Eyelashes are one of the most recognized signs of facial beauty in the western world in both men and women. The cosmetics industry understands this very well and produces enormous amounts of products to enhance the look of lashes, making them appear darker, thicker, longer, and more curved. But did you realize that eyelashes are actually a very important part of the human body for reasons that have nothing to do with how we look?
What Are Eyelashes?
Eyelashes are made out of water and keratin. 97% keratin to be exact. (Source). They are grown from eyelash hair follicles, which every mammal has. Eyelashes, like other hair, grows in cycles and each lash eventually falls out and is replaced. Because of the cycle, there are usually several lashes that fall out naturally every day.
The first part of the cycle is the anagen phase, or the growth phase. In people, this phase lasts about a month or month and a half. At any given time there are about 40% of the upper and 15% of the lower lashes that are in this phase during which the lashes grow to their natural length. This is followed by the catagen, or transition, phase, during which the hair of the lash stops growing long and the hair follicle itself shrinks. Losing an eyelash at this point means that it will not start growing back until the follicle finishes this 2-3 week period and can be ready to grow another lash. In the final, telogen or resting, phase, which can last between 3 and 4 months, the eyelash falls out and a new one begins to grow. It can take up to 2 months to replace the lash.
Is There Really an Ideal Eyelash?
The hairs on our eyelids, scientists have recently discovered, are ideally biologically designed to be precisely ⅓ of the length of our eye. (Source). This is apparently true for all mammals. That length seems to be related to the exact length at which air flow is interrupted and diverted as it comes toward the eye and allows for the precise evaporation of moisture from the eye. Additionally, the eyelashes act as sensors, alerting the eye to foreign objects and triggering blinking or closing, acting essentially as a human whisker.
According to the widely cited study that brought these findings about the ideal length of the eyelash to light:
Wind tunnel experiments confirm that this [⅓ of the length of the eye] optimal eyelash length reduces both the deposition of airborne particles and evaporation of the tear film by a factor of two. Using scaling theory, we find this optimum arises because of the incoming flow’s interactions with both the eye and eyelashes. Short eyelashes create a stagnation zone above the ocular surface that thickens the boundary layer, causing shear stress to decrease with increasing eyelash length. Long eyelashes channel flow toward the ocular surface, causing shear stress to increase with increasing eyelash length. These competing effects result in a minimum shear stress for intermediate eyelash lengths.
The LA Times has reported on additional studies that looked at the thickness and curvature of eyelashes. Those studies indicated that thickness is ideal for protection against dust and particles, it also blocks light from getting into the eye. Additionally the curve of the eyelash matters as much as length, because the curve can mean more or less protrusion into the air. What this means is that people with no, or few eyelashes, and people with exceptionally long eyelashes that are not curved enough face essentially the same issues with deposit of foreign objects in their eyes like dust due to the wind blowing, as well as too much evaporation to keep their eyes moist and healthy.
Keep Your Eyelashes Healthy
There are typically twice as many eyelashes on the upper eyelid as there are on the lower lid. In most people this means about 200 upper and 100 lower eyelashes, or 300 total. The follicles that grow the lashes are home to demodex mites. These microscopic 8-legged arthropods are found on people around the world. They are more prolific in older people and are associated with a number of eye and skin issues including blepharitis. This inflammation of the eyelid, caused by mites, can make your eyelashes fall out, which further aggravates the issues by eliminating the eyes’ natural protection from the elements. T4O, derived from tea tree oil, is the most important in Cliradex eyelid cleansers and is specifically formulated to clean away demodex mites and soothe irritated eyes.
Eyelashes are also commonly lost due to poor eye hygiene, especially if you wear eye makeup. If not washed off before bed, mascara and eyeliner can cause your eyelashes to become weak and brittle, which may make them fall out faster than normal. In some cases, an allergic reaction to a chemical ingredient in mascara and other cosmetic products could be the culprit of thinning eyelashes. Mascara can also trap airborne allergens like pollen, dust and even demodex mites, within your eye area, which can cause lashes to fall out and eyes to become red, watery or itchy. (Source).
Regardless of the cause of the lash loss, it is clear that people need to maintain as much natural lash as they can. Cliradex is a preservative-free – natural eyelid cleanser that is 100% vegan and gluten-free for safe and soothing results as the best choice for eyelid and eyelash hygiene.