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Do eyelashes grow back? Eyelash loss and the eyelash growth cycle

worried woman pulling out her eyelashes looking in a mirror

Eyelashes can fall out naturally, come out due to plucking or trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) or even get pulled out accidentally with an eyelash curler. If this happens to you, you may wonder: Do eyelashes grow back? 

Eyelashes typically grow back within several months after falling out or being pulled out. However, some conditions can cause permanent eyelash loss.

An eye doctor can help if you're worried about whether your eyelash loss is normal and if your eyelashes will grow back. The doctor will examine your eyes, perform tests to determine the cause of your eyelash loss and offer treatment if necessary. In cases where eyelashes won't grow back, an eyelash transplant or other surgery may be an option.

READ MORE: Eyelashes: Definition, function and potential problems

How eyelash growth works

Eyelashes are important because they protect the eyes from allergens, dust, lint, dirt and other particles that can cause eye irritation or injury. To see how eyelashes naturally fall out and grow back, we’ll take a look at the three phases of the eyelash growth cycle:

  • Growth phase (amagen) — A new eyelash grows for one to two months at a rate of 0.12 to 0.14 millimeters each day.

  • Transition phase (catagen) — The eyelash stops growing and the hair follicle shrinks. This takes place over about 15 days.

  • Resting phase (telogen) — The fully grown eyelash protects the eye for four to nine months, then naturally falls out.

The entire eyelash growth cycle lasts between four and 11 months. As you can see, it's normal for eyelashes to fall out and grow back over time.

Why are my eyelashes falling out?

It’s normal to lose an eyelash or two from time to time. But if you're losing an unusually large number of eyelashes, there may be an underlying cause that may need to be addressed in order for your eyelashes to grow back. 

Here are some of the causes of abnormal eyelash loss (called madarosis):

  • Alopecia areata — Alopecia areata is a condition that causes partial or full loss of hair on the scalp and may affect the eyebrows and eyelashes. In very rare cases, a patient may have alopecia areata that causes loss of only the brows and lashes.

  • Blepharitis — When you have blepharitis, the eyelids can become red, swollen and crusty. If you develop chronic blepharitis, the inflammation can lead to scarring along the margins of the eyelids from which eyelashes grow. This scarring may cause eyelash loss.

  • Burns or trauma — A burn or injury to the eyelid that affects the hair follicles may cause the loss of eyelashes.

  • Cosmetics — Some types of makeup or even beauty routines can cause eyelashes to fall out. Common culprits include eyelash curlers, eyelash extensions and mascara that's not replaced frequently enough.

  • Skin infections — Some types of infections of the eyelids can cause eyelashes to fall out. These infections may be bacterial, parasitic (such as mites or lice) or viral.

  • Stress — Times of intense stress may make eyelashes fall out faster than normal. In this situation, your doctor may recommend using stress reduction techniques and focusing on healthy habits like getting good nutrition and plenty of sleep.

Some patients also may be pulling out eyelashes and other body hair due to the mental health condition trichotillomania. If you're losing eyelashes or can't stop pulling out eyelashes, it's important to see your eye doctor to get to the root cause of the problem.

In many cases, eyelashes will grow back once the underlying cause has been found and addressed or treated. But with some conditions — such an injury or a condition that causes scarring — the eyelash loss may be permanent. An oculoplastic surgeon or hair transplant surgeon may be able to perform an eyelash transplant to replace missing eyelashes that won't grow back on their own.

Trichotillomania and eyelashes

Trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh) is a mental health condition in which a person experiences urges to repeatedly pull hair from their scalp and other parts of the body. People with trichotillomania may also pull out eyebrow hairs and eyelashes. 

No one knows exactly what causes trichotillomania, but it may be partly genetic. The disorder typically develops in the pre-teen years and may continue through life. Bald spots on the head, bare spots on the eyebrows and missing eyelashes can be signs of trichotillomania.

If you, or a loved one, have trichotillomania, you may wonder: Is pulling out eyelashes bad for your eyes? While eyelashes normally do grow back after being pulled out, repeatedly pulling out eyelashes can lead to hair follicle damage that can hamper regrowth.

If you've tried unsuccessfully to stop pulling out your eyelashes, seek help from a qualified therapist with experience treating trichotillomania. Therapists may use tools such as cognitive behavior therapy and medications such as antidepressants to treat this condition.

Is eyelash plucking permanent?

It's not as common to pluck eyelashes for cosmetic reasons as it is to pluck eyebrows. Some people pluck their eyelashes due to trichotillomania. Others may pluck misdirected eyelashes, a condition called trichiasis, to get temporary relief from eye irritation caused by the condition.

Eyelashes usually will grow back after being plucked. However, they need to be left alone for long enough after plucking in order to complete the growth cycle.

Can you make eyelashes grow back faster?

Some companies make over-the-counter eyelash growth serums marketed as miracle products for speeding up eyelash growth and regrowth. Unfortunately, these products aren't proven to help eyelashes grow back faster and may have side effects such as eye irritation and darkening of the eyelids.

The only product that is FDA approved for eyelash regrowth is Latisse, and it requires a prescription. Latisse lengthens the eyelash growth phase and increases the number of eyelashes that grow, but it takes at least two months to see results.

The bottom line: Whether you use an eyelash growth medication or not, your eyelashes will need time to regrow after they fall out, are plucked out or get accidentally pulled out of the eyelid. 

When to see an eye doctor for eyelash loss

If you're concerned about eyelash loss and whether your eyelashes will grow back, see your eye doctor for a consultation. It's especially important to make an appointment right away if you experience:

  • Loss of lashes on both eyelids.

  • Lash loss with redness, itchiness or flaking on the eyelids.

  • Eyelash loss and vision changes or loss of vision.

  • Lash loss and a feeling of pressure around the eyes.

  • Loss of eyelashes and of hair on the scalp or eyebrows.

  • Inability to stop pulling out eyelashes or you have concerns about trichotillomania.

Your eye doctor will examine your eyes and determine the cause of your eyelash loss. They will recommend treatment for any underlying condition that's contributing to the problem so your eyes can heal and your lashes can regrow.

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