4 Signs Your Eyelashes Are Seriously Unhealthy — And How To Fix Them

Everything you need to know to create ultimate lash envy.

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Young woman applying mascara to her lashes

From well-groomed brows and frizz-free hair to a healthy, glowing complexion and manicured nails, it’s a lot of work keeping up with the modern day beauty routine. But with all the extraneous effort you put into every inch of your skin, hair, body, and nails, there’s one area of your regimen that’s undoubtedly lacking: how you care for your eyelashes. Whether you’re on team extensions, falsies, lash lift, tinting, or mascara, lash health is just as important as any other part of your beauty routine. After all, just as your makeup relies on a proper skin care routine to look as flawless as it can be, your lashes won’t reach their thick, lifted, and lengthened potential if you don’t take proper care of them. And no, that doesn’t just mean removing your leftover eyeliner and mascara at the end of the day.

Like the hair on your head, your eyelashes are vulnerable to damage. However, your lashes replace themselves every three months (as opposed to the daily shedding that occurs with the rest of your hair). This doesn’t happen simultaneously, says Shen Beauty brow and lash specialist Joshua Beeler, so it’s not as if one day all your lashes are suddenly gone. Still, things like harsh makeup removal, improper extension application, and damaging habits (read: pulling or picking) may require you to give your lashes specially formulated care to keep them healthy and well-nourished.

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Medically-speaking, Dr. Sharleen St. Surin-Lord of Visage Dermatology and Aesthetic Center says that the primary function of the eyelashes is to serve as the frontline workers of your eyes, protecting the eyelid margin (and your eyes) from dirt, debris, and bacteria. Studies have shown that the length of your eyelashes serve a protective role in reducing the number of particles that can reach the eye. Specifically, the optimum length of eyelashes is one third of the width of eye — anything shorter or longer may increase airflow around the area, and can result in more dust hitting the eyes. Bottom line: lash care is important not just for aesthetic reasons, but for keeping your eyes healthy, too.

Signs That You Have Weak Lashes

There are a number of indicators that your lashes may be weak or damaged. For one, excessive lash shedding. Though shedding is a natural process, Dr. Surin-Lord notes that losing one to two hairs every couple of weeks is considered standard. “Eyelashes should not shed daily like the hair on your scalp, and normal eyelash shedding should not cause your eyelashes to look sparse,” she explains. “If it does, this may be a sign of an internal process or a more generalized hair loss condition.”

Brittle eyelashes are another sign of weakened lashes — this means your lashes easily fall off from gentle rubbing. Also, while Dr. Surin-Lord notes that not every lash will be exactly the same length, they should pretty much be in line, and eyelashes that are of significantly different lengths may be a sign that some lashes are damaged.

Other signs of weakness include lashes that cannot support extensions or fall off after having had extensions, as well as frequent eye infections, which signal that your lashes are not doing an efficient job at keeping bacteria and the elements away, says Dr. Surin-Lord.

Fake eyelashes on peach background

The Main Causes of Eyelash Damage

Trauma to the lashes (think: harsh rubbing or tearing off your false lashes) are one of the usual culprits behind damage. If waterproof mascara is in your everyday makeup drawer and you’re experiencing lash fallout or breakage, you may want to rethink it and save it for rainy days and replace with a formula that is more easily removed. Because waterproof formulas are meant to have a strong lasting power, you’re more likely to rub your eyes excessively and exacerbate existing damage.

Also, things like microfiber cloths, disposable wipes, and cotton rounds need friction and a bit of tugging to remove your eye makeup, which can be harsh on lashes and the delicate area in general, notes Kimber Jaynes, celebrity lash expert and founder of Borboleta. Be gentle with your eye makeup removal, and avoid using harsh astringents or toners as makeup remover, as they can be drying to the sensitive eye area. A slow, gentle massage with an oil cleanser should be enough to wash away any makeup without inflicting trauma to your lashes.

Eyelash extensions are another culprit, and you should visit a well-trained technician to ensure your natural lashes don’t suffer. “Individual eyelash extensions should be applied to one natural eyelash at a time,” Dr. Surin-Lord tells TZR. “If lashes are not isolated properly (for example, two natural lashes to every one lash extension), the eyelash may become damaged, as not all eyelashes are in the same phase of the hair growth cycle.” As tempting as it may be to save money on this service, it’s not worth it to risk damaging your lashes over time.

Finally, Jaynes notes that picking or pulling at the lashes can cause trauma and lead to shedding. Certain medical and dermatologic conditions such as hypothyroidism, alopecia areata, severe eyelid eczema, or chemotherapy can also result in weakened lashes (in these cases, contacting your medical provider is the best course of action).

Ready to create the ultimate lash routine? Here’s everything you need to keep your lashes healthy and conditioned, from start to finish.

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Looking for a gentle way to remove your eye makeup? This oil-free option from Borboleta is a solid option. Jayne notes that the formula feels like water yet dissolves makeup effortlessly. Plus, it’s loaded with lash-loving fatty acids and humectants to nourish both the eyelashes and eyelids.

No harsh tugging or rubbing is required with this brightening micellar cleansing water from Garnier. To remove waterproof eye makeup, saturate a cotton pad and hold over closed eyelids for a few seconds to break down the product before gently wiping away.

Thanks to the blend of rose otto oil, PROTIDA technology, and Inca maca, this gentle micellar water not only removes your eye makeup but helps to promote new lash growth.

Just like your scalp is prone to buildup, so are your lashes. Using a lash cleanser is especially important to maintain cleanliness of your lash extensions if you have them. Beeler recommends using an oil-free, gentle option to remove buildup, debris, and other loose makeup products that may have found their way into your extensions.

Next up: lash serum. This one is made with sodium hyaluronate to moisturize brittle lashes and milk protein to aid in reducing breakage. The result? Longer, thicker, denser lashes — no falsies required.

The Kaja Wink Lash Trio is worthy of having a spot in your lash routine. Not only is it formulated with panthenol, biotin, and avocado peptide to help condition and nourish lashes, but it features a lash primer to ensure your lashes are protected.

Jaynes notes that some lash curlers add undue force to the eyelashes when clamped. This one from Shiseido is a real winner — it has an edge-free design to reduce the risk of pinching along with a broad curve to ensure your lashes stay lifted.

Traditional false eyelashes require you to use an adhesive to apply, which inevitably paves the way for harsh removal. Nix the urge to rip off falsies with magnetic lashes — these ones from Younique are made with vegan silk fibers and feature 10 magnets for maximum hold.