Eyelashes have always been at the forefront of our mind and humans have been altering them to maintain current trends. Flawless Lashes by Loreta have created an interactive lash archive that gives an easy-to-read breakdown of eyelash fashion throughout history.
Makeup fashion is forever changing, that blue eyeliner that made us feel like a goddess ten years ago now leaves us with instant regret. Hair mascara was revolutionary and is now nothing but revolting.
Women have also strived for beauty since records began and in doing so have gone to extreme measures. We are going to talk through some of the most shocking and grizzly methods women went through in the name of beauty.
Ancient Egypt 3500 BC – 2500 BC
Believe it or not, it was men who kick-started the eyelash obsession. In Ancient Egypt, men would use ointments and kohl as a natural insect repellent and aided in protecting their eyes from the sun. It was also believed to ward off bad spirits.
When children were born, they had these concoctions smudged over their faces to ward off the ‘evil eye’.
Naturally, women were not going to be upstaged by men and their new fluttering lashes. Women used crushed malachite to give their lashes some lift. A stone believed to be gifted from the goddess of love Hathor, it was also believed to be an aphrodisiac.(source)
Ancient Rome 753 BC – 476 AD
It seems Ancient Romans were the first to style lashes purely for cosmetic reasons. Plinius the Elder wrote that excessive sex would cause eyelashes to fall out.
Not wanting to sully their reputation, women would use kohl and saffron to darken lashes and create a curled looked. In doing so, they were able to prove their chastity (even when false!).
Middle Ages 1066 – 1485
What do you believe if the most appealing part of your face? Your sparkling eyes or maybe it’s your angelic smile? Well in the Middle Ages the most alluring feature was your forehead.
Yes really, something many of us try to hide, women of the Middle Ages would do whatever they could to accentuate this.
While we endeavour for long, thick lashes in the 21st Century, women of this period would pluck their eyelashes and eyebrows. Alongside this, they also would pluck their hairline for the ultimate big forehead vision.
Thankfully, the receding hairline look doesn’t appear to be making a come-back anytime soon.
The Elizabethans 1533 – 1603
Queen Elizabeth the First had an extreme impact on fashion. Subjects strove to copy Her Majesty’s features and the most striking of these was her red hair.
Women would dye their hair and eyelashes to match her copper hue by crushing berries and mixing with soot. It was seen as a taboo practice and although it was very common for women to use these dyes, they were only ever used in private.
Other recipes were created to give a more permanent effect, however, these were often toxic. It was common for women to experience hair loss thanks to this method. Despite how common this was, it didn’t stop women from attempting it.
The Victorians 1837 – 1901
It will come as absolutely no surprise that The Victorians had some of the most gruesome methods for their lashes.
Eyelash fashion had previously taken a step back since The Elizabethan era but was now back with force.
Here we saw the first use to lash extensions and believe me, it was not for the faint-hearted. Today lash extensions are relatively simple to have applied by a professional and many find a trip to the salon a relaxing treat.
For the Victorian woman, having lash extensions involved real hair, a tiny and extremely sharp needle and that all-time Victorian staple: cocaine.(source)
‘Experts’ would sew long hairs through the eyelid and rub cocaine as a numbing agent. Although, it was typically human hair taken from the head and did not sit right. It often left women with a ‘spider eye’ and bandaged eyes for at least 24 hours.
Although many used a home-made mascara, typically made from ashes and elderberry juice. There was nothing available on the commercial market. Eugene Rimmel, who was Queen Victoria’s personal perfumer, created the first commercial mascara.
Using a mix of coal dust and Vaseline, he invented a non-toxic, revolutionary product that thankfully saw an end to this horrifying extension hype.
The mascara quickly became a sensation and contributed to the success of the Rimmel brand we know today.
Early 20th Century
The early 1900s saw the first patent for false eyelashes being registered in both the UK and the United States. However, it wasn’t until 1916 that they peaked in popularity.
Just like today, people were obsessed with celebrities and Hollywood culture. Famous screen actress Seena Owen was instructed by director D. W Griffiths that her eyelashes must ‘brush her cheek’.
Owen sported her iconic lash look in the film Intolerance and this sent women into a frenzy trying to copy her style.
However, spirit gum was used to apply these lashes to Owen’s eyelids. Those who have used spirit gum before know this stuff should never go near your eyes and poor Owen arrived on set one day to her eyelids swollen so much she could no longer see.
The media glossed over this to generate more sales. We do not know how many women experienced the same trouble but we can be sure there must have been casualties!