A Full History Of Eyelashes And Their Place In Culture: Why Are We So Obsessed?

By | March 4, 2021

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Ancient Egyptian women wearing kohl, from a tomb mural in Thebes (1420–1375 B.C.E.). (British Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

Artistic and sensual or barely there, eyelashes have been colored, lengthened, and shortened for centuries. Dating back to Ancient Egypt, eyelashes have played an important function in status and beauty that's never really changed.

Ancient Eyelashes

In Ancient Egypt and Rome, both men and women artificially colored and lengthened their eyelashes with kohl, a black putty made of lead sulfide that was applied to the eyelashes and rims of the eyes. It wasn't all for beauty, however. Kohl has antibacterial properties, so whether they knew it or not, their makeup routine was protecting their eyes from infections that were all too common back then.

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Portrait of Elizabeth I of England, the Armada Portrait. (Woburn Abbey/Wikimedia Commons)

Medieval Eyelashes

You might think that thick, abundant eyelashes have always been considered beautiful, but in the medieval era, women removed most of their eyelashes and eyebrows the same way they remove other body hair today. That changed when Queen Elizabeth I took her place on the throne and England became entranced by her natural red hair. People started dying their hair and even their eyelashes with soot and crushed berries to get that fiery royal look.