Eyes may be the window to the soul, but eyelashes are the gatekeepers, the curtains and so much more. It makes sense, then, that lashes — and the lack thereof — have held significant meaning throughout history. But why?
The easiest answer is that we love beauty, and lashes are synonymous with beauty. But why?
Back To The Beginning
The Ancient Egyptians started it all. As early as 4,000 B.C., they took to emphasizing their eyelashes with kohl and other ointments. This rudimentary eye makeup not only accentuated the eyes, but it also served as extra protection from the sun.
A few thousand years later, Roman women also used kohl — as well as burnt cork — to darken their eyelashes. And why wouldn’t they want to emphasize them? At the time, long, full eyelashes were seen as a sign of chastity. That’s right. It was actually believed that a woman’s eyelashes would fall out if she had too much sex, a belief that perhaps stemmed from the fact that eyelash loss was a symptom of syphilis.
Many years later, around the turn of the 20th century, these primitive precursors led to the first mascara. Eugène Rimmel, who was the perfumer for Queen Victoria, created it using a combination of coal dust and Vaseline jelly. That helped pave the way for Mabel Williams to come up with “Lash-Brow-Ine,” which eventually turned into the now-iconic Maybelline.
Why Long Lashes Are So Hot
Then — and in the years since — full eyelashes have continued to signal health, vitality and beauty. Why? In 1985, researchers posited that eyelashes created the illusion of wide, gazing eyes, which added to the appearance of a “babyface.” The authors of the study wrote that such features seemed to elicit feelings of affection in others.
Later researchers theorized that especially dark eyelashes emphasized both the whites of the eyes and the dark ring that appeared around the iris, an appearance that tends to indicate youthfulness.
Whatever the underlying reason, there was a small blip in our history, during Medieval times, when large foreheads were considered en vogue. As a result, women nixed their eyelashes and eyebrows altogether.
Thank goodness lashes made a major comeback. Especially considering that they also have a practical purpose, protecting our eyes from dirt and dust, and keeping them from drying out. Not only that, but eyelash loss can signal a variety of diseases. If you remove your own eyelashes, you remove that early warning system! Considering the connection between eyelash loss and disease, it’s unsurprising that skimpy lashes are also associated with sickness. Nobody wants to look sickly, and eyelashes are a relatively easy way to perk up all your features.
Fast forward to the present day, and eyelashes — and eyelash-related beauty products — are flourishing. In fact, we may actually be living in the ultimate era for eyelashes. According to Google Trends, the top three most commonly asked beauty questions in 2018 were all about eyelashes.
(The number one question was about how to apply magnetic lashes. Following that were questions about the definition of lash lift, and how to remove individual eyelashes.)
And lately, there are more ways than ever to beautify and boost your lashes, whether or not you’re born with a luscious pair.
“These days, we have every conceivable lash look to choose from, and with the advent of lash extensions, you can wake up in full lash mode every day,” says Nonie Creme, co-founder of BeautyGarde.
Mascara, of course, is still one of the most popular beauty products out there. In fact, that iconic tube of pink and green Maybelline Great Lash is sold every 2.5 seconds around the world. But mascara isn’t the only beauty product available to those looking to boost their lashes. Eyelash technology has evolved to also include semi-permanent extensions, growth serums, eyelash tools and more. The eyelash growth category alone is now a billion-dollar industry.
It’s fascinating to see how eyelash technology has evolved over time. We’re not the first to want to make our peepers pop, and we certainly won’t be the last.
Lashes, after all, were made to last.