Have you ever wondered whether your eyelashes grow in the same way as your head hair or if they follow a different system altogether? The answer is that while eyelashes do follow the same basic growth cycle that applies to all other hair on our bodies, there are significant differences in the length of the various phases.
Eyelashes Growth Cycle
As with all other mammalian hair, the growth of the eyelash starts way down in a hair bulb at the bottom of an eyelash follicle. The lash is built up of just two main ingredients: Keratin, a protein, forms 97% of an eyelash, with water forming the remaining 3%. There will be trace minerals also present, depending on what is in your blood at the time. Be leery when researching eyelash growth secrets or tricks.
As with our head hair, Mother Nature is sensible enough to ensure lash growth is staggered, so only 15% of our eyelashes will be growing at any one time, although the ratio is different to head hair, where 70 to 80% will be growing.
Once the lash has exited the follicle, it is said to be in the ANAGEN (growth) phase. The length of the growth phase depends on genetics, gender and age (the phase shortens as we get older, while the hair thins). The anagen phase of an eyelash is also much shorter than that of head hair, with lashes taking 4 to 6 weeks to grow, and hairs taking 3 to 7 YEARS.
Next comes the CATAGEN (intermediate) phase. The follicle stops producing pigment and moves towards the surface of the skin; active lash growth stops at this point.
Finally comes the TELOGEN (shedding phase). As growth in the follicle begins again, a new hair will push the old lash out (usually at a rate of 1 to 5 a day). Overall, the lifespan of a single eyelash is usually from between 60 to 90 days.
How do eyelashes Fall Out
As mentioned above, shedding is a natural part of the eyelash cycle but, with shorter growth cycles, lashes will fall out more frequently as we get older.
Other reasons for losing eyelashes (ciliary madarosis) include:
Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)
- Alopecia Areata (an autoimmune disorder affecting hair)
- Hyper- or Hypothyroidism (an over- or under-active thyroid gland caused by a range of autoimmune diseases)
- Demodex (D.follicularam) infestation (caused by a usually harmless eyelash mite)
- Trauma to the follicle caused by excessive plucking (trichotillamania)
While growth agents can sometimes increase the length of lashes, there is evidence to suggest that they may also speed up the lash growth cycle leading to more shedding. A combination of medical attention and a healthy lifestyle can sometimes improve ciliary madarosis, but in some cases (e.g. trauma), follicle transplant is necessary.