why your eyelashes are falling out

Getty ImagesTeresa Recena / EyeEm

Making a wish on a fallen eyelash sounds sweet — unless what you’re wishing for is more eyelashes. For such a small part of the body, lashes can make a pretty big impact on how many of us perceive our faces. Even outside of cosmetic reasons for wanting a fuller fringe, identifying the reason behind accelerated lash loss can reveal vital information about our health. Eyelashes are more than part of the windows to the soul; they sometimes point to serious underlying problems like autoimmune, thyroid, inflammatory, or even oncological conditions.

It’s important to seek medical care whenever you notice a sudden change in your health, but here’s where your doctor may look to first for explaining lash loss, plus tips on how to regrow your eyelashes quicker and fuller.

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Bad Beauty Habits

Your makeup routine likely isn’t hurting your fringe – it’s forgetting to take it off at night that can cause a loss in fullness. After using wipes or other removers, following up with a mild cleanser (like baby shampoo or Cetaphil) can also help combat lash loss. “A lot of patients have the misconception that if you scrub your eyelashes with a mild soap that it’ll make your lashes fall out, but that’s actually incorrect,” says Michelle Andreoli, MD, a clinical spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “If you massage your eyelashes every night with a mild soap to get the surfaces as clean as you can and maintain the health of the eyelash follicle, your eyelashes will actually grow thicker and longer and they won’t fall out as fast.”

The one cosmetic you should watch out for: hot eyelash curlers. Whether you own the kind that heats ups or warm yours with a blow dryer, never put anything hot near your eye as it can damage lashes, not to mention cause potential burns.

Blepharitis

If your lashes feel capital-I ITCHY and both lids look red and swollen, there’s a solid chance you’ve got a case of blepharitis. It’s the single most common reason for lash loss in Dr. Andreoli’s clinic and it predominantly affects people of Western European descent with fair-skinned, pink-toned complexions. With blepharitis, clogged oil glands near the base of the eyelashes can lead to chronic inflammation and follicle dysfunction, therefore stopping lash growth. While practicing good eyelid hygiene will help it clear up, it’s worth booking an appointment with your MD for a suspected case. An opthamologist will probably prescribe you some drops or ointments to speed the process along — which will also help rule out other, more serious causes for missing lashes.

Thyroid Conditions

The thyroid — a gland in the neck — controls the body’s hormones, but sometimes those levels can get out of whack. Both hyperthyroidism (an overload of hormones) and hypothyroidism (too little) list lash loss as a potential symptom, along with changes in weight, heart rate, and blood pressure. You might also feel more jittery or anxious than usual. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider, who can run some tests to rule out underlying conditions.

Alopecia

Have just a few eyelashes or none at all? It could stem from alopecia or another autoimmune condition. While alopecia can present in many ways, the condition inhibits hair growth on your body, head, or face. Doctors believe that this disease causes the body to attack its own hair follicles, causing full, partial, or episodic hair loss. Although no cure for alopecia currently exists, a doctor can prescribe treatments that may help hair regrow more quickly.

Chronic Inflammatory Diseases

Similar to alopecia, chronic inflammatory diseases describe conditions where the body attacks itself. For example, both rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can affect the healthy cells and tissues in the joints, organs, and blood vessels. Since these internal diseases don’t always have many external signs, it’s important to pay attention to small but noticeable changes — like hair and lash loss — that can signal something larger at play.

Skin Cancers of the Eyelid

If you’re missing lashes on a specific part of your eyelid but have normal fringe elsewhere, see a doctor straight away. Cancers on the eyelid can interrupt eyelash growth as these harmful cells spread. Since these are difficult to remove, the sooner you can take action the better. Catching it earlier will also minimize the aesthetic impact of surgery.

For this reason, Dr. Andreoli advises practicing agressive sun protection all the time — no matter the weather. “Even if it’s cloudy, you should have sunglasses on,” she says. “I nag my patients and I nag my young kids, if it’s daytime and you’re outside, your sunglasses go on. It not only protects the eyes, but it protects the skin of the lid.”

What You Can Do to Speed Lash Growth

Lashes take about 90 days to grow from stem to stern, Dr. Andreoli says, but it is possible to encourage that process along and prevent further lash loss.

Eyelid Hygiene: Remove your eye makeup every night with wipes, liquid, or cream. Then massage the lids with a mild cleanser like Cetaphil or baby shampoo before rinsing with hot water.

Hot Compresses: Warm washcloths placed over the eyes can help keep your lids clean and soothe any inflammation.

Latisse: The prescription treatment works better than most people realize, Dr. Andreoli says, and it’s quite safe when applied correctly. (She’s even used it herself!) Patients can see noticeable improvement within eight to 12 weeks, and it can also help chemotherapy patients dealing with lash loss.

Skip copycat products outside of the doctor’s office though because it’s difficult to determine what active ingredients they contain and predict their effect, advises Danusia Wnek, a chemist in the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab.

How to Make Lashes Look Longer Now

IT Cosmetics Superhero Elastic Stretch Volumizing Mascara amazon.com

$19.99

For a temporary alternative, boost lashes with mascara, which uses waxes and pigments to coat hairs, making them appear longer, fuller, and darker. Try the Beauty Lab’s top-tested mascara for lengthening, IT Cosmetics Superhero Mascara. Just don’t forget to take it off!

For more resources about lash loss, you can visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology EyeSmart website for more tips and help finding an opthamologist near you. 

Caroline Picard
Associate Editor Caroline covers health, home, celebrity, entertainment, and other lifestyle news as an Associate Editor since joining the Good Housekeeping staff in 2015.

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