What are our Eyelashes for? An Introduction

We spend a great deal of time on the hair on our scalp, but what about those hairs around your eyes? Most people do not know much about their lashes, but we can change that. Here is everything you need to know about the hair closest to your eyes:

  1. Eyelashes provide protection. The eyelashes primarily protect the eye from debris and alert your brain to objects coming too close to your eye. If your eyelashes come in contact with an object, you will involuntarily blink or close your eyes. The eyelashes also decrease the flow of air over the exposed part of the eyeball, helping our eyes to maintain their ideal level of moisture.
  2. Eyelashes grow slowly. Unlike the hair on your scalp which grows at a rate of an inch per month, your eyelashes grow over a period of 7-8 weeks. If an eyelash is repeatedly pulled out, it may fail to grow back. Those with trichotillomania (a behavioral disorder that compels people to pull out their hairs on their head or eyes) are especially susceptible to permanent loss of eyelashes.
  3. Eyelashes are connected to glands. The glands of Moll and glands of Zeis are closest to the eyelashes, along with some sebaceous glands in the eyelid. When any of these glands becomes infected, an inflammation known as a stye develops at the base of the eyelashes. Typically, styes resolve themselves and do not require medical attention.
  4. Eyelashes have mites. 98% of human eyelashes host mites called demodicids. These are typically harmless.
  5. Eyelashes are curved. Eyelashes usually curve in a direction away from the eyeball, helping to wick away contaminants. In rare cases, eyelashes will grow in the opposite direction and curve toward the eyeball, a condition called trichiasis. Trichiasis is typically an inborn condition, although there have been causes caused by trauma to the eye.
  6. Eyelashes can be transplanted. Hair is taken from the back of the scalp and shaped into ‘lashes’, which are then implanted in the patient’s eyelid. The new lashes will grow and thicken over the next 6 months. In the United States, this procedure costs an average of $10,000 and is considered cosmetic surgery.
  7. Eyelash cosmetics are an ancient invention. The first known use of cosmetic products around and on the eyelashes is credited to ancient Egypt, where wealthy men and women used dark black kohl powder around the eyes to protect them from sand and dust. Kohl outlines around the eyes became known in this culture as a status symbol conveying wealth and success.
  8. Mascara is a modern invention. Mascara as we know it today was invented by British perfumer Eugene Rimmel during the 19th century. His formula was based on Vaseline jelly and coal dust, and became popular with women who until that time made homemade recipes in attempts to darken their eyelashes. Rimmel Cosmetics is still in business today as a division of Coty Cosmetics. Mascara became a mass-merchandised item during the 20th century when a company called Maybelline began selling its own formula in 1917.