By Yvonne Sam
Eyelashes are the eyes newest frenemy. If eyes are the windows to the soul, then eyelashes are the gatekeepers.
Currently, there is an extreme feminine aesthetic that lately, has become a parody of itself. No longer are fake eyelashes just for women, who make a living appearing on camera, anymore. They have become disturbingly ubiquitous.
Take a look at a picture of any celebrity on the red carpet, and you will see it. It is hidden under coats of mascara and camouflaged to make it appear natural. There it makes the lashes look as though they naturally extend to the heavens: a pair of fake eyelashes. It has become a mainstream beauty ritual now, but the nagging question remains — why would anyone glue a string of fake eyelashes onto their real ones? However, in order to arrive at an understanding as to why fake eyelashes were even created, it is necessary to break down why, in the first place, long lashes were viewed as an attractive feature. Unfortunately, the background commences with a tad of lewdness. At its core, this obsession with longer lashes emanates from the idea that lashes get shorter with age.
In ancient Rome, Gaius Plinius Secundus, called Pliny the Elder — Roman author, philosopher, army commander and writer of the world’s first encyclopedia — helped make long lashes more enviable when he posited they were being chaste and intemperate.
“Eyelashes fell out from excessive sex, and so it was especially important for women to keep their eyelashes long, to prove their chastity,” Pliny claimed, incorrectly of course.
As a result, women strived to have the longest lashes possible. Hundreds of years after Pliny made that assertion, lashes came into favor again. In 1899, for instance, there were accounts of women having lashes implanted into their eyelids, via needles. It became a popular procedure, even in capitals, like Paris.
Around this time, the more faint of heart attempted to glue human hair to their eyelids, instead of threading it, but the method proved unsuccessful as the hair often fell off.
In 1911, a Canadian woman, named Anna Taylor, first patented artificial lashes, using a crescent of fabric implanted with hairs. In 1915, Karl Nessler, a hairdresser known for his permanent waves, opened a hair salon in New York and sold lash services, promoting false eyelashes at his salon as, according to the New York Times, “a guard against the glare of electric lights.” He also hired chorus girls to sell them and bat their lashes at customers.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood starlets, like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth, wore lashes in photo shoots to make their eyes look larger and more, well, eye-catching. The introduction of plastic materials, fit for fake eyelashes, made them a better product in the 1950’s. No longer were lashes made of human hair and/or fabric, but durable thin plastic — which is how some are still manufactured today.
While the 1940s and ’50s were all about glamour, the 1960s makeup aesthetic was more adventurous, innovative and young. The model at the center of this movement was Twiggy, whose signature look included large lashes that accentuated her already prominent eyes. Though the most iconic images of Twiggy showed her with lashes painted directly onto her face, she also wore plenty of fake eyelashes.
There is no real explanation, except that fads come and go, but the 1970s and ’80s were not major decades for false eyelashes. Makeup of the 1970s was much more muted and natural, and in the 1980s, things like blush and dark lipstick were more popular than massive lashes. Some women, like Cher, did continue to wear them, as she would.
Beginning in the 1990s, fake eyelashes roared back into popularity. For women like Anna Nicole Smith, Pamela Anderson and model, Cindy Crawford, eyelashes were an easy way to achieve a sort of retro/bombshell 1950s glamour with, quite literally, the blink of an eye.
Fake eyelashes got a very fancy — and very expensive — makeover in the 2000s: Jennifer Lopez wore fake eyelashes made of red fox fur to the 2001 Academy Awards; in 2004, Madonna started wearing a $10,000 pair of mink and diamond lashes to promote her Re-Invention tour. With lashes worn by some of the world’s most famous women, they eased into the mainstream.
Fake eyelashes are now sold anywhere makeup is, from Walmart to Nordstrom, and everything in between. They’re currently embraced by nearly every celebrity on a red carpet, and drag queens, too, with the goal of looking as glamorous as possible. Who would not love having long fluttering effortless lashes?
Many beauty routines come with some inherent risk, and as beautiful as eyelash extensions may be, they can cause eye infections, allergic reactions and, in some cases, more serious eye problems. Eyelashes may also cause temporary or permanent loss of your real eyelashes. Taking off the fake ones may cause your natural lashes to break and even damage the hair follicle.
Conclusively, some females need to look in the mirror after applying false eyelashes, as some of the extra long fake eyelashes makes the wearer look like a cartoon character. Remember that fake is fake. When lashes are too heavy and dense, they do something to the lid and appear like an awning that blocks the light. The verdict is in and the guys have spoken: “Too much fake is difficult to take”. Aleuta continua– the struggle continues.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is the Chair of the Rights and Freedom Committee at the Black Community Resource Centre. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.