Understanding Your Eyelashes & The Eyelash Growth Cycle
It may seem to go unnoticed, but all hair on our bodies replaces itself every few years. The cycle is actually quite slow and very specific to the part of the body on which it grows. Hair on your head has a longer cycle, which is why eyelashes and eyebrows never get as long and stop at a certain length. You are about to understand your eyelashes on a whole new level and finally get your head around the eyelash growth cycle!
To understand how to keep your eyelashes healthy and nourished, it is important understand the growth cycle, get your head around that and consider the information in our Ultimate Guide To Perfect Eyelashes and you will be well on your way stunning lashes. You can actually work within the growth cycle by changing elements of your diet, beauty regimens or even sleep routines to maximize results and ensure your eyelashes always look the best they can.
The Function of Eyelashes
Eyelashes have a very important function, aside from providing beautiful frames for your eyes. They are just another one of the fascinating ways our body is designed to protect itself. Providing a barrier to the eyes themselves, eyelashes are known to protect them from dust or fine particles in the air as well as providing resistance to air flow, helping them stay hydrated.
Now, it is almost a given in this day and age that if there is something on the human body that can be changed, we will find a way to change it. I’m not talking about the extremes in this example, I mean eyelashes. Somebody could have the longest and darkest eyelashes and they would still want them to be longer and darker. Its in our nature to want to enhance our features and eyelashes are no different. So, mascara was invented, tried and tested in its various forms and now has become a staple in every woman’s make-up kit.
A Brief History of Mascara
It was in 4000BC that the first incarnation of mascara came to heavy use. Kohl was used on eyelids, eyebrows and eyelashes even from infancy as it was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect the eyes of a child from being cursed. This tradition followed for many years, but mascara at this time was not really used to enhance beauty.
It was during the Victorian era that make up was beginning to modernise and was more comparable to what we wear today. By this time, it was mostly women that used make up and it was seen as a way to enhance femininity, so it was not unheard of for ladies to spend more time on their beauty routines than attending the social even they were getting ready for in the first place.
The birth of mascara was much to the delight of women everywhere, discovering that a mix of certain ingredients could given them longer, darker and fuller eyelashes. At this time, it mainly came in a cake format, with a heavy brush that closer resembled show polish than the tube and wand applicators we are familiar with today.
As the decades rolled on and photographs and film became more popular, mascara evolved and became more in demand. Women were really ready to enhance their eyes and look the best they could on film.
So, petroleum jelly and charcoal mixes, elderberry, ash and lamp oil formulas were concocted by women at home until mascara really came into the mainstream of make-up to make sure their eyelashes were darker and thicker to really stand out. Even water proof mascara was invented early on. But the ingredients that were being used were not very health conscious and many mixes resulted in eyelash loss and allergic reactions.
It was a really good thing that mascara evolved quite quickly, and lotion mixtures were used more widely, mascara became more affordable and obtainable, so women all over the world could finally have the darker and longer eyelashes they’d dreamed of.
Even though in most modern brands of mascara, the ingredients have been specially formulated to adhere to the eyelashes temporarily, they also started to incorporate pro-vitamin formulas, to help protect and maintain stronger eyelashes. But we know this isn’t always the case. Mascara use or perhaps even over-use or mis-use can be the sole responsibility for weaker eyelashes and if not used or cleansed properly, can assist in eyelash loss. Especially water proof mascara that can stiffen the lashes which in turn can cause breakage. The ingredients can also lift moisture from the lashes and follicles and being waterproof it is naturally harder to remove. Abrasive cleansing will also cause eyelash loss.
Every woman knows the number one rule: never sleep with your mascara on! Do we all follow this rule? I know I’ve been guilty of not cleansing properly at the end of the day. But to maintain really healthy looking and strong eyelashes, sleeping in make-up is definitely not the way to go. Aside from the negative effects it can have on your eyelashes, it can cause premature ageing to the skin through lack of hydration. So, to keep those eyes looking youthful and maintain your sparkle, you definitely need to pay attention to that number one rule!
Mascara isn’t the only reason you will lose the odd eyelash. As mentioned previously, the main reason is the eyelashes natural growth cycle. We all have on average 150 eyelashes on our upper lids and will also lose on average between 1-4 eyelashes per day. It seems a lot, right? Well considering how the cycle works, our follicles are always doing something at different times to replace and replenish our eyelashes, so actually losing a few eyelashes per day will mainly go unnoticed!
The Stages of Eyelash Growth
There are three stages of the eyelash growth cycle. Anagen (the growth phase), Catagen (the transition phase) and Telogen (the resting phase).
This is where the magic starts to happen, and the eyelashes are actively growing. Now, this phase usually lasts between four and six weeks, but what is important to know is that not all of your eyelashes are in anagen phase at the same time. Only approximately 40% of your upper lashes will be in anagen phase, which is why getting eyelash extensions is only recommended when carried out by trained technicians as they will recognise which lashes are suitable for extensions at the correct time in their growth cycle. During the anagen phase the follicles are still strengthening the lashes and they may not be strong enough yet to support extra stress.The anagen phase is similar to the anagen stage of hair growth however it is a lot shorter, this means that eyelash hairs stop growing at a certain length before they enter their transitional phase.
So, the eyelash has reached its natural length and stops growing. This phase lasts around two to three weeks and all the work is happening below the surface. The individual follicles start to shrink, and the individual lashes are pushed toward their resting phase. Lashes can fall out during this time, but the follicles still need to complete the cycle before regrowth can happen, which may be one of the reasons that eyelashes look thinner for longer if you are prone to losing lashes.
This is the last stage in the life of the eyelash. The follicle starts to weaken and loosen, and the hair contained will sit dormant and rest until it is ready to fall out. The good news is this phase lasts somewhere around 100 days, which is why you will keep a full set of eyelashes in cycle while others are just starting to grow in other follicles.
Once the eyelash naturally falls out during the telogen phase, it can take between one and two months before the next anagen phase kicks in and a brand-new delicate little eyelash starts to grow in taking its place in the follicle.
Other Reasons for Eyelash Loss
Obviously, everyone is different, no exact reason for eyelash loss is the same between two people. Even our eyelash growth cycles can vary just like eyelash length can be different from person to person. So, reasons for eyelash loss are unfortunately not an exact science. But there are health reasons that interrupt the natural growth cycle and they are important to know about so you can understand how to help rectify it.
The thyroid is one constant that rules various functions in our body, from weight loss or gain, tolerance to various temperatures and even natural hair growth and loss. Eyelash growth falls into this category and sufferers of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism may find that their eyelashes are either not growing due to weakened follicles or even that the hair itself is brittle and breaking off before getting the chance to grow.
Skin inflammation in the surrounding eye areas would be an obvious cause of stunted eyelash growth and can have many underlying reasons. Perhaps as mentioned before, irritation or allergies to mascara or maybe an eye infection. Eyes are very delicate by nature and as they are exposed to our environment or the elements constantly, it can be hard to keep them under wraps and protected at all times. As our eyelashes are supposed to do the protecting, this is why it can mean double the trouble if they fall into bad shape.
Diet and nutrition has forever been a cause of both the good and bad things that happen to our bodies. We are all advised to diet right, eat well, drink plenty of water and eat lots of food high in vitamins to keep the perfect balance in our weight, skin health and hair strength. Tipping this balance one particular way or maybe losing your routine can have major effects on how our skin and hair react to what we are consuming.
Eyelashes fall into this category, and even though we lose a few eyelashes on average every day, diet will have an effect. Now our genetics cannot change, our follicle shapes determine the shape of our eyelashes already, from curvy to straight, but the strength of the follicle and the speed of growth is dependent on how regularly we intake vitamins and proteins. If we don’t look after our body, it won’t look after us, so eyelashes may fall out faster, or lose their strength before they have had a chance to fully make it through the anagen and catagen phases of growth. If they fall out during this time, then we still have to wait for the cycle to take place, which can be around 100 days. It surely is worth putting in the effort to make sure our eyelashes reach their full potential to begin with.
Looking after Your Eyelashes
Keratin is one of the main proteins we already produce that needs to be maintained in order to keep the cycle in top form. You can find this protein in lean meats and dairies. This isn’t to say you should restrict your diet to just lean meat and dairy products as this will have negative impacts elsewhere on the body and is completely unrealistic, but it is about keeping the balance that will provide the protein additions you need to maintain healthy looking eyelashes.
Foods rich in iron and zinc are always said to encourage growth in hair so remember eyelash growth is included here. Lentils, various fruits, pumpkin and sunflower seeds should be incorporated into the diet to encourage this.
Vitamins, especially Vitamin A is renowned for its rejuvenating qualities and makes hair shinier and more lustrous looking. Imagine having eyelashes that have increased growth and improved quality so you wouldn’t even want to cover them up with mascara…
So, the trick is to look after your body, be kind to it and it will in turn be kind back. Humans are made up of 70% water, so it needs more water to keep the cycle going. Staying hydrated is the number one thing to do to ensure you have healthy looking eyelashes, skin and hair. So, get that water down you! Like everything else on this list, it doesn’t work overnight, everything needs time to work some magic, but you can bet that by starving your body of the important nutrients and hydration it needs will soon have an effect on the appearance of your eyelashes and skin surrounding them.
Encouraging Eyelash Growth with Serums
Of course, diet alone won’t give you the longer eyelashes you have been dreaming of, but it will definitely help in the scheme of things and to encourage healthier follicles, it will give serums the push they need to work faster.
Eyelash serums are designed and formulated to boost the existing proteins and nutrients contained within, they work with the existing shape and cycle to give you longer, stronger and healthier eyelashes. The eyelash growth cycle works quite cleverly in that it doesn’t simultaneously shed and grow new hairs, otherwise we would all have months waiting for all of our eyelashes to grow in… although it does sound good having a thick and full set all at once but the loss of every eyelash at once would definitely cause a lot of sore eyes!
So, there are many natural remedies that are said to work in encouraging eyelash growth, including shea butter, coconut oil or olive oil amongst others. They all contain fatty acids that help thicken lashes or proteins that actively force the follicles into regeneration. Serums help because of the science behind them! The process has only one goal in mind… Giving you longer, thicker eyelashes!
A serum that works with the eyelash’s natural growth cycle can help to rapidly increase the growth of lashes during the anagen (growth) phase, and even prolong the catagen (transition) phase. I’ve used Xlash Eyelash Conditioner which has keratin, hyaluronic acid as well as some fascinating botanical extracts that are all designed to do this. It seems that the pros of buying and using a serum are that you are getting all of the ingredients you need to make healthier and longer eyelashes without the inconvenience of having to rely on buying other natural ingredients. Not to mention attempting to apply castor oil without getting it in your eye! That would take one steady hand.
Understand Your Eyelashes yet?
Its crazy how the human body works! Every single part of us is designed to do a job, including what we don’t see below the surface. As I mentioned before, the eyelashes are there to protect our eyes from foreign objects, and not just to enhance our eyes. But a little enhancement on these is not going to hurt anyone so why shouldn’t we embrace them!
In ancient times, eyes were called the windows to the soul, so having strong eyelashes acted as a barrier to protect that soul. In various cultures having longer, thicker and darker eyelashes that sat heavy around the eyes of both males and females was a sign of strength, class and even wealth. Used to stir attraction, the attitude was more aimed toward having more mascara/kohl on or around the eyes.
Trends change and move with the ages, but we again are currently living in a time where enhancing our features as a sign of beauty is normality. Some years there may be emphasis on eyebrows and eyebrow shapes, others it may be lip size, some favouring larger and fuller lips and others favouring a more subtle size, but one thing that I think will always be constant is eyelashes. Mascara came around into the mainstream into the early 1900s and I doubt it will go anywhere any time soon! It would be a shame to waste what we already possess and not exhibit them to their full potential.
So, understanding the life cycle of an eyelash may seem to be information you don’t think you need right now, but if you do find you are losing more eyelashes than you used to, or perhaps they are looking less full of colour and life than usual, and your usual mascara isn’t doing the job you know it to do, then it is really worth seeing if your lashes are experiencing natural shedding from going through the telogen (resting) phase of growth or if there is an underlying problem.
The main message here is to keep those healthy proteins coming in, keep your body hydrated and invest in a really good serum and you will be sure to notice a difference in no time.