the treatment itself was super safe and very comfortable for the wearer. 

Now we’ve got to grips with how we can keep eyelash extensions safe, we’re in a position where we can be creative! New styles, lash maps and even colourful lashes are taking the industry by storm, with lash techs and clients alike eager to try new and daring looks! 

Laura Brown – London Lash Expert Laura Brown London Lash Expert

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