In 1916, while making his film Intolerance, director D. Griffith wanted actress Seena Owen to have eyelashes that touch her cheeks, so that her eyes would shine brighter than life.
The false eyelashesthat were made from human hair were specifically woven piece by piece by a local wig manufacturer. In 1911, a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor first patented artificial eyelashes, using a cloth half moon implanted with small hairs.
In 1915, Karl Nessler, a hairdresser known for his permanent waves, opened a hairdresser in New York and sold eyelash services, promoting false eyelashes in his salon as, according to the New York Times, “protection against the glare of electric lights”. He also hired showgirls to sell them and beat up customers. In 1911, a Canadian inventor named Anna Taylor patented artificial eyelashes. His invention included glued eyelashes, or lashes in strips, which were thought to be made of human hair.
A few years later, German hairdresser Karl Nessler provided false eyelash services at his salon in New York. According to the New York Times, Nessler announced his services as “a guard against the glare of electric lights. Even better, the history of eyelash extensions has evolved from the gluing of human hair or some other foreign material to the eyelids and is no longer necessary to achieve that luminous eyelash look. That's probably why, at the end of the 19th century, when long eyelashes became fashionable again, some absolutely crazy treatments were offered.
False eyelashes date back to the ancient Romans, when a Roman author, Gaius Pliny Secundus, known by the name of Pliny the Elder, linked shortened eyelashes to a woman's chastity. In the Middle Ages, people didn't want to be part of the fad for false eyelashes that would soon dominate mainstream culture. Within a decade, false eyelashes became standard equipment for actresses and flappers who imitated the “baby doll eyes” they saw on screen. Since eyelashes perform a real function, keeping dirt out of the eyes, that appearance was incredibly painful.
Turns out it's less strange than almost everything else people have been doing to their eyelashes throughout history. With such a dark and dangerous history and such an exhausting application, it's surprising that false eyelashes are so popular. The semi-permanent eyelashes that are widely used today are made of almost any material you can imagine. It wasn't until 1916, during the shooting of the film Intolerance, that artificial eyelashes began to make waves.
Gish claimed that Griffith invented false eyelashes, but like many Hollywood legends, this is not entirely true. Nowadays, false eyelashes are often part of many people's glamorous routines, and even if you've never used them before, you've definitely seen someone who has. After the ancient philosopher Pliny the Elder claimed that short eyelashes were a sign of aging, the Romans adopted eyelash enhancement practices. Of course, it's no stranger than the medieval tradition of plucking your eyelashes, which existed around the 15th century.
The methods they used were dangerous because the eyelashes performed the important function of keeping dust and dirt out of the eyes.