Lash extensions have become more and more popular in recent years, but many people don’t know the history of this beauty treatment.
Lash extensions are not a new invention – they’ve been around for centuries!
In this article, I’ll cover the complete history of fake lashes and highlight the most important dates to remember. I’ll also cover the five Ws: who, why, where, when & what.
Let’s get started!
History of Eyelash Extensions
Lash extensions are used by a good majority of men and women with thin, sparse, and short lashes to enhance their looks.
The eyelash extension history is rich. How far has it evolved? Let’s find out all about the origin of this cosmetic procedure that has seen significant changes over the years.
1800s: World’s First Eyelash Extensions
The first eyelash extensions were made of human hair in the 19th century and glued to the eyelids.
Although they fell off after a few days of irritation, it’s hard to imagine the allergic reactions that must’ve followed due to their widespread use.
1899: Eyelash Extension Operations
If you’re already wearing eyelash extensions, you might know how convenient getting them is.
What’s more, most of our clients find it so relaxing that they doze off during sessions. But the same wasn’t the case a few centuries ago.
Let me warn you, it’s going to be a little graphic.
Around the end of the 19th century, several cosmetic specialists began offering implants for eyelash extensions.
According to Dundee Courier dated 6 July 1899, specialists did such an operation by threading a needle with hair taken from the head of the person to be operated on.
Next, the lower lid was thoroughly cleaned and dabbed with liquid cocaine to limit the pain.
Hair was then stitched onto the eyelids, followed by cutting and trimming of fibers. The eyes were then bandaged for a day after curling the lashes with silver tongs.
The good news was most of these transplants would then develop roots on the lash line, but several others would fall out.
The Early 1900s: False Lashes Patented
A German hair specialist in the U.K called Charles Nessler began selling fake eyelashes via his salon in London one year after registering the patent- ‘A New or Improved Method of and Means for the Manufacture of Artificial Eyebrows, Eyelashes and the like’.
This was followed by the first-ever U.S patent on strip lashes by Anna Taylor in 1911 where she attached a fabric strip with hair fibers to create fake lashes.
1916: Hollywood Debut
Although lash extensions were finally getting into the mainstream market, it wasn’t until the Hollywood movie ‘Intolerance’ that it really became popular.
As the director of the movie D.W Griffith wanted his actress to have eyelashes that brushed against her cheeks, he instructed his wigmaker to make false eyelashes for his heroine- Seena Owen.
While Ms. Owen suffered from severe allergic reactions afterward, the style caught on so much that 20 million pairs of false lashes were sold annually in the 1930s.
1940: The First False Eyelash Company Is Born
Back in 1947, the Aylott brothers who worked in the film industry decided to establish their own brand called Eylure.
They began the world’s first large-scale production of false lashes by the ’60s in Cwmbran, a town in Wales. Eylure is also the same lashes that created the iconic look of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra in 1963.
Thereafter, fake lashes became such a rage that many other companies like Revlon and Max Factor launched false eyelashes commercially while celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, and Rita Hayworth preached it as an essential beauty tool.
The 2000s: Advent Of Artificial Lash Extensions
Combining available knowledge from the past and present on lash enhancements at the time, eyelash extensions were created and glued to natural eyelashes somewhere around Japan and Korea during the early 21st century.
These were lightweight, safe, comfortable, custom-made, and long-lasting, unlike the earlier versions.
However, lash extensions hit the limelight when celebrities openly started giving credit to fake lashes for their gorgeous eyes.
The Business Insider article notes that Jennifer Lopez wore lashes made from red fox fur in 2001 to the Academy Awards and Madonna in 2004 wore mink and diamond lashes on her tour.
2008: Eyelash Extension Manufacturing In Large Scale
According to Wiki sources, it was in 2008 that eyelash extensions were first manufactured on a large scale by a Korean beauty business called Aesthetic Korea Co. Ltd.
In the past decade, many eyelash extension manufacturers have popped up all around China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, and other Asian countries owing to the expensive nature of Korean fake lashes.
2021: The Eyelash Extensions Industry Up Till Now
Over the last decade, the industry has come back to life with innovative techniques and booming sales.
From the year 2017 to 2018, the eyelash extensions industry was taken by such a storm that search engines recorded a 152% increase for the keyword ‘eyelashes’ besides selling more than $270 million in lash extensions at the same time.
According to ABC News, eyelash extensions are set to become a $1.5 Billion industry in the next couple of years.
Another favorable upgrade has to do with the lash adhesive. The cyanoacrylate glue that usually took 24 to 48 hours to cure completely is now reduced to just four hours.
In 2014 the owner of One Two Cosmetics invented magnetic lash extensions, which is quoted as the latest innovation in the industry by The New York Times.
Glitter lashes followed and today you can find lashes with more colors than the rainbow. Unlike a decade ago, men are also taking eyelash extensions enthusiastically today.
While COVID did affect the industry of eyelash extension just like any other industry, it’s not winding down anytime soon because the eyes are now all the more important, thanks to face masks covering up the lips.
Recently a brand called Luum was featured on TechCrunch discussing their high-precision robots capable of replacing lash artists in the salon to increase the market size to tens and hundreds of billions.
In short, eyelash extensions aren’t a fad anymore, it’s already a standard of modern beauty.
Who Invented Eyelash Extensions?
A Canadian named Anna Taylor is credited with the first U.S. patent for artificial eyelashes. She invented a fabric implanted with tiny hair, very reminiscent of what we would call strip lashes today.
The history of eyelash extensions is riddled with many unconfirmed stories and myths.
Some say it was the Egyptians who first came up with the idea of artificial lashes made from thin strips of gold and silver.
Others claim that false lashes were first used in 1916 by director D.W. Griffith to make actress Seena Owen look more alluring in the movie Intolerance.
The most popular belief is actually a fake one!
You might have read from other sources that a London prostitute named Gerda Puridle invented elongated eyelashes in 1882. That couldn’t be further from the truth and is a completely fabricated story.
Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between real facts and myths. This is definitely one of those examples.
Why Were Eyelash Extensions Invented?
Lash extensions were invented to make a woman’s eyes look bigger and make them stand out. A popular example is how director D.W. Griffith used false lashes made out of human hair to make actress Seena Owen look more alluring in the movie Intolerance in 1916.
Over the years, lash eyelash extensions have evolved dramatically and can be customized easily to make the eyes brighter, fuller, and more defined thanks to a wide selection of lengths, thicknesses, curls, and colors.
Where Did Eyelash Extensions Originate From?
Lash extensions are believed to have first been used in ancient Egypt. They were used by both men and women to improve their appearance and status.
Back then, it was quite common for men to also were makeup. For example, exaggerating the eyes with thick lines made out of kohl was considered a sign of beauty.
When Were Eyelash Extensions Invented?
In 1911, lash extensions were first patented by Canadian inventor Anna Taylor. She used thin strips of fabric with small pieces of hair attached to them. Ms. Taylor is credited with being the first person to apply false eyelashes commercially.
The patent description says:
“What I claim as my invention is:
In an artificial eyelash, a strip of material substantially crescent shaped with the ends clipped oil, short lengths of hair projecting outwardly from the convex side of the crescent shape in the form of eyelashes and fixedly secured adjacent to said edge on the under side of the strip, and an adhesive spread over the under side of said strip.”
You can read the full artificial eyelash patent here from Google Patents.
What Were False Eyelashes Originally Called?
False eyelashes were originally called “artificial eyelashes”. This terminology was first used in patent No. 607,810 published June 6, 1911, by Anna Taylor, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The history of eyelash extensions is fascinating, and the future looks even brighter for this industry! It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come along.
Recent advancements have made this practice safer than ever with what seems to be an unlimited number of ways to customize any look.
If you have any questions about lash extensions and their origins, just let me know in the comments below!
– Asako 🙂
- Rachel Lubitz (2017). The history of fake eyelashes will make you never want to wear them again. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/the-history-of-fake-eyelashes-will-make-you-never-want-to-wear-them-2017-7?IR=T (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
- Jennifer Wright (2015). A True History of False Eyelashes. Retrieved https://www.racked.com/2015/10/7/9457395/a-history-of-false-eyelashes (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
- Wikipedia Writers (2007). Eyelash extensions. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyelash_extensions (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
- Madame Madeline (2015). Little Bit of History Behind the Eylure Brand. Retrieved from https://www.madamemadeline.com/false-lashes/little-bit-of-history-behind-the-eylure-brand/ (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
- Dr. Julie Woodward (2020). Lashes, Lasers and Lifts: The Past, Present and Future of Lash Enhancement. Retrieved from https://www.cosmeticsurgeryforum.com/lashes-lasers-and-lifts-the-past-present-and-future-of-lash-enhancement/ (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
- Brandon Gaille (2019). 33 Eyelash Extension Industry Statistics, Trends & Analysis. Retrieved from https://brandongaille.com/33-eyelash-extension-industry-statistics-trends-analysis/ (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
- Shannon K. Crawford (2018). How false eyelashes have become a must-have, everyday accessory and a booming market. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/false-eyelashes-everyday-accessory-booming-market/story?id=55019597 (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
- Connie Loizos (2021). Could eyelash extensions become a huge market? This robotics startup thinks so. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/02/could-eyelash-extensions-become-a-huge-market-this-robotics-startup-thinks-so/ (Accessed on 19-3-2021)
Life Is Short, Your Lashes Don’t Need to Be
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Asako Ito is the Co-Founder of Divine Lashes and a certified eyelash stylist. She has garnered acclaim for her cutting-edge techniques in the lash industry.
Holding multiple certifications and licenses, including Luxury Eye, THE LASH SHOP, World Microblading, and The Lash Bible, she has a constant thirst for knowledge. These credentials reflect her commitment to excellence and staying at the forefront of lash and brow artistry.
With over 10 years of experience, Asako continuously increases her knowledge both as a technician and educator by collaborating with top lash artists worldwide. You can read her full bio here.