Is it Better to Wear Eyelash Extensions or Mascara?

Woman applying eye makeup

As cosmetologists, you need to understand what William Shakespeare meant when he wrote, “Our eyes are the windows to our soul.” When we apply eye makeup or eyelash extensions, we resonate with that sentiment. Eye makeup dates back 12,000 years to ancient Egypt when they lined their eyes and eyebrows heavily with kohl, mainly in religious significance, according to Eluxe Magazine. In Egyptian culture, kohl allowed them to emulate the appearance of their gods. The trend spread across Rome and Greece, then India and the Middle East, where women began to wear eye makeup for beauty’s sake. The cost of obtaining the materials for cosmetics use unknowingly ushered in the early class separation of women through the appearance of wealth.

The Historical Infatuation with Eyelashes and Mascara

During Roman times, according to “Plinius the Elder,” when lovemaking, eyelashes often fell out. So, within that culture, long, thick eyelashes were not seen as a sign of seduction but one of virtue. Therefore, if no previous lovemaking occurred, it meant women and men retained their eyelashes, alluding to their purity. To hide sparse eyelashes, natural to some people, they encircled their eyes and darkened the lashes using a combination of kohl and ointment. This application also served as protection for their eyes from the sun’s rays. Mascara took a more patented route in the early 20th century as it went through a few significant formulation and application changes like water-proofing, coloring, and wand revamping.

Or, Is It Evolutionary?

Do you ever wonder why we fancy large eyes in concert with long, thick eyelashes most of all? Maybe the answer lies in science; as humans, we associate more enormous eyes with youthfulness and higher estrogen levels, which means they’re an indicator of fertility. So just like a sizeable waist-to-hip ratio, we’re evolutionarily programmed to find larger eyes attractive, also explaining our love for full, fluffy eyelashes since they create appearance of fuller healthy-looking eyes. By default, we tend to look at people’s eyes more when we conversate. Among everything else, this gaze exchange is one of the more important reasons why women seek endless ways to emphasize and glamorize their eyes by framing them utilizing mascara or eyelash extensions.

The First Modern Mascaras

You’ll be interested to know that crocodile stool was a crucial ingredient in earlier mascaras. Fortunately, today we don’t have to worry about what we are putting on our faces. The first modern mascara, a mixture of lampblack or ash, heated with elderberry juice, was applied while warm to the eyelashes, also a process not without issues. In the early 1900’s, a chemist named Eugene Rimmel invented the predecessor to the mascara we treasure today by using petroleum jelly as an adherent, according to the History of Mascara.

In 1913, the uber-conglomerate Maybelline’s birth came about when T.L. Williams created a similar American eyelash enhancing product for Mabel, his sister. Not too long after, the development of the cake form of mascara occurred. This formulation, made from equal parts of soap and black dye, was applied using  a dampened brush to rub on the cake and then to your lashes. Slightly less messy than Rimmel and William’s creations but still not user-friendly or convenient. Yet, no significant mascara advances came along again until 1957.

Advances in Later Mascara Formulas

In 1957, Rubinstein developed mascara in a lotion form, packaged in a tube and sold with an applicator brush, but the lotion was still messy. The mascara, squeezed from a tube-like container onto a brush, was then applied to lashes. This application was a contention point due to the varying product amount’s glop ending up on the brush. During the same year, Rubinstein launched the first mascara wand, called Mascara-Matic, a metal wand developed to draw the mascara out of a convenient, sleek, golden tube. The wiper’s development, a plastic ring inside the tube’s mouth, was just as crucial as the wand to the mascara’s performance as it determines how much excess formula gets wiped off and how much stays on the brush. This product became the forerunner to mascara today.

With so many options today, we still scout endlessly for the right formula that’s water-proof, sweat-proof, smudge-proof, and washes off easily with soap and water. This dilemma may be why so many women turn to eyelash extensions in place of mascara.

Eyelash Extension’s Painful Beginnings

Alongside mascara’s development, the eyelash extension evolution also took place, giving women an alternative to applying daily gobs of mascara. In the Victorian era, women sewed real hair to their eyelids to create longer and fuller lashes, according to Maire Claire. A fine needle, threaded with a long hair from the scalp, was sewn through the eyelid’s edge at graduated lengths, taking place using cocaine as a topical numbing agent. Although less adventurous women just stuck strands of hair to their eyelash line with an adhesive, this way was not without its issues. Some who dared the gluing process ended up with eye injuries, at times resulting in temporary to permanent vision loss.

Eyelash Extensions Become Mainstream

The turn of the century, the Hollywood starlet, and the onset of moving pictures brought even more attention to the eyelash realm. In 1911, Anna Taylor, a Canadian woman, filed the first strip style patent for temporary, adhesive lashes made from presumably real hair, though the patent didn’t specify. In 1916, similar strip lashes appeared on film for the first time when the director got the film’s wig-maker to hodgepodge some eyelash extensions combining gauze and human hair to glue onto the actress’s eyelids. Even though in the 1930s, Vogue, through their advertisements, made eyelash extensions mainstream, it wasn’t until the 1950s when they created a buzz. The meteoric rise came in the ’60s when the model Twiggy and the invention of synthetic falsies culminated in the long spiderlike lashes and affordability.

The Modern Lash Extension (Semipermanent Lashes)

Between the 1960s to the beginning of the 21st-century, eyelash extensions saw very few significant milestones. We mentioned before, gluing eyelashes onto the eyelids dotted their way through history, and some confuse the popularity in the strip eyelashes of the ’60s with eyelash extensions. Today’s type eyelash extension’s actual development didn’t occur until 2004 in Japan, then introduced here in the US. The eyelash extension adheres to, blends with and enhances the natural eyelashes. Among the earliest that championed the modern eyelash extension were celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, and Beyonce. Semi-permanent lashes, created from materials including synthetic fibers, animal hair, and silk, are longer-lasting and more natural-looking than ever before.

Who Can Perform Lash Extension Applications?

The requirements needed to perform lash extension applications vary on the state level. In most states, licensing in concert with training as a cosmetologist or esthetician is required. The world of eyelash extensions is expanding by leaps and expected to keep doing so, meaning now is the perfect time to specialize in the field. Training is an affordable commitment, a career choice that earns money for years to come and often allows for a flexible schedule.

The Pros of Mascara and Lash Extensions

As with everything, there are pros on both sides of the aisle. Here we’ll take a look at each application’s benefits and the different reasons why clients prefer one over the other:

Mascara Benefits

Many women still use mascaras as the easiest way to extend, define, and thicken natural eyelashes. A good mascara creates an impression of full lashes without the artificial appearance of traditional strip style eyelash extensions. The vast spectrum of color options in today’s mascara allows us to achieve more dramatic effects. The application of mascara is easy, less expensive, and allows for more daily variation than the application of eyelash extensions. The reapplication and removal creates little to no damage to natural eyelashes. Also, modern mascaras often contain nourishing nutrients and natural ingredients for its breakout-susceptible users.

Lash Extensions Benefits

The most significant reasoning behind why so many choose eyelash extensions is how long they last. Contrary to popular belief, most eyelash extension clients are not uber-glamorous. For some women, convenience is vital; like homemakers, busy businesswomen, yoga instructors, and athletes, a daily makeup routine is not on their priority list. In their opinion, these women find returning at regular intervals for eyelash upkeep more convenient than the daily reapplication of mascara. Furthermore, modern eyelash extensions come available in dozens of designs, thicknesses, materials, and lengths. Clients feel little weight on their real lashes depending on the type of lash they choose.

Which Is Better?

For many women, the choice of mascara versus lash extensions is a matter of preference. However, we found that lash extension’s long-lasting benefit beat out any attribute mascara owns in our research.

Due to the modern lash extension’s popularity, high demand, cost-efficiency, improved process, better material, and variation, opinions on the matter changed over the past decades. In the past, women’s preference between mascara and lash extensions leaned more towards mascara. Eyelashes are a multimillion-dollar industry built on the concept that the eyes say the most about you. It’s an excellent time to get into mastering the art of the eyelash, adding valued clientele and cash flow to your business. Learning how to apply eyelash extensions also adds to your repertoire of services, making you a valuable addition to any salon.

Cosmetology Program

Want to learn more about how to apply mascara and eyelash extensions? At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a cosmetologist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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