Whatever of-the-moment eye look you’re after, lashes are an essential component. Eyelashes directly affect the shape of the eye and the impact of makeup moments. While the best mascaras help to elongate hair and deepen the hue of lashes, even the most high-quality coats can only do so much. This is why prioritizing lash health and growth should play a part in any beauty routine.
While faux lashes and extensions have found favor with celebrities and beauty lovers alike, there’s something to be said for working with what you’ve got before opting for augmentation—plus, these options can do more harm than good, as can general carelessness. “Lash treatments, including lash extensions, perms, and even rubbing or otherwise traumatizing lashes during the removal of waterproof mascara, can all damage lashes,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose.
Fortunately, developing an understanding of your lashes, from what they actually are to what factors affect their growth, offers a solid foundation for cultivating a lush and lengthy lash line all your own—and if you’re still looking to elongate, lash serums can help, too.
Meet Our Expert
Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
The Anatomy of Eyelashes
Let’s start simply: eyelashes are hairs that grow from the edge of the eyelid. “Each eyelash has three main parts: the follicle, the shaft, and the bulb,” says Kimber Jaynes, founder of lash care line Borboleta Beauty. “The follicle is located beneath the skin's surface and produces new lash growth, the shaft is the visible part of the lash, and the bulb anchors the lash to the follicle.”
Not only do long lashes add some welcome flare to your gaze, but they also serve as something of a safeguard. “Eyelashes are your eyes' first line of defense, keeping airborne dirt, dust, and lint from reaching the delicate eye tissues,” says Penny James, a certified trichologist and founder of Penny James Salon. “With eyes open, eyelashes catch some airborne debris, but when closed, eyelashes form a seal against foreign irritants getting into the eye.”
Factors That Impact Lash Growth
The lash growth cycle is the same as that of hair: anagen (the growing stage), followed by catagen (the degradation stage), and telogen (the resting phase), after which the lash falls out. According to research, lash length generally caps at about 12mm due to a slower growth rate and shorter anagen phase compared to the hair that grows on our scalps. Though the growth cycle is uniform, contributing factors are not—and some are out of our control.
“Genetics play a significant role in determining the length and thickness of lashes,” says Jaynes. “Hormonal changes, aging, and certain medical conditions can affect lash growth as well.” But, as with hair growth, your lashes are more than just an aesthetic accessory; they’re a mirror of your health and self-care habits.
The Best Ways to Grow Your Lashes
A well-balanced diet, adequate sleep and low stress will help to promote hair growth including that of the lashes. “Avocados, beans, broccoli, spinach, salmon, nuts, whole grains, chicken, fish, and eggs are all excellent foods to help in strengthening hair and lashes,” says James.
“Maintaining lash health is essential for optimal lash growth,” says Jaynes. “Encouraging clients to follow a proper lash care routine, including gentle cleansing, avoiding oil-based products on the lashes, and regular conditioning with a nourishing lash serum, can help promote healthy lash growth.”
If you’ve checked all of the above boxes and still find your lashes falling short, lash growth serums (thoughtfully used) can help. “The best lash serums contain hydrating and moisturizing ingredients that condition, vitamins that strengthen, and peptides and prostaglandins that encourage growth,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose, citing ceramides, biotin, and panthenol as ingredients to look for. A group of lipids called prostaglandins may help, too. “Prostaglandins stimulate lash growth by a hormone-like mechanism that is not yet well understood,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. “Latisse contains a prescription-strength prostaglandin called bimatoprost that is known to stimulate growth.”
The most important tip for using lash growth products is to be consistent,” continues Dr. Murphy-Rose, who also recommends Talika Lipocils Expert and Better Not Younger’s Superpower Lash Enhancing Serum. “Results do not appear overnight, but with continued use 1-2 times daily of a good product, you can expect noticeable improvement over a period of 2-6 weeks.”
The takeaway? Long, robust lashes are born of care, consistency, and a bit of luck. Professionally-placed extensions may safely mimic growth, but bolstering your own lashes requires maintaining a healthy lifestyle—and perhaps the right serum, applied judiciously.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does lash growth differ from other hair growth?
“The hair growth cycle of eyelashes is shorter, typically around 90 days, compared to scalp hair,” says Jaynes. “Additionally, eyelashes are more delicate and have a unique structure, including a slight curvature. The growth rate of eyelashes is also slower compared to scalp hair.”
How do lash serums work?
“Lash serums enhance lashes by increasing length, density, and darkness,” says Jaynes. “The best ingredients stimulate hair growth, strengthen lashes to keep them growing for a longer period of time before breaking or shedding, and can darken their color to make them more visible. Many serums contain a combination of such ingredients.”
What are the risks of lash serums?
“Lash serums can cause discoloration of the eyelid skin […] another very uncommon side effect is loss of fatty tissue just under the eye,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose, who adds that overuse of serums can also lead to the growth of unwanted hair near the eyes. “Like any skincare product, lash serums can cause allergic reactions like skin rashes where applied. To minimize these risks, apply a very minimal amount of product at a time and apply as instructed to lash line only.”
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