Lashing Out

Dr. Kenneth Sanders

One of the first things we notice about other people is their eyes. We use our eyes to communicate often in ways that words cannot. Eyes can express happiness, anger, fear, and sometimes mischief. There’s a great deal about the eyes that most people take for granted, specifically those little hairs that line the eyelids – eyelashes. So, why do we have them? Other than being regarded as an emphasis of beauty, eyelashes provide protection for eyes. They “bat away” small particles of debris that could damage the eye. Eyelashes can also send out warning signals for objects getting a little to close for comfort. If you’ve ever experienced difficulty putting eye drops in your eyes or you struggle with your contact lenses you know exactly how your eyelashes can get in your way. Eyelashes also function as a shield against moisture like sweat or rain. Your eyelashes will tell you when to close your eyelids for protection. Although your eyelashes aren’t a substitute for sunglasses, they can help to shield your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun.

Rather than taking your eyelashes for granted, you should give them the attention they deserve. Eyelashes are hair and, from time to time, you will lose one or two. It may take anywhere from a month to six weeks to grow back. Eyelash health is important for your eye as well as your appearance. Potential health problems associated with eyelashes include:

  • Blepharitis (Blephars is Greek for eyelash). An irritation of the lid area, where eyelashes join the eyelid. When the eyelids are red, itchy and the skin becomes flaky, the eyelashes may fall out.
  • The loss of eyelashes.
  • Ingrown eyelashes.
  • Abnormal growth of lashes in specific area of the eye lid
  • Eyelashes can become infected with a parasitic crab louse
  • Stye (or external hordeolum). A purulent inflammation of infected eyelash follicles, surrounding sebaceous glands of the lid margin.
  • Demodex (or Demodioc Folliculorum). This small mite lives harmlessly in eyelashes and other hair follicles. Surprisingly, it’s estimated that 98% of people have these mites, although would be unaware of their presence.
  • A disorder that urges the patient to pull out eyelashes, scalp hair or other hair on the body.

When it comes to the fullness of eyelashes, most everyone wishes they had more or, at least, an alternative to the false eyelashes you can pick up at the drug store. I have a few suggestions for maintaining healthy eyelashes.

Be gently when removing eye makeup. Use soft cotton pads and gentle eye makeup removers and press and hold to get rid of your shadow, mascara, and liner.

Use a conditioner just as you would for the hair on your head.  Use a hydrating product like Vaseline or Aquaphor before bed to soften lashes and prep them to grow longer and stronger.

Use Latisse to thicken lashes. Your eyelash hair usually stays in a growth phase for three months, but with Latisse, that growth period is extended to six or seven months, so you get thicker, denser, darker, longer lashes.

Latisse is a medication, bimatoprost approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat inadequate eyelashes (hypotrichosis). Latisse came about as a happy side effect of prescription eye drops used to treat glaucoma.

A regular application along the upper lash line encourages growth of longer, thicker and darker eyelashes. For full results, you must use the medication daily for at least two months. Eyelash improvements remain as long as you continue to use the medication. If you stop using Latisse, your eyelashes will eventually return to their original appearance.

Potential side effects of Latisse include:

  • Itchy, red eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Darkened eyelids
  • Darkened brown pigmentation in the colored part of the eye (iris)
  • Hair growth around the eyes if the medication regularly runs or drips off the eyelids

Remember, your eyelashes have guardianship of your eyes. Taking care of them is essential to your overall health. A consistent application of Latisse will help in your efforts while making your longer lashes the center of attention.

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