Who Invented Lash Extensions?
Humor us and take a moment to think through your lash products — every single one, from adhesive to the most intricate tools. If you’re anything like us, you probably have quite the collection to sift through. A million eyelash extensions, a smattering of tweezers and curlers, spoolies and lash combs, cleansers and removers, and everything in between.
As incredible as the innovations of lash extensions are today, all those advancements had to advance from somewhere. Where, you might be asking? That’s exactly why we’ve sat you down today to discuss the riveting origins of the lash, including the inventor of the extensions that evolved into what you’re wearing right now.
From their humble beginnings as the less-than-ideal products donned by Hollywood starlets in the 1900s that took their cue from the origins of lash enhancement as far back as ancient Egypt and Rome, lashes are rich in history and wise in years. So if you’re ready to embark on this little journey through time with us, strap into the time machine and relax as we travel back through the lash timeline. The lash-line, if you will.
And with that mediocre pun as our fuel, let us away!
Lashes, Back in Time
As we whisk ourselves away into the history of eyelash extensions, look out the window and see the freeze frames of history as we pass. What we know now as a collection of options that range from synthetic, faux-mink strip lashes all the way to the premium Korean silk fibers of our Gossamers® at Lashify® used to be a product of less desirable ingredients.
You might want to shield your eyes the further back we go because false lashes, as incredible as they are now, weren’t always the high-grade, quality creations you know. Human hair, harsh, synthetic alternatives, and irritating adhesives were among the many faux pas of the early lash days, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The further back in the 1800s we travel, the more desperate the need for long lashes became as the idea that they were related to the purity of a woman resurged, driving up the number of women who pined for luxurious lashes, whether they be natural or not. Prepare yourself in advance for when we actually make a pitstop in this era.
As we delve even further into the past, we’ll journey into the ancient world. You’ll see that lash enhancement isn’t a recent revelation in the slightest. Civilizations in ancient Egypt were known to use ointments, kohl, and brushes to apply a fluffed and dramatic look to their natural eyelashes.
All the way back in 2500 B.C., people were keen to give their features a little extra oomph with the popular tinting treatments that both men and women partook of. These forms of beauty enhancement would eventually create the foundations of the makeup industry.
And just like the products of today are designed to be multipurpose in their use — to nourish and moisturize the skin instead of just serving the lashes — the ancient Egyptians’ methods of beautification were also believed to possess antibacterial properties.
A Sordid Start to Lashes
To understand the furthering of the lash industry and what necessitated the furthering in the first place, it’s important to open up the can of worms that is Pliny the Elder. We know he sounds like someone straight from a The Lord of The Rings reboot, but we assure you, Pliny is a very real person who had a very real impact on the history of lashes.
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder was an author and natural philosopher in ancient Rome whose writing in Naturalist Historia (Natural History) made waves in how the women at the time viewed long eyelashes. Pliny believed that “lashes were bestowed by nature for another purpose [aside from beautification], as a sort of fence [against] … things accidentally falling into them.”
But the real kicker was his next assertion. Pliny went on to say, “Sexual excess causes them to drop off, not undeservedly.”
And Pliny was a little out of pocket for that one. Although the root of longer lashes grew from the idea that they got shorter with age, the ancient Roman people took those words to heart and started pursuing longer lashes to be seen as more chaste and pure.
Oddly enough, the centuries that followed saw a complete flip-flop (more than once!) in the way lashes were viewed in society. The Church in the Middle Ages saw long lashes as the reflection of an erotic lifestyle that drove women to literally pluck. Them. Out.
There really was no winning for these poor women, was there? But if Queen Elizabeth I starts plucking her lashes and hairline to fit the standard of having a large forehead, what choice do her subjects have but to follow in her footsteps?
It really is giving arsenic-will-lighten-your-complexion energy.
And still, even hundreds of years more post-Pliny and his writings, the resurgence of long lashes was fierce. During the 19th century, women attempted some pretty sordid things in pursuit of longer lashes — and this is where you’ll want to double-check that the lap bar is pulled down and securely in place.
Desperate to grow their lashes longer by any means necessary, women in 1899 started implanting lash hairs into their already existing lash line using — gulp — needles. Take a moment to shudder or scream if you feel so inclined. We know we did when we learned this fact that we’d rather leave a mystery. Ignorance is bliss, as they say.
But we demand the truth about artificial eyelashes, and so we press on through history. Imagine how desperate you’d have to be to fit the beauty standard to — completely freely — poke needles into your lash line in hopes that it would turn out the way you intended. Then again, we’re sure 100 years from now, we’ll look back on some of the things we do today in the name of beauty and question it too.
The weaker-minded (or, honestly, the intelligently hesitant) women of the era would try gluing extra hair to their lashes, but this would often fail with time as the adhesives of the day were intended for strong hold like they are now. But they had the right idea at the core of it. If only they could’ve held out another 20 years for the lash innovations they needed.
The Lash of Yesteryear
As we move into the 20th century, the ideas of modern lash extensions are in their infancy, making some good advancements as much as they had some hurdles along the way.
There’s a bit of contradictory info out there on who really created the original lash design that would eventually become the strip lashes we have now. In the year 1911, a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor was credited with the first patented design for a “strip lash” that came in the form of a thin piece of fabric with synthetic hairs sewn into it to mimic lashes.
Most would say this patent credits the origin of the lash, and still, others would say it was hairdresser Karl Nessler in 1915 when he opened a salon in New York that sold artificial lash services to customers.
While their impact on the industry can’t be denied, lash extensions as a beautification didn’t truly take off until the following year, 1916, when director D. W. Griffith was filming “Intolerance.” Actress Seena Owens caught Griffith’s eye, and he found something not quite right about her Babylonian attire. He thought her eyes needed to be twice the size and have more allure, looking almost “supernatural.”
To achieve this look for the film, Griffith had a wig maker use spirit gum to apply real human hair (we’re screaming right along with you) to Owen’s eyes to enlarge them and make them otherworldly. While the desired goal was reached in Griffith’s eyes, another actress on set, Lillian Gish, noted in her memoir that one day Owen showed up to work “with her eyes swollen nearly shut,” thanks to her artificial eyelashes.
The origin story of fake eyelashes as a popular beautification method is a frightening one, but without Owen’s willingness to risk the odd style, lash extensions wouldn’t have spread like wildfire in the last century. They wouldn’t have eventually lit the subsequent fire under lash companies like Lashify to create products that give an otherworldly look without any of the health risks those Hollywood starlets had to endure.
Later lash queens like Twiggy came along, further changing the game for us today.
And we truly salute their sacrifice.
The Part Where Lashify Comes In
Breathe a sigh of relief, friend! We’ve entered safely back into the 21st century, where swollen eyes, real human hair, lash plucking, and outdated societal beliefs are becoming a thing of the past. We’ve even moved beyond mascara. We’re just as grateful to be here as you are.
We’re going to be taking our “lash” stop of the evening in 2016, a year forever ingrained in our hearts as the year Lashify was born. The culmination of where every lash risk and milestone was leading us, Lashify hit the scene during the height of the bold, full-glam makeup era, ready to be The Authority on Lashes™ for years to come.
Founder Sahara Lotti, though not the inventor of falsies themselves, became the inventor of every lash innovation you could think to name and then some. Wanting to straddle the chasm between expensive and time-consuming modern eyelash extensions and cheap and low-quality strip lashes that often damaged natural lashes, Lotti began Lashify with the mission to mend that empty space in the lash world.
Thus was born the Lashify system. It’s a beautiful ecosystem of Gossamer® Lashes, skin-safe removers and cleansers, long-lasting and nourishing bonds and sealers, and premium, cruelty-free, vegan products that improve every part of what lashes could be. Every piece fits perfectly into the next, like a wonderful little puzzle created exactly for each individual’s fake lash needs.
Gone are the days of allergic reactions, limiting lash technology, and damaging products. Here to stay are the days of innovation, customer health, top-quality ingredients, and tools that serve you instead of the other way around. And all of it at a price that won’t break the bank and an easy-to-use formula that makes it perfect for virgins and veterans alike.
Lashify is the future you’ve been waiting for because we think everyone should be able to be their own makeup artist.
The Future Is Full
If the Lashify is indeed the future, then the future is now and forever with us. At this very moment, you can achieve the lash looks that past lashes risked everything for at absolutely no risk to you or your lash health. If only everyone in the stories we’ve shared above could’ve experienced such luxury and ease.
Even though they couldn’t, their experience moved us into the future we have. Every misstep and backward thought was actually the exact step that needed to be taken to propel us into the lashes we wear today. It’s pretty weird to think back on the past in that way. It really puts everything into perspective for us, and we hope it’s done a little bit of the same for you.
Maybe the next time you add your favorite pair of Curl Gossamer® Lashes to your cart, or the next time you receive your Whisper Light™ Bond in the mail, or the next time you remove your lashes pain-free with the Melt Away Remover, you’ll take pause at the things you’re able to enjoy today. We know we will.
PLINY THE ELDER, Natural History | Loeb Classical Library
A True History of False Eyelashes | Racked