There are a lot of reasons why long eyelashes are considered more attractive than short ones. For starters, they make the eyes appear bigger. Similarly, according to Newsweek, “eyelashes might help emphasize a person’s sclera (whites of the eyes) and limbal rings (the dark ring around the iris).” Which, in turn, is seen as a strong indicator of health and age because a dark limbal ring tends to be most prominent during youth.
Historically speaking, per Ashley Fetters in The Cut, eyelashes have also been associated with chastity. “Ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder suggested, rather amusingly in hindsight, that women’s eyelashes could fall out if they had too much sex,” she writes. “Though that observation could have been based on a grain of truth: One condition that can lead to eyelash loss is syphilis.”
And finally, long eyelashes are correlated with “babyfaced-ness” and perceptions of kindness and warmth.
Essentially, we’ve all decided that unlike nearly every other type of body hair, the more luscious and long eyelashes are, the more attractive the person who possesses them appears. It helps, too, that longer eyelashes mean better protection for the eyes from dust.
So where does eyelash length come from?
“The length of your lashes has to do with the width of your eye,” BlissEgg.com writes. “According to a 2015 study, this is the length required to protect and keep our eyes moist, and without eyelashes, our eyes would become red, itchy and extremely dry. So, when it comes to lash length, the sole factor to consider is the size of your eye.”
Though it’s true that men have a larger hereditary chance of having longer and thicker lashes, it’s only because they usually have more and thicker body hair, all of which is correlated with increased testosterone. It also helps that guys are less likely to apply mascara or get eyelash extensions, as both have been known to damage already thin lashes.
Ironically, as redditor actinorhodin points out, typically it’s men who are less likely to care about the length of their eyelashes. “I swear twice as many men as women have long luxuriant lashes, and most of them don’t even care about eyelashes,” she writes in a thread on the topic. “It isn’t fair, and there ought to be some sort of societal eyelash exchange.” In fact, as Fetters points out in her Cut piece, there was even a time when her brother would trim his long eyelashes to appear less feminine.
But times have changed: These days, long eyelashes are generally viewed as a symbol of beauty no matter a person’s gender. There is, however, an “eyelash length sweet spot,” according to a recent study published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences. “The results showed that the link between eyelash length and attractiveness followed an inverted U-function, with ‘the highest ratings peaking at approximately one-third of the eyes’ width,’” per PsyPost. Men with eyelashes longer than this were considered less attractive, and women with short or neonexistent eyelashes were considered the least attractive.
In their case at least, the eye(lashes) definitely don’t have it.