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No one is a stranger to hair shedding—it’s something we all experience on some level. With the exception of balding or medical conditions, though, hair that is cut or shed typically grows back over time. But do eyelashes grow back? Read on to learn more about eyelash loss, its causes, and what you can do about it.
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Causes of eyelash loss
Everyone has to deal with hair loss in some form—all of us usually lose up to 100 strands a day (Murphrey, 2020). Eyelashes fall out too, due to medical conditions and other factors, including (Vij, 2015):
- Burns—Heated eyelash curlers or flames (e.g., bonfires, grills, stovetops, cigarettes, etc.) can singe your lashes.
- Pulling—Some people have a psychological condition known as trichotillomania, which is characterized by the impulse to pull out hair anywhere on the body—this often includes the lashes.
- Lash extensions—Long lashes are a popular fashion trend, and many people turn to extensions to achieve greater eyelash length. Extensions are glued onto the natural lash line, and they can rip out or damage the natural hair underneath. Some people also have an allergic reaction to formaldehyde, an ingredient in some of the adhesives used to keep the eyelash extensions in place.
- Cosmetics—Leaving mascara or eye makeup on for too long, or reactions to eye cosmetics, can lead to temporary lash loss.
- Eyelid disorders—Conditions like blepharitis, dermatitis, and eyelid infections can affect the eyelash follicle and lead to lash loss.
- Thyroid conditions—Abnormalities with your thyroid that lead to an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to hair loss, both on your head and your face.
- Alopecia areata—This autoimmune condition causes your body’s immune system to attack your hair follicles, leading to hair loss on the scalp, brows, and lashes.
- Chemotherapy—Some medications used to treat cancer cause temporary hair loss on the scalp, face, and body.
Do lashes grow back?
The short answer is yes. Eyelashes can and do typically grow back following most of the causes mentioned above. Just like the hair on top of your head, eyelash hairs grow, fall out, and regrow—this process takes about 4–16 weeks (Aumond, 2018).
However, there are some caveats and exceptions. Namely, as long as there is no trauma or lasting damage to the eyelid itself or the hair follicles, your lashes should grow back. In some cases, especially chemotherapy or medical conditions, the lashes that grow back may be different from what they used to be (i.e., thinner, shorter, etc.) (Ahluwalia, 2013).
Eyelash growth cycle
The good news is that most of the time, eyelashes do grow back. Unfortunately, the regrowth process can take up to 16 weeks. Just like the hair on your scalp, eyelashes grow in a three-phase cycle (Cohen, 2010):
- Anagen phase—This is the growth phase when new hairs grow from eyelid follicles. Anagen usually lasts for 1–3 months and is what determines your eyelash length. Approximately 40% of your hairs are in this phase at any time.
- Catagen phase—During this degradation phase, growth stops, and the follicles begin to shrink.
- Telogen phase—This is the resting phase that occurs once the follicle has matured and it lasts about 4–9 months. Eyelashes hang out in this phase until they fall out—almost half of your lashes are in this phase at any time.
Depending on what caused you to lose your lashes, your regrowth time may vary.
Tips for growing eyelashes back
Losing your lashes can be distressing, but there are treatment options available. If an eyelid condition, like blepharitis or styes, is causing your eyelash loss, seek medical advice from an eye care professional. Once you treat your eyelid condition, your eyelashes will typically grow back. Similarly, treating medical conditions or stopping chemotherapy medications (when recommended by your healthcare provider) will allow eyelash regrowth.
Latisse is an FDA-approved medication that may actively help your lashes grow back. It contains the active ingredient bimatoprost, similar to the glaucoma eye drop Lumigan. Scientists believe that bimatoprost, a prostaglandin analog, works by increasing the number of hairs in the growth phase and the amount of time hairs spend in anagen—this leads to hair growth, along with longer, fuller, and darker lashes (DailyMed, 2020). Latisse is a topical solution that requires a doctor’s prescription. You apply it to your eyelid (not your eye), just above the lash line as you would eyeliner.
Be careful with over-the-counter eyelash growth serums, as the FDA does not regulate these products. Some may cause allergic reactions to side effects in people. Talk to your eye care professional to see if these products are appropriate for you.
How to prevent eyelash loss
The best treatment is prevention. Here are some simple approaches to prevent eyelash loss and keep your lashes healthy:
- Be careful removing eyelash extensions—If you use eyelash extensions, make sure to remove them gently—don’t just rip them off. Before you get extensions, look at the ingredients in the glue to see if you are allergic to any of them. Check the reputation of the salon you are using, especially with regards to hygiene, etc.
- Remove eye makeup nightly—Leaving eye makeup on too long is not healthy for your lashes. Gently remove eye makeup each evening using a mild cleanser. Avoid rubbing your eyelashes too much to prevent them from breaking or falling out while washing.
- Stop using eyelash curlers—These instruments can make eyelashes fall out or break.
- Diet—Eating a healthy diet, with protein, fruits, and vegetables, along with drinking lots of water, can help hair all over your body stay healthy. Some people recommend vitamins to prevent hair loss, but the scientific data does not sufficiently support these claims.
- Avoid eyelash conditioners—You have eyelid glands that naturally lubricate the eyelashes, so there is no need to apply lotions or moisturizers, which can irritate your skin.
Eyelashes are more than just decorative—they protect your eyes. It is important to take care of your lashes. If you have any concerns about eyelash loss, see an eye care professional who can help guide you through the treatment options.
- Ahluwalia G. S. (2013). Safety and efficacy of bimatoprost solution 0.03% topical application in patients with chemotherapy-induced eyelash loss. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Symposium Proceedings, 16(1), S73–S76. doi: 10.1038/jidsymp.2013.30. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24326568/
- Aumond, S., & Bitton, E. (2018). The eyelash follicle features and anomalies: A review. Journal of Optometry, 11(4), 211–222. doi: 10.1016/j.optom.2018.05.003. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30017866
- Cohen J. L. (2010). Enhancing the growth of natural eyelashes: the mechanism of bimatoprost-induced eyelash growth. Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.], 36(9), 1361–1371. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2010.01522.x. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24326568/
- DailyMed – Latisse- bimatoprost solution/ DROPS. (2020). Retrieved April 29, 2021, from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=34f83d9d-2c64-463e-8a90-9a460fedfead
- Murphrey MB, Agarwal S, Zito PM. Anatomy, Hair. (2020). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513312/
- Vij, A., & Bergfeld, W. F. (2015). Madarosis, milphosis, eyelash trichomegaly, and dermatochalasis. Clinics in Dermatology, 33(2), 217–226. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2014.10.013. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25704941/