Eyelash Growers

Although women often go to great lengths to remove facial hair, there is one place on their face where there never seems to be enough, their eyelashes. Nineteenth century sources contain a number of methods that were presumed to encourage the growth of eyelashes some of which were also used on eyebrows.


One of the oldest practices to do the rounds of the nineteenth century beauty books was to regularly trim the lashes. This is sometimes described as a secret from far off lands where lashes are known to be long and black.

It is no less strange than true, however, that European beauties are quite inattentive to the growth of their eye-lashes; though in Circassia, Georgia, Persia, and Hindostan, it is one of the first objects of a mother’s care to promote the growth of her children’s eye-lashes. If hair be left to itself, it seldom grows long; but either splits at the top into two or more forks, or becomes smaller and smaller till it ends in a fine gossamer point. When it does so it never grows any longer, but remains stationary. The Circassian method of treating the eye-lashes is founded on this principle. The careful mother removes, with a pair of scissors, the forked and gossamer-like points (not more) of the eye-lashes, and every time this is done their growth is renewed, and they become long, close, finely curved, and of a silky gloss. This operation of tipping may be repeated every month or six weeks. The eye-lashes of infants and children are best tipped when they are asleep. Ladies may, with a little care, do the office for themselves. This secret must be invaluable to those whose eye-lashes have been thinned and dwarfed, as often happens from inflammation of the eyes.

(The toilette of health, beauty, and fashion, 1832, pp. 331-332)

It must have been a difficult operation to do on one’s own eyelashes and many authors recommended that it be done by a friend with a steady hand.

Growth of the eyelashes is greatly improved by clipping them at regular intervals for a few months. As the task requires a firm, confident touch it is easiest done by another, yet can, if necessary, be done by one’s self. Long, outward-curling lashes are a very great beauty in themselves, besides affording great protection to the eye, and a good deal of painstaking care is worth while.

(Fletcher, 1901, p. 388)

Fortunately the practice of clipping lashes seems to have died out early in the twentieth century but the myth that cutting stimulates hair growth lived on and was often used as a warning against clipping or shaving leg hair.

Various authorities advise cutting the hair with scissors close to the skin, believing that this is one of the best and simplest ways of removing the growth temporarily. Shaving, however, is a method that stimulates a stronger growth of hairs and, furthermore, in brunettes, after this process a tiny area about the individual hair sometimes takes on a darker hue.

(Harpers Bazaar, October 1913, p. 40)

It is easier to see why this myth had a longer life span with leg hair. Hair that has not been cut has a pointed end which is often partly bleached by sunlight and other environmental factors. When cut, the end becomes blunt, and the hair that emerges looks stronger and darker than the end that was removed, leading to the idea that cutting thickens and coarsens the hair and stimulates its growth. None of this is true, as many a balding man who has shaved his head will attest.

Lash growers

As it almost certainly comes out of using oils and pomades for treating head hair it is difficult to know how and when this myth got started but the idea that certain oils promoted hair growth continued well into the twentieth century. Suitable ingredients for eyelash growers included lanolin, turtle oil, olive oil, castor oil, lecithin and cholesterin but many commercial products were made simply from petroleum jelly or mineral oil.

Petroleum oil applied on a tiny brush will improve the growth of scant eyebrows.
Oil of rose will promote the growth of scant brows. Do not let it get into the eyes, as it will irritate them.
Vaseline is another for scant brows.
Try the following if all else fails:

Red Vaselinegrams 5
Boric Acidcentigrams 8

Mix into a smooth paste and apply to the skin under the brows.
Do not clip the eye brows to promote their growth, as it coarsens them, and always wipe or brush them from the nose outward.

(Furlong, 1914, pp. 94-95)

Thick lashes are a great beauty, and the desired result is generally attained by bathing, but if the lashes are rather sparse, a little pomade should be applied gently along the lids at night, and this will soon increase growth. It is said that if a mother wishes her baby daughter to have long, thick lashes, she should trim the child’s lashes with a small pair of scissors when it is asleep, before it is six months old. The same effect, however, will not be obtained if the clipping is done after this age.
The eyebrows, if too thin, should also be anointed at night with pomade or olive oil.

(Powder Puff, 1922, p. 66)

Note the variation on the trimming story given by the beauty expert above.

For making the eyebrows and eyelashes grow thick and strong there is nothing so good as lanoline, the cholesterin content is possibly the reason. An example is:— Anhydrous lanoline 450, sweet almond oil 300, cocoa butter 50, melt by gentle warmth and whisk in thoroughly 200 of rose water. Tissue creams of petroleum jelly and lanoline bases are recommended, also oils such as paraffin, almond or olive, simply tinted, not perfumed.

(P&EOR, 1932, p. 376)

The myth was so widespread, particularly in regard to petroleum jelly and lanolin, that some accused face creams, containing these and other oils, of producing facial hair.

Brunettes are more prone than blondes to the affliction of superfluous hair, especially in the form of a downy growth, but coarse hairs on the face may be seen in both types. Certain diseases cause an increased growth of hair. In rare instances, irritation of the skin, is the cause for a local growth of hair.
The daily use of cold cream and the attendant massage may increase the growth of hair on skins which are predisposed to such growth. The occasional use of a good cleansing cream will do no material harm, but its daily use is to be deplored.
If the growth is due to to some condition of ill-health, which is duly corrected, the appearance may be temporary; it is however more likely to be permanent.

(Harpers Bazaar, October 1913, p. 40)

To reassure their clients many manufacturers placed disclaimers in their advertising stating that their face cream would not stimulate hair growth.

Constant use of it will not promote the slightest growth of hair, or injure one in any way.

(Pond’s advertisement, 1911)

Coloured eyelash growers

Eyelash growers were used in two main ways. Some were applied to the upper and lower lids of the eye but others were used directly on the eyebrow and eyelash hair. Many contained a colouring agent. Coloured eyelash growers that were used on the eyelids would have darkened the area around the eye acting like an eyeshadow while those that darkened the eyebrows and eyelashes would have worked like a mascara.

Eyebrow and Lash Growers. Most of the preparations which are “guaranteed to produce long, silky, ravishingly beautiful eyelashes,” consist of plain white petroleum jelly (Vaseline) with or without a little perfume and coloring matter. Their efficacy is purely problematical. The individual hairs on the brows and the lashes attain a definite fore-ordained length, then drop out and other hairs take their places. If lanolin is present the paste is slightly stiffer. In any case the illusion of greater length is effected through the fact that such greases always make the hairs stand more erect. If coloring matter is present in the paste, the lashes are darkened and thus appear more conspicuous.

(Wall, 1926, p. 193)

Some manufacturers who started out making eyelash and eyebrow growers went on to make mascara. Maybelline progressed in this manner. Its first product, Lash-Brow-Ine, a colourless cream advertised as being able to ‘nourish and promote the natural growth of eyelashes and eyebrows’ was replaced with coloured Maybelline, described as being able to ‘beautify the eyelashes and eyebrows instantly’.

See also: Maybelline

Eyelash growers persisted until 1940s at least. For example, in the 1930s, Helena Rubinstein sold an ‘Eye Lash Grower Cream’ and an ‘Eye Lash Cream and Darkener’ and Elizabeth Arden sold ‘Ardena Stimulash’ a black cream to “enhance the beauty of the eyebrows and lashes that can be applied with or without mascara”. In 1938 the Food and Drug Act enabled U.S. authorities to charge products like this with “exaggerated, false and misleading representations” (AMA, 1942) but his was of little overall consequence as after the war, mascara, which in the 1920s and early 1930s had been associated with immorality, was now thoroughly respectable and well on its way to becoming one of the most widely used of all cosmetics.

See also: Cake Mascara

Updated 21st October 2014


The American perfumer & essential oil review. (1906-1955). New York: Robbins Perfumer Co. [etc.].

Fletcher, E. A. (1901). The woman beautiful. A practical treatment on the development and preservation of woman’s health and beauty, and the principles of taste in dress. New York: Bretano’s

Forget-me-not: A pictorial journal for ladies. (1901). London.

Furlong, P. (1914). Beauty culture at home. A complete course in shampooing, facial and scalp massage, hair coloring, manicuring, chiropody, developing and reducing—also hundreds of reliable formulas for beauty preparations, including cold creams, skin bleaches, liquid and dry powders, rouges, depilatories for removing superfluous hair, shampoo mixture, hair tonics and restorers, curling fluids, bust developing, reducing, remedies for wrinkles, pimples, blackheads, freckles, liver spots, sunburn, eyes, mouth, hands, feet, exercises, diet and miscellaneous valuable hints—as taught at Paulette School. Washington: Author.

Journal of the American medical association. (1883-present). Chicago.

Powder Puff. (1922). Beauty & Health. London: Chapman & Dodd, Ltd.

The toilette of health, beauty, and fashion: Embracing the economy of the beard, breath, complexion, ears, eyes, eyebrows, eye-lashes, feet, forehead, gums, hair, head, hands, ups, mouth, mustachios, nails of the toes, nails of the fingers, nose, skin, teeth, tongue, &c. &c. Including the comforts of dress and the decorations of the neck; also the treatment of the discolorations of the skin, corns-eruptions-spots-pimples scorbutic or spongy gums, tainted breath-tooth-ache-carious or decayed teeth-warts-whitlows prevention of baldness, grey hair, etc. With directions for the use of most safe and salutary cosmetics-perfumes-essences-simple waters-depilatories, and other preparations to remove superfluous hair, tan, excrescences, etc. And a variety of select recipes for the dressing room of both sexes. (1834). Boston: Allen and Ticknor.

Wall, F. E. (1926). Canitics. The treatment of canities reduced to a science and elevated to an art. New York: Beautician Publications.