Eyelash Extensions: The Truth Behind the Trend

Eyelash expert and Fit and Fab Living contibutor Anna Phillips talks about the history of eyelash extensions, and why they’re so popular today.

Before Kim K, Madonna or even Twiggy, there was Cleopatra. But seriously, fascination with lash embellishment began thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians (women and men) used ointment to style their lashes believing that the ointment helped to keep away bad spirits. Women believed this bad spirit repellent was also an aphrodisiac. Talk about multi-purpose! This was the first ever mascara and spurred the universal attraction to embellished eyes.

Bat your lashes three times and fast-forward to the year 1916 – the first faux eyelash strip was created by American film director D.W. Griffith – yes, a man! He requested the first false eyelashes to be made for actress Seena Owen for the film “Intolerance.”He is said to have wanted her lashes to grace her cheeks and appear larger than life on camera. 

This prototype was crafted by a wig maker using human hair painstakingly strung through a very fine gauze. Griffith didn’t patent his creation (although he probably should have considering that the film was a financial failure) and the faux lash market became a new industry.

Dazzling lashes were the mark of the old Hollywood rich and famous like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Early false lash adaptations were made of fringe and had an unnaturally bushy appearance. Falsies didn’t gain in popularity until the 1960s when the mod look swept America – thanks, Twiggy! 

By then, false lashes had evolved into a less dramatic human hair strip, but they only lasted a few hours and were expensive for the time. The price and short life didn’t stop housewives, teenage girls or the new working woman from flocking to the stores in search of the new beauty craze. Not much has changed in 50 years.

Fashion and beauty trends evolve – thankfully – and by the 1990s false lash strips were in mass distribution and available in a variety of styles including “I’m obviously wearing fake lashes, but I want you to pretend not to notice” and “look at my amazing fake lashes, and I don’t care if you notice.” In 2004, the phenomenon known as semi-permanent eyelash extensions made its debut into the western world. 

They were invented in Asia before the trend was popularized by Hollywood starlets and became a common place with everyday women. Semi-permanent eyelash extensions are applied one single faux lash at a time to one natural lash hair to give a seamlessly natural enhancement to the eyes.

Unlike its predecessors, eyelash extensions provide more than just a glamorous appearance. They are also time and money savers. They can easily cut the daily beauty routine in half by eliminating the need to use other cosmetics. Women can wake up feeling more beautiful and confident instantly. 

They also give the face a more youthful appearance without expensive surgery. Today, millions of women world-wide wear eyelash extensions. Having your lashes done has become a highly desired beauty treatment like nails and hair styling. Some say it becomes an addiction – and if addiction means feeling better about yourself and ready to take on the world then I won’t disagree!

Anna Phillips is founder and president of The Lash Lounge, a high-end beauty salon specializing in semi-permanant eyelash extensions. 

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