A Look Back Through Time: The History of False Eyelashes
Like many things glamourous, false eyelashes were an invention out of Hollywood - at least according to popular belief.
An American film director, D.W. Griffith, used them for a 1916 silent move called Intolerance. He wanted to give the actress, Seena Owen, eyelashes so long they brushed her cheeks and made her eyes appear larger than life. The lashes were made of strands of human hair sown together by a wigmaker and glued on with spirit gum.
(Seena Owen, the star of 1916’s Intolerance)
In truth, Griffith wasn’t the first person to come up with the idea. According to New York Times Magazine, a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor received the first U.S. patent for artificial lashes in 1911. A German man named Charles Nestle had also been making and selling false eyelashes, which he used to finance his next idea - the perm. In 1915, Nestle opened a New York City perm salon that sold false eyelashes on the side.
(1923 advertisement for Charles Nestle’s “Nesto Lashes”)
Even before the 20th century, people all over the world had experimented with various methods of enhancing eyelashes - some painful and downright barbaric. A London woman in the 19th century removed hair from women’s heads and sowed it to their eyelids! OUCH! What a tribute to woman’s desires for beauty through long lashes though!
Max Factor - the man who coined the term “makeup” - is credited with inventing the first set of false eyelashes as we know them today. Imagine being the one to coin the term “Makeup”!? Cool! Factor, a Russian immigrant turned cosmetics mogul, created a pair out of human hair in 1919 for actress Phylis Harver. The lashes were expensive and they didn’t last long, but they soon became a Hollywood staple.
(Russian immigrant Max Factor and his “Beauty Calibrator,” which was used to understand the contours of a woman’s face)
Factor, by the way, is widely considered the father of modern makeup. He started his company in 1925 after realizing that his cosmetics were being stolen off movie sets by cast members who wanted to use them at home. Prior to the 1920s, makeup was for Hollywood actresses, not decent ladies in their daily lives.
By the 1930s, false eyelashes were being used by women outside of Hollywood. Glue-on home lash kits were sold, and salons all over the country offered application services. Lashes were advertised as lasting for weeks, but that often wasn’t the case. Lash strips had a tendency to lift up at the corners or fall off completely. There were limited colors, so matching the natural lashes wasn’t easy to do.  And the look wasn’t exactly natural.
(1932 salon ad for false eyelashes)
(1936 image of a woman getting false eyelashes, which were glued to the real lashes, not the eyelids)
False lashes were fully mainstream by the 1940s, and they continued to be fashionable throughout the 50s and 60s. Cosmetic companies experimented with new materials, both natural and synthetic, including nylon, fur and human hair.
(Lucille Ball sporting a classic 1950s look - bold red lips and long false lashes)
False lashes reached the peak of their popularity - at least for a while - in the 1960s and early 1970s. Dramatic eye looks inspired by celebrities like Twiggy fueled sales throughout the decade. By 1968, more than 20 million sets of false eyelashes were sold in the United States each year.  Women had more options by this point, too. Salons were widely offering lash services, and as dozens of brands were producing at-home kits in a variety of colors, styles and designs. Most lashes were sold in strips, but individual lashes were also available.
(In the mid-1960s, everyone wanted lashes like model Twiggy)
(1969 Max Factor ad for new and improved fake eyelashes)
False eyelashes remained a Hollywood staple throughout the next few decades, but they fell somewhat out of fashion with regular women. Perhaps is was the more natural look of the late 70s that spawned that. However, lashes have seen a major resurgence in the last 10 years, thanks, in large part, to better technology. Modern lash extensions appear realistic, and the adhesives are safer and longer lasting. The trend has also received a boost from celebrities like Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian, who are rarely seen without their lashes.
 New York Times Magazine, Who Made Those False Eyelashes?, Pagan Kennedy, 2013
 The Glamourologist, Jeepers Peepers, 2011
 Voguepedia, Max Factor
Cosmetics and Skin
Cosmetics and Skin, citing Australian Women’s Weekly