Why Do Long and Dark Eyelashes Captivate Us? The Fascinating Psychology Behind Our Obsession
"It's also a curious thing to think that, of all the different types of hair on our bodies, eyelashes are one of the few that have managed to escape the "ugh, get rid of it" category and instead fall under the "oh, let's emphasize that" group"
When it comes to beauty, long, dark eyelashes can be mesmerizing. Afterall, they’ve been glorified throughout history – from Ancient Egyptians who interpreted them as a sign of divinity, to the Elizabethan era when women would use "black kohl" makeup around their eyes and on their lashes – and they seem to elicit a universal admiration, stemming centuries ago and extending into modern times.
Have you ever wondered why?
At QMBeautique, we aren’t only committed to creating the most innovative and user-friendly lash & beauty products but also to understanding the deep-rooted reasons why we are so enamored with lashes in the first place. On our hunt to learn more about the evolution of the industry, we ask ourselves…
What makes us so intrigued with long and dark eyelashes?
Well, hold onto your hats because this blog post is about to dive into some profound psychological theories behind why thick lashes captivate us beyond simply being aesthetically beautiful.
If you’re a Millennial and beyond, you’ve probably swooned over the infamous love stories of the adored Popeye and Olive Oyl (or at least caught an episode or two of the popularized show, Popeye the Sailor Man). Olive Oyl’s character began with a slightly bland appearance, hair slicked back into a bun, dressed very conservatively until around 1940 when the show's animators remodeled.
The main difference? Eyelashes.
What about the iconic couple of the mouse world, Mickey and Minnie Mouse? They share almost identical physical features, except for one, very distinguishable thing (which we think you might have guessed by now), eyelashes.
Both Minnie and Olive Oyl sport signature long, fluttery and fabulous lashes that enhance their femininity and delicacy but it doesn’t stop there, does it?
For centuries, big, beautiful eyelashes have been a symbol of femininity throughout all storytelling mediums and if you recall most any female cartoon character, you likely see a set of great lashes spanning from their lids.
But this dreamy aesthetic doesn't just exist in cartoons; it's become extremely popular amongst makeup trends, too. Whether you’re partial to false eyelashes or lash extensions – fabulous fluttery lengths are all the rage these days!
So what is it? What draws us to them? What makes them so irresistible, captivating us so?
The truth is, from a technical or biological standpoint, there is no inherent "lady thing" about them. In fact, eyelashes are actually the first line of defense for your eyes against things like dirt, debris and sweat. They’re used to prevent all of those from entering the eye and diffuse airflow that could otherwise dry it out.
It's also a curious thing to think that, of all the different types of hair on our bodies, eyelashes are one of the few that have managed to escape the "ugh, get rid of it" category and instead fall under the "oh, let's emphasize that" group. With the exception of one, albeit short lived, era in history (we’ll get into that another time, stay tuned for that because you’re going to want to read all about it - it’s juicy and abominable)...
Ready to Get Technical?
"Results showed that women, but not men, were seen as more attractive, feminine and healthier with longer eyelashes; indicating that perceptions of health and femininity increased with eyelash length. She also notes that older women were the ones to benefit most from the enhancement of their eyelashes, but adds that longer eyelashes did not reduce perceptions of age."
The first theory we'll examine for why eyelashes are considered attractive or aesthetically pleasing is that eyelashes are a sign of overall health.
Aimee Adam in “Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beautiful” (2021) examined the impact of eyelashes on perceived attractiveness. An interesting takeaway was that certain physical characteristics could act as external cues to youth, health and fertility and could influence social interaction.
Three experiments were conducted where Adam manipulated eyelash length in photographs of men and women, which were then rated by participants.
Results showed that women, but not men, were seen as more attractive, feminine and healthier with longer eyelashes; indicating that perceptions of health and femininity increased with eyelash length. She also notes that older women were the ones to benefit most from the enhancement of their eyelashes, but adds that longer eyelashes did not reduce perceptions of age.
Corroborating this theory, losing eyelashes can be a symptom of several diseases and disorders, making healthy lashes a desirable feature.
That said, there is a balance to be had; as was found in another experiment published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences which utilized 3D rendering software to generate males and females with varying eyelash lengths. It was found in this particular study that while longer eyelashes were perceived as more attractive, too long of eyelashes could also signal disease, such as immunodeficiency.
So what can we pull from that obfuscation?
Following what researchers call an ‘inverted-U function’, from an evolutionary perspective, the ideal eyelash length to signal health and vitality should fall somewhere between long and short.
Have fun…but not too much!
Fun fact: Ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder believed that women’s eyelashes could fall out if they had too much sex (seems counterintuitive when you consider that thick lashes could signify good health and fertility - sorry Pliny, but you lost us at ‘too much’). While the theory may seem amusing now, it’s not entirely unfounded (hear us out) - syphilis is one condition that can lead to eyelash loss. So, while missing a bit of context, one could make the connection…
More Hypothesis, Anyone?
"As long, dark lashes have been seen as the ultimate symbol of captivity, it's interesting to consider why this particular trait has become so synonymous with female attractiveness - is it something inherent in human biology, or is it more of a cultural construct that's been reinforced over time?"
The next theory we'll examine suggests that long eyelashes create the illusion of wide, gazing eyes.
Throughout the 20th century, studies found that baby-like features, such as large eyes and a high forehead, elicited nurturing responses from adults. It’s no wonder that these features have been associated with innocence, kindness, and warmth. After all, here in QMB we always say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, so this makes lashes the perfect set of drapes.
Some scientists have also found that darkened eyelashes, often enhanced with mascara or eyeliner, help emphasize the brightness of the whites of the eyes and the dark ring around the iris, known as the limbal ring. This ring is often associated with attractiveness, as it is most prominent during a human’s most fertile years. As we age, this ring begins to recede and fade due to health conditions such as glaucoma. Thus, a visible limbal ring is seen as an indicator of both health and age.
Lastly, fluttering eyelashes create visible movement around the eye with each blink and glance. This helps to imprison the beholder’s attention, making eyelashes an attention-grabbing feature.
Therefore, as long, dark lashes have been seen as the ultimate symbol of captivity, it's interesting to consider why this particular trait has become so synonymous with female attractiveness - is it something inherent in human biology, or is it more of a cultural construct that's been reinforced over time?
We must be able to recognize that our perception of what is considered "feminine" or "masculine" may be shaped by cultural and societal factors, rather than inherent biological differences.
Why Eye Makeup and Eyelash Products Are Predominately Marketed Towards Women
According to Marianne LaFrance, a professor of psychology and gender and sexuality studies at Yale, the eyes and mouth are some of the most important features on a woman’s face and have been referred to as “attraction magnets”. Noting that eyelashes draw a contrast between the eye itself and the eyelid, similar to how lipstick makes contrast for the lips with the surrounding area.
Speaking of contrast…
Remember when we made mention of Popeye and Olive Oyl? Now we might discuss the attractiveness indicators in men, which are the larger and sharper features, making us draw more attention to their eyebrows and jawlines.
Interestingly, recent research suggests that men's eyes are on average smaller and closer together than women's eyes, which may be why cosmetics that enhance the eyes can have an even more dramatic effect on women.
Additionally, LaFrance has come across research dating back 50 years that suggests women tend to blink more slowly than men, which fluttering lashes could accentuate. Though the data collected since then is mixed, researchers are still curious about whether this difference is a biological or cultural signal.
Now that we’ve established the different attraction magnets between female faces and male faces, we can see why the makeup and beauty industry therefore targets women with products that can be used to accentuate these features. By doing so, the industry is feeding the desire to express our femininity and enhance our attractiveness through makeup.
"Personality traits such as compassion, kindness and charisma are all proven to influence levels of appeal and factor into personal attraction, regardless of eyelash length and/or density, so the moral of the story is this - love the lashes, but consider the whole package, too.
Ultimately, it is important to recognize that beauty contains a number of components and that an individual’s physical appearance tells only one part of their unique story."
Whether you're rocking your natural lashes or enhancing them with a little mascara or falsies, remember that there's no one "right" way to express your gender or beauty. After all, the beauty of diversity is that there's room for all kinds of different looks and styles!
It is evident that humans have had a special relationship with long, dark eyelashes since ancient times.
The purpose of this article was to dive into the cultural and psychophysical purposes attributed to them in modern society, as well as understand why they may hold strong appeal in interpersonal attraction.
Although attractive eyes often contain long and dark lashes that enhance one’s perceived level of attractiveness, it should be noted that other personal features play a key role in determining overall beauty, too.
Personality traits such as compassion, kindness and charisma are all proven to influence levels of appeal and factor into personal attraction, regardless of eyelash length and/or density, so the moral of the story is this - love the lashes, but consider the whole package, too.
Ultimately, it is important to recognize that beauty contains a number of components and that an individual’s physical appearance tells only one part of their unique story.
And if you’re looking for false eyelashes to add to your beauty repertoire, make sure to head over and check out our collection of the highest quality synthetic eyelashes that have a surprisingly sustainable twist and are 100% cruelty-free.
Last Updated on: March 22, 2023
Lead Author ● Deniz Haciyusufoglu.
Co-Author ● Lisa Goodall