Okay, the thing is I have never really been in love with my eyelashes and have envied people who don’t need eyelash extensions for years. It is just unfair! My eyelashes are short, they point in all different directions, and they make putting on mascara difficult sometimes. Now, I bet you think that I wear fake eyelashes daily because of this. Well, I don’t! For some reason, I have never been into wearing fake eyelashes. I tried them once and failed, so I never tried again.

Since my failed attempt with fake eyelashes many years ago, my eyelashes are something that I have learned to accept and love. But occasionally, I still want to live out my lifelong dream of having lashes that are so long that it looks like I am about to take flight. Therefore, when I heard about eyelash extensions, I thought it would be perfect! They last for almost a month, and I would not have to worry about trying to glue them on every day.

I know there are many people out there who want to try lash extensions like me. There are probably even more people who wear false lashes and eyelash extensions daily, but have you ever wondered how long people have been getting fake lashes and eyelash extensions?

People’s obsession with long lashes may seem like a rising trend to some, but it turns out that people have been wanting long lashes for centuries. Different techniques for applying fake lashes, attaching eyelash extensions, and making eyelashes appear longer has been around for quite some time.

Let’s go back a couple of centuries to Ancient Rome, where long lashes were fashionable and had a specific meaning. Eyelashes were seen as symbols for youth, morality, and virginity.

The Ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder claimed that long eyelashes were a representation of chastity because the author believed women’s eyelashes fell out during sex. So apparently if you had short eyelashes, that meant that you had a lot of sex. I don’t really know how I feel about his hypothesis, but either way, it did influence Roman women to try to use eyeliner to make their eyelashes appear longer and worked hard to achieve the long-lashed look.

Moving forward to the 1400s, there was a shockingly brief period during medieval times and middle ages where foreheads were more fashionable than eyelashes and even eyebrows. The church had linked women having hair to eroticism. Yes, just having hair at all was erotic. Therefore, women would pluck out their eyelashes and eyebrows to showcase their forehead.

Fortunately, this trend ended because our eyelashes actually protect our eyes from things like dust and debris. They even shield our eyes from the sun a little.  By the 1800s, long lashes were desired once again! However, people took their yearning for long eyelashes a little too far.

Here is where it gets a little scary.

In the late 1800s, a dangerous procedure to achieve long eyelashes was introduced to the public. While some women were gluing human hair to their eyelids, other women were looking for a more permanent route. The process involved taking strains of hair from your head and sewing the hair into their eyelids. Scary, I know! Apparently, they even attempted to use a rubbing solution of cocaine to numb the area before the procedure, but I have a feeling that it was still painful.

I’d take mascara over that any day. Thankfully, in the 1900s, artificial lashes were patented by Karl Nessler, a famous hairdresser from England. By the 2000s, modern eyelash extensions became a growing beauty service. Now anyone who wants to try out having longer lashes has great temporary and, most importantly, safe options to try.

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  • Tatayana Allen is a recent college graduate of the University of Virginia. During her time at the university she was a Media Studies major and was in the Cavalier Marching Band. Tatayana loves anything related to fashion, music, and photography.