Rocking amazing lashes is like having a permanent good hair day. A full fringe makes your face look brighter and more awake (especially for those days when the coffee doesn’t do sh*t).
But, sorry to be the bearer of bad news: When you hit your 30s, you might notice that your lashes are looking… well, kinda sparse. “As you get older, your hair generally gets thinner and drier and hair loss becomes more common; unfortunately, this also affects your lashes,” says dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman.
As with hair loss, lash loss can be caused by hormonal changes or vitamin deficiencies, Engelman says. Excessive rubbing, breakage, certain autoimmune diseases (such as alopecia areata or thyroid disease), and eyelid dandruff (yes, that’s a thing!!) can also cause eyelashes to fall out.
Thankfully, you can grow your eyelashes back—no need to resign yourself to a life of 12 coats of mascara daily. But you have to be careful with what you use. Your eyelash area is extremely sensitive, says Dr. Francesca Fusco, dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology—the skin around the lashes is super-thin, and of course, your eyeballs are right there.
Instead of falling for some of the snake oil out there, try these expert-approved tips for how to grow eyelashes—and keep them healthy:
Try an eyelash growth serum
The most straightforward way to grow your eyelashes? Using a growth serum.
If you go the OTC route, be selective with what ingredients are in the lash growth serum you use. “I recommend using natural formulations,” Engelman says. “Although they may take a little longer to see a return, they are far gentler on your skin and hair.”
Engelman says to look for these ingredients:
- Castor oil: great for preventing microbe growth and detoxing the skin, since it contains ricinoleic acid. It penetrates deep into the skin to improve moisture. This nourishes the follicle and therefore promotes more hair growth, Engelman says.
- Amino acids: help nourish and repair damage to lash hair protein. Chains of amino acids form a peptide, which is what most brands market in lash serums. The peptides strengthen lash hair, improving shine and elasticity.
- Rosemary: helps to promote eyelash growth, Engelman says (and it’s natural).
- Olive oil: can help strengthen hairs. Also, by adding shine to the lashes they appear fuller.
Go easy on the eyelash curler
It’s perfectly fine to use an eyelash curler (and for that matter, mascara!) while you’re growing out your lashes—as long as you’re using it properly.
“Start with clean eyelashes,” says Fusco. “If an eyelash curler is used on eyelashes that already have mascara on them, there is a risk of the lashes sticking to the curler and being pulled out as the curler is moved away from the eyelid.” Yikes.
Obviously, keep your lash curling to places where you won’t get distracted or bumped, lowering the chance of you accidentally tugging and pulling out your eyelashes. (So, no lash touchups in the car or on the train. ‘Kay?)
And keep your curler clean. A dirty lash curler could cause eyelid infections, says Fusco, which could lead to irritation, inflammation, and eyelash loss. Clean your eyelash curler every day to avoid bacterial growth on it. And never share eye makeup or an eyelash curler with anyone.
Always, always remove makeup before bed
This may seem obvious, but this is especially important for people who want to grow out their eyelashes. “Mascara on the eyelashes coats them and could make them stiff and even sometimes brittle,” Fusco says “As you toss and turn on the pillow they would be at an increased risk for trauma and breakage.” (Literally the last thing you want.)
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And in case you needed the reminder: “Makeup that is not washed off can clog pores and lead to bumps, blockages, and even infection anywhere on the skin, and that includes the eyelids,” says Fusco.
This article was originally published in Women's Health SA.