Eyelashes are not just the key to creating a seductive look in makeup. They also have important biological functions and are part of a complex system that protects our eyes. Join me in exploring the fascinating world of eyelashes, from their structure to their functions and the factors that affect their health.
Structure of Eyelashes and Their Natural Function
Although often seen primarily as an aesthetic element, eyelashes have their own important biological reasons for existence. They are an integral part of our visual system, serving not only for protection but also for non-verbal communication. Let’s dive into the captivating world of eyelash structure and function.
Anatomical Structure of Eyelashes
Each eyelash is a hair anchored in the eyelid. Its main structure consists of:
- Eyelash Bulb – This is the part of the eyelash located beneath the skin’s surface and is surrounded by the hair follicle. The bulb contains stem cells that divide and grow, forming the eyelash shaft.
- Eyelash Shaft – This is the visible part of the eyelash that extends beyond the eyelid. It is primarily composed of keratin, a protein that gives eyelashes their rigidity.
- Hair Follicle – This surrounds the eyelash bulb and contains sebaceous glands, which secrete substances that protect and moisturize the eyelash.
Natural Function of Eyelashes
Eyelashes perform several key biological functions:
- Protection of the eye – Eyelashes act as a natural barrier, shielding the eye from small particles such as dust, sand, or tiny insects. With the aid of eyelashes, these particles are repelled before they reach the eye’s surface.
- Protective reflex – Eyelashes are equipped with touch receptors. When a foreign body approaches the eye, the eyelashes respond by causing a reflexive eyelid closure. This acts as an additional layer of protection, preventing injury to the eyeball.
- Protection from light – Eyelashes also assist in dispersing light, safeguarding the eye from excessive sunlight and aiding in protection from glare.
- Non-verbal communication – Although not a biological function in the strictest sense of the term, eyelashes play a significant role in non-verbal communication. Long, thick eyelashes are often seen as a symbol of attractiveness, and blinking or fluttering the lashes can be used to express various emotions.
Eyelash Growth Phases: Anagen, Catagen, Telogen Understanding how eyelashes grow is key to properly caring for them. Eyelashes, like the hair on our heads, go through specific growth cycles. At any given time, an eyelash can be in one of three main growth phases: anagen, catagen, or telogen.
- Anagen – Growth Phase This is the most active phase of the eyelash growth cycle. It is characterized by:
- Active Growth: In this phase, the stem cells in the eyelash bulb divide very rapidly. This process leads to the eyelash elongating.
- Duration: Anagen lasts from 30 to 45 days, although this time can vary depending on the individual and genetics.
- Percentage of Eyelashes: About 40% of the upper eyelashes and 15% of the lower eyelashes are in the anagen phase at any given time.
- Catagen – Transitional Phase This phase is a brief transitional period between active growth and the resting phase. It is distinguished by:
- End of Growth: In the catagen phase, eyelash growth stops, and the eyelash bulb shrinks.
- Duration: This phase typically lasts from 2 to 3 weeks.
- Preparation for Renewal: Even though the eyelash doesn’t grow in this phase, the bulb prepares for the next growth phase, anagen.
- Telogen – Resting Phase This is the final phase in the eyelash growth cycle. In the telogen phase, the eyelash remains at rest until it eventually falls out, making way for a new eyelash.
- Natural Process: Eyelash shedding during the telogen phase is a natural process, and there’s no need for concern unless you notice excessive shedding.
- Duration: Eyelashes can remain in this phase for up to 100 days.
- New Cycle: After the telogen phase concludes, the hair follicle returns to the anagen phase, initiating a new growth cycle.
Factors Affecting Eyelash Health and Density Everyone dreams of thick, strong, and healthy eyelashes that add expressiveness and depth to the eyes. Although genetics plays a crucial role in determining the structure and density of eyelashes, many external and internal factors can affect their condition. Let’s get to know these factors closely.
- Genetics For many, the density and length of eyelashes are a matter of inheritance. If your parents had thick and long lashes, there’s a high chance their children will too.
- Diet and Nutrition
- Protein: Eyelashes are primarily made of keratin, a protein. A protein-rich diet can support healthy eyelash growth.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins like biotin, as well as minerals like zinc and iron, play a pivotal role in hair growth, including eyelashes.
- Stress Chronic stress can negatively impact the growth and density of eyelashes. High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can inhibit the growth of new hair and lead to premature shedding.
- Makeup Removal Method Too aggressive makeup removal, especially waterproof mascara, can lead to breakage and loss of lashes. It’s recommended to use gentle makeup removers and to softly cleanse the eyelids.
- Eyelash Cosmetics Some products, like waterproof mascaras or adhesives for false lashes, can dry out or break the lashes. It’s essential to give your lashes a “break” from heavy cosmetics regularly.
- Diseases and Medications Certain conditions, such as rosacea or blepharitis, can affect eyelash health. Additionally, some medications, like anti-diabetic or anti-cancer drugs, can cause eyelash thinning.
- External Environmental Factors Factors like UV radiation, air pollution, or chlorine in swimming pools can affect the structure and health of the lashes, causing them to become dry and brittle.
To maintain eyelash health and density, it’s essential to care for them both internally, through a proper diet and lifestyle, and externally, by avoiding harmful external factors and using appropriate care cosmetics. Understanding these factors is the first step to achieving beautiful, healthy eyelashes.
Typical Eyelash-Related Problems
Eyelashes not only serve an aesthetic purpose, enhancing the expressiveness of our gaze, but they also protect the eyes from pollutants and microorganisms. Hence, it’s essential to care for their health. However, many people face eyelash-related issues, with the most common being lash fall and weakening. In this article, we’ll delve deeper into these issues and learn how to distinguish the natural lash shedding cycle from situations requiring intervention.
Causes of Eyelash Loss and Weakening Healthy eyelashes not only add charm to our gaze but also serve crucial protective functions for our eyes. Nevertheless, many people encounter problems like lash fall or weakening. To effectively counter these problems, it’s crucial to understand their causes:
- Stress: Prolonged exposure to stress leads to elevated cortisol levels in the body, affecting hair and lash growth cycles and causing accelerated shedding.
- Improper Diet: A diet lacking protein, vitamins, especially B-vitamins, and minerals like zinc and iron can adversely impact lash health. Nutritional deficiencies weaken hair follicles and can cause brittleness.
- Skin Diseases and Overall Health Issues: Diseases like blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margins), rosacea, or some thyroid disorders can affect eyelash condition.
- Medications: Some drugs, such as retinoids, anti-diabetic drugs, beta-blockers, or chemotherapy, may cause lash fall as a side effect.
- External Damage: Aggressive makeup removal, especially using harsh products, frequent use of an eyelash curler without skill, or wearing false lashes can damage natural eyelashes.
- Allergies: Allergic reactions to cosmetics, especially mascaras or adhesives for false lashes, can cause itching, irritation, and, as a result, lash loss.
- Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy, menopause, and some endocrine disorders can affect eyelash growth and density.
- Infections: Eyelid infections, such as styes, or infections caused by mites (e.g., Demodex folliculorum), can be the root cause of eyelash issues.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like alopecia areata can result in lash fall.
- Trichotillomania Disorders: This is a disorder involving uncontrollable pulling out of one’s hair and lashes, leading to damage and lash loss.
Understanding the causes of eyelash fall is key to their effective treatment and care. If you notice worrying symptoms, it’s always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist, trichologist, or another specialist to get a precise diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
How to Distinguish Between the Natural Cycle and Excessive Shedding?
Eyelashes, like the hair on our heads, undergo a specific growth cycle consisting of three main phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. At any given time, different eyelashes are at various stages of this cycle, which means that shedding a few lashes daily is a natural process. However, distinguishing between natural shedding and excessive shedding requires some knowledge and observation. Here are some tips and medical aspects to assist in this matter:
- Amount of Shed Lashes: On average, a person loses between 1 to 5 lashes per day from each eye. If you notice more than 5 lashes falling from one eye daily over an extended period, it may be a sign of excessive shedding.
- Uneven Thinning: The natural growth cycle of lashes should lead to uniform shedding and regrowth. If you notice that lashes are falling out in specific areas, creating “bald spots”, it’s a signal that something might be amiss.
- Change in Lash Structure: Lashes that become more brittle, dry, dull, or have a different color than usual may indicate a health issue.
- Medical Examinations: If you suspect excessive lash shedding, it’s worth undergoing tests. Possible causes include hormonal disorders, thyroid diseases, or autoimmune issues. Hormonal level testing, blood morphology, and thyroid tests are examples of examinations that can help identify potential problems.
- Trichoscopic Examination: This is a non-invasive dermatoscopic examination of the scalp and hair (including eyelashes) that allows for a closer look at hair follicles and the identification of potential issues.
- Medical History: Excessive lash shedding can also be related to recent illnesses, infections, surgeries, or intake of certain medications. Therefore, analyzing your medical history and any changes that occurred recently can be beneficial.
- Course and Duration of the Problem: If excessive lash shedding is short-lived and tied to a specific event, such as stress or illness, it might subside on its own after the triggering factor is removed. However, if the problem persists for a longer time, it’s worth seeking a deeper cause.
Determining whether eyelash shedding results from the natural cycle or indicates a more serious health issue is crucial for proper care and potential treatment. If in doubt, always consult with a dermatologist or trichologist.