by RYAN HYNES & ANNIE GOODMAN
Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You shouldn’t rely on this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
There’s something oddly distressing about finding your own shed hair strewn around the house. Even if you know that it’s perfectly normal to lose up to 100 strands a day, you might still feel a twinge of separation anxiety, particularly if you have long locks. But for the most part, barring discussion of balding, hair on your head that’s cut, damaged, fried, or naturally shed typically grows back over time. Can the same be said for your eyelashes?
The Causes of Eyelash Loss
Just like the hair on your head can sustain damage or fall out for a number of reasons (hello, extra hot styling tools and harsh chemical dyes), a variety of factors can cause your eyelashes to jump ship too. Here are a few:
- Burns: Flames or too-hot eyelash curlers can singe lashes, but so can errant sparks from cigarettes smoke.
- Pulling: Some people have a psychological condition known as trichotillomania, which is characterized by the impulse to pull out hair anywhere on the body — commonly this includes the lashes.
- Lash extensions: Since mile-long lashes are such a trend, many people turn to extensions to fake greater length. But the fibers, which are glued onto the natural lash line, can rip out or damage the real hair underneath.
- Cutting: It may not be a typical beauty trend, but unsurprisingly, taking scissors to your lashes will, well, shorten them.
- Thyroid conditions: Your thyroid produces three hormones that help regulate everything from your metabolism to your mood and more. The thyroid gland produces two hormones, T3 and T4, known collectively as “thyroid hormone.” The pituitary gland produces a different chemical messenger called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that — you guessed it — stimulates the production of thyroid hormone. If for any reason the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism), you can experience a variety of symptoms, including hair loss, both on your head and your face.
- Alopecia areata: This autoimmune condition can cause your body’s own immune system to attack the hair follicles, leading to hair loss on the scalp, brows, and lashes.
- Chemotherapy: Not all of the medications used to treat cancer cause hair loss, but some can have this effect 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 loss causes mentioned above. But of course, there are caveats and exceptions. As long as there’s no trauma or lasting damage to the eyelid itself or the hair follicles, lashes should grow back, although it can take anywhere from 2 to16 weeks. In the case of chemotherapy, lashes usually start to grow back once the medications are complete, but the size, color, and structure may be different once they’re back (i.e. they could be thinner, darker, shorter, etc.). When it comes to alopecia areata, there is no cure, but there are medications that reduce the symptoms and help regrow hair.
The Growth Process
While it’s true that eyelashes do grow back, patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to the regrowth process since it can take up to 16 weeks. Just like the hair on your scalp, eyelashes grow in a three-phase cycle:
- Anagen Phase: This is when the hair is growing out of the new follicles. This phase usually lasts about 45 days for eyelashes — nearly half of your lashes are in this phase at all points.
- Catagen Phase: During this phase, growth stops and the follicles begin to shrink. If a lash falls out during this period, it won’t grow back until the catagen phase is complete (usually within two to three weeks).
- Telogen Phase: This is the phase that occurs once the follicle has been established, so once an eyelash falls out, a new lash will grow in its place. Eyelashes hang out in this phase until they fall out.
Depending on what caused you to lose your lashes, your regrowth time may vary.
Enhancing Your Recovery with Latisse
Latisse helps eyelashes grow back thicker and stronger. It encourages eyelash growth and has been shown to help people grow thicker, fuller, and darker lashes. According to clinical trials from Allergan, the company that produces Latisse, the product was effective for 78% of participants, giving them longer, thicker, and in some cases, darker lashes after 16 weeks of use. Latisse is an FDA-approved treatment that must be prescribed by a doctor. If you want to try it as part of your eyelash recovery regimen, apply it every night before bed after after removing any makeup and/or contact lenses. The good news for impatient regrowers: most Latisse users experience new fullness and length after three to four months of use.
Latisse is an ophthalmic solution (eyedrop) containing the active ingredient bimatoprost. Bimatoprost was first tested in 2001 to treat glaucoma under the name Lumigan. Researchers found that patients who were taking Lumigan for their glaucoma also received an added benefit — eyelash growth!
Later studies of bimatoprost’s effect on eyelash growth found that patients experienced a 1.4 mm growth in length (25 percent increase) and a 106 percent increase in fullness and thickness. Since these studies were conducted, the product has been approved to treat hypotrichosis (inadequate or sparse hair) in the eyelash region under the brand name Latisse.
Of course, there are risks you should take into consideration when deciding whether to try Latisse. Talk to your doctor about whether Latisse is safe for you to use and the possible side effects. According to the FDA, you should not use Latisse if you are pregnant, possibly pregnant, or breastfeeding, if you are allergic to Latisse or its ingredients, or if you have glaucoma or are currently using medicated drops for glaucoma. Also, Latisse may cause brown darkening of the colored part of the eye (iris), though there have been no public reports of this side effect since Latisse became widely available. You might also experience eyelid skin darkening, which is likely temporary.
How Do I Make Sure This Doesn’t Happen Again?
If you experienced a lash mishap, there are preventative measures you can take to reduce loss in the future. Here are some simple approaches that could help to keep your eyes happy, healthy, and appropriately lashed:
Try a new mascara: Your follicles might be reacting poorly to the type of mascara you’re using and hence, rejecting the hair. Consider experimenting with different brands to see if that helps remedy the situation.
Remove your extensions carefully: Using an oil-based cleanser could make the removal process easier so you’re not tugging or pulling extensions off.
Choose natural, organic products: If you’re using a lot of makeup products, your eyelash follicles will likely become exposed to chemicals that can make them weaker and more vulnerable to bacteria. Try to downsize the number of products you’re using on your eyes, and look for products with fewer, more natural ingredients.
In the grand scheme of things, your lashes are just one small part of your overall appearance, so try not to stress too much if they’ve forsaken you for any reason. But now that you’re armed with the info to prevent and recover from a variety of eyelash-related losses, get out there and show off what you’ve got.