By Dr. Doris Day

The eyes are central to communicating how we feel and keeping them healthy is always important. However, that also means caring for your eyelashes as well. The average person has about 200 lashes per eyelid, and they grow in multiple rows. Just like the hair on your head, they have growth cycles, and it is normal for them to shed every few months as new lashes grow in and push them out. When I see patients who want to look their best without procedures, I have the perfect solution: Lashes. Having long thick dark lashes helps hide excess upper eyelid skin or droopy lids and can make the eyes look more open and show off your eye color. Many women often say that having longer thicker darker lashes makes them feel more confident. Here, questions my patients often ask on achieving healthy lashes.

Why do women’s eyelashes tend to thin as they get older?
It’s usually genetic, and a natural part of the aging process, but other issues such as hormonal or autoimmune conditions can also contribute. While thinning eyelashes are a part of the aging process just like losing volume in your face, noticing wrinkles and, of course, graying hair there are things you can do to help your lashes grow and look their best. Many women also do eyelash treatments such as tinting and eyelash extensions, which often damage the lashes and follicles over time if overdone or done improperly.

What are some basic tips women can do to achieve healthy lashes?
Women are always looking to emphasize their eyes by using the latest creams, lotions and serums to fight the signs of aging. It’s key to remember that enhancing what you have, like your eyelashes can also yield positive results in the quest for a youthful appearance. For example, when removing mascara, do not pull at the eyelashes. If you curl your lashes do it before not after using mascara and try not to rub or touch your eyes because these actions can make your eyelashes fall out more or more quickly. And, try to avoid over-treating with extensions. Medical conditions like seasonal allergies can cause itchy eyes and lead to rubbing which can affect lashes as well as the skin around the eyes. Rubbing is one of the worst things for this delicate area of the face. It’s important to stay ahead of allergies and do your best to avoid rubbing your eyes as much as possible.

What can be done to prevent lashes from thinning prematurely?
Taking care of eyelashes and maintaining them should be a daily routine. Extreme, crash or yo-yo dieting can cause hair shedding and accelerate the aging process including your eyelashes. Be careful not to tug at the skin or the roots of the lashes when using eyelash curlers and always take off makeup at the end of the day. Use an eye makeup remover before washing your face and after washing; pat instead of rubbing your skin to dry it.

What are some things women can do once lashes are thinning?
• Brush your lashes. There are tiny combs that you can use to brush your lashes before you put on mascara.

• False lashes are a fun quick fix for special occasions but not ideal for daily use since the glue can be irritating to the skin and lashes, and if you don’t remove them properly you can pull lashes out.

• Lash extensions are very popular but can be problematic if not done well or if done too often. Also, don’t go too dense or too long. The problem here is that puts stress on your existing lashes and may cause them to fall out.

• I often prescribe Latisse to help grow longer, thicker darker lashes. It’s the only FDA-approved product, and I was fortunate to be an investigator for the FDA trials, so I saw first-hand how well it worked. I was impressed with its efficacy and reliability. When you stop using it, it stops working, and your lashes eventually revert to where they were. You do need to see a doctor but it’s always good to know it’s available as another option.

• Over-the-counter lash conditioners and primers are helpful to use under mascara. They can’t make claims for growing lashes because that is considered a medical drug claim but they can support the growth of lashes and help them look better and stay healthy.

• Another excellent and straightforward option is mascara. It’s currently the number one choice for lashes. There are excellent new mascaras that provide length and also improved thickness. I don’t recommend waterproof mascaras for daily use because they are difficult to remove and can even pull lashes off as you remove it.

How do healthy lashes enhance a woman’s appearance?
Healthy long lashes enhance a woman’s appearance in so many subtle but powerful ways. Celebrities have been using lashes for an extra spark of glamour for years and women have taken notice. Longer lashes highlight your eyes making them look bigger and more alluring.

The bottom line is that healthy lashes are a powerful way to help you look and feel better about yourself. If you have time for only one step in your routine creating healthier lashes would give you the biggest bang for your effort. Today, there are many options available to help you reach your goal on a temporary or semi-permanent basis.

The eyes have it, and it’s beautiful to celebrate them.

Dr. Day, a dermatologist, is affiliated with NYU Langone Hospital.