Lash Lure


Lash Lure was the product that prompted FDA involvement with cosmetics in the 1930’s. This scroll book, housed in a test tube and wrapped around a mascara brush, tells the Lash Lure story.

Laserprint on Tairei paper mounted on mascara wand with wood bead handle house in glass test tube with color inkjet label.

yikyikThe Lash Lure story: On the morning of May 17, 1933, a woman known as Mrs. Brown stopped by Byrd’s Beauty Shoppe in Dayton, Ohio where she was encouraged to try a popular eyelash dye. The procedure was lengthy and messy. Almost immediately her eyes itched and burned. She applied a variety of ointments (boric acid, a concoction made up by her druggist followed by yellow oxide of mercury) in the hopes of alleviating her discomfort. The New Republic described her terrible morning after: “Her eyes are gone and the flesh around them is a mass of tortured scars.”
What eyelash dye so devastated Mrs. Brown? Lash Lure, a synthetic aniline dye produced by the Lash Lure Laboratories, Inc., of Los Angeles. Lash Lure was run as a sideline by entrepreneur Sanford M. Kolmetz, his brother-in-law Isaac Dellar, a medical school graduate, and George Eilert, proprietor of a beauty supply company. With less than $1,000 the three started their business. Since there were no FDA regulations governing new cosmetics, the product jumped right into sales.
Prior to 1933 the American Medical Association had published an article identifying fifteen other cases of blindness and one death attributed to Lash Lure. The mystery is why women continued to use it when they were being told repeatedly by the press and consumer advocates of the products’ potential hazards.
“Mrs. Brown’s laughing blue eyes have been blinded forever,” Ruth deForest Lamb wrote.
Yale University, University of Denver, Oberline University, UCLA, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Emory University, Scripps College, University of Miami, University of Washington, private collections