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What to do - and what not to do - for lush, long and healthy eyelashes?

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Long, luxurious healthy eyelashes are on most women’s beauty wish lists, but not everyone has the good fortune to have them naturally.

Luckily if you get out of bad habits and work with what you’ve got, you can build a better eyelash.

Alternatively you can fake it - with the popularity of TV reality show 'The Only Way is Essex', never before have false eyelashes been so popular.

Here are the bad habits to ditch, the good habits to replace them with, ways to build better lashes, and why you have them in the first place.

The life of lashes

Besides looking good, lashes have a crucial role in the health of eyes.

"Eyelashes play an important role in protecting the eye from foreign bodies," according to Dr Susan Blakeney, clinical advisor to the College of Optometrists.

They sense when something is near the eye and stimulate the blink reflex which is protective.

A lash can last about three months before falling out and can take two months or more to completely grow back.

If you've ever marvelled over a child’s lush lashes, you may think yours have thinned out. However, that's likely to be an optical illusion.

We are born with a set number of follicles and this doesn't change as we age. Although some lashes may fall out over time, we essentially have the same number of lashes throughout life.

Why we lose lashes

Time and abuse can damage lashes, so that they fail to grow in as thick and long as they did when we were younger.

"Much like other hair, eyelashes naturally fall out once they have finished their own life cycle," says Dr Blakeney.

Other factors can have an impact on eyelash loss, much like loss of hair elsewhere. These include alopecia, eyelid inflammation and chemotherapy.

You can be your eyelashes' worst enemy. Wear and tear can result from rubbing or tugging at eyelids, sleeping in mascara (the stiffness can break lashes), and wearing water-proof mascara, which can be drying.

"To look after your lashes, don’t pull them out or rub your eyes too often," says Dr Blakeney. "If you rub your eyes because they feel itchy or uncomfortable, make sure you visit your optometrist to find out what’s irritating them so this can be treated."

You can also seek advice from your doctor.

"Usually the process of removing mascara, especially waterproof formulas, is the problem," says clinical and research dermatologist Jeanette Graf.

Long-wearing mascaras also tend to be more stubborn to remove and result in aggressive lash handling.

"The lash root is very delicate and lashes can easily break due to our daily habits."

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