Madarosis (Eyelash Loss)

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Long, thick lashes are something most women want, and no wonder: Dark, defined lashes make you look more awake, attractive, and even younger. But for people who suffer from a condition called madarosis, the medical name for eyelash loss, this desirable look is difficult to achieve.

Eyelash Loss (Madarosis)

Eyelash loss isn't life threatening in any way, but it is very frustrating and distressing. Adding to the frustration is that there is no one cause of madarosis, and so no one solution, either. It's enough to drive someone to despair, but there are options for stopping eyelash loss and possibly even getting back the enviable lashes you used to have!

Causes of Eyelash Loss

Before you decide that you have madarosis, you should know that in the same way that hair on your head regularly falls out and is replaced, all of us regularly lose and regrow eyelashes, too—usually without even noticing it.

In the case of madarosis, however, there is profuse lash loss - some people wind up having no lashes at all.  You probably won't even know why it's happening. As it turns out, there are various causes behind eyelash loss, the major ones of which are:

  • Ophthalmic Conditions: These include inflammation and infections of the eye. The most common condition associated with madarosis is chronic blepharitis – a recurring inflammation of the eyelid which has a variety of causes. They include bacterial infections, gland dysfunction, and even rosacea. In some cases, eyelash loss results from repeated inflammation destroying the hair follicles; in other cases, lashes are lost when a person continues to rub their eyes because of the irritation they're experiencing.
  • Dermatologic Conditions: Among the skin problems associated with madarosis are atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema), seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and post-menopausal frontal fibrosing alopecia (a form of female pattern baldness). In almost all these cases, eyelash loss results from the constant scratching and rubbing in response to the itching sensation brought on by these conditions.
  • Menopause: Diffuse hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes is typical during and after menopause. The loss of estrogen stunts hair growth and can actually cause the destruction of hair follicles, leading to thinner, wispier hairs and lashes.
  • Systemic and Endocrine Disorders: Disorders of the thyroid gland - hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism - affect hair follicles, causing eyelashes to fall out. An autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata, which is associated with patchy loss of hair, also can lead to lash loss.
  • Medications: Unfortunately, some medications designed to improve other conditions can cause lashes to fall out. Research shows that oral anti-acne drugs such as isotretinoin, some anti-clotting medications, anti-cholesterol drugs, thyroid balancing drugs, and blood pressure medications have all been connected to madarosis, although in some cases lashes grow back once the medication has been stopped. A special case of eyelash loss occurs during chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Many patients suffer complete loss of all body hair, eyelashes and eyebrows included, but once the chemotherapy is completed, the hair begins to grow back.

Treatments for Eyelash Loss

As you might imagine, with all the various causes of eyelash loss, determining how to treat this condition can be challenging because one solution isn't right for everyone. If you start to notice your eyelashes falling out more than normal, it's time to see your physician. It's almost always an indication that something else is physically wrong and needs to be treated to keep things (other than eyelash loss) from getting worse.

A doctor can help find the underlying cause of your eyelash loss and come up with a treatment plan based on the findings. For example:

  1. If a chronic eye infection is the cause, taking appropriate antibiotics can solve the problem.
  2. In the case of dermatologic conditions, treatments to reduce their effects and stop the itching can be helpful; in other cases treating the infection that's causing the loss of lashes is effective.
  3. If menopause is the underlying cause, hormone replacement therapy can make all the difference in the world.
  4. Sometimes just changing to a different but equally effective medication for a condition can lead to getting your eyelashes back.
  5. Don't waste time switching mascaras because a mascara isn't the cause of eyelash loss. Pulling and tugging at lashes to remove waterproof mascara can result in lash loss, but if you don't have madarosis, this stops as soon as you go back to regular mascara or use a better eye makeup remover (always gently).

There also are some solutions for treating eyelash loss directly, as opposed to treating the underlying problem. We explain in our article Lash Growth Products That Work exactly which topically applied products, such as prescription Latisse and over-the-counter RapidLash or RevitaLash, actually work to grow lashes. These products take time to work and you must commit to applying them every day, but many people are impressed (if not overjoyed) by the results.

There are also some extreme options for remedying eyelash loss, such as eyelash grafts. In one surgical procedure, hair from the follicle is actually pulled forward and slightly out of the eyelid (making it more prominent). Other types of grafting involve removing hair from the eyebrows and inserting it into the eyelid to mimic the effect of eyelashes. There are drawbacks to these procedures: there is always risk associated with every surgery, and it's costly!

Makeup Tips for Eyelash Loss

The least expensive option for dealing with eyelash loss from madarosis is to use makeup techniques that lessen the appearance of sparse lashes, or draw attention away from the condition. If you have some lashes to work with, invest in a good volumizing and lengthening mascara in the blackest shade possible to make what lashes you do have stand out. You can find our top recommendations in every price range on our list of Best Mascaras.

Eyeliner can also go a long way towards making your eyes stand out without having to have a full fringe of lashes. When lining eyes, focus your attention right at the lash line, as a darker lash line can trick the eye into believing that lashes are fuller. We love the long-wearing gel-type eyeliners (the ones sold in tiny pots) for this purpose. Pencils and liquid liners can work, too, but they're not as reliable for all-day wear.

False eyelashes are another way to go when considering ways to boost your lash volume. If applying them seems a bit daunting, go to a makeup counter that sells false lashes and ask an artist there to show you how to put them on the right way. If you have a skin condition that's causing your eyelash loss, check with your doctor to make sure that the glue used to apply the false lashes won't irritate your skin—and take extra special care when removing false lashes, as doing so roughly can prompt more lash loss.

There's also the option of highlighting a different portion of your face if your lashes are sparse. Play up your cheekbones and lips, as they can serve just as well as lashes as the focal point of a beautiful face! And, of course, having beautiful skin also goes a long way toward appearing more attractive!

Most important, though, don't ignore it if you notice your lashes falling out more than normal. Your health is the most important thing, and if what you're dealing with is chronic eyelash loss, that's your body's telling you to see your doctor and get things checked out!

Sources:

International Journal of Trichology, volume 4 (1), January - March 2012; Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, August 2012, pages 333–338; International Journal of Trichology, July 2011, pages 84–91; Seminars in Ophthalmology, May 2010, pages 79–83; Survey of Ophthalmology, November-December 2006, pages 550–560; and Vestnik Oftalmologii, January-February 1997, pages 16–19.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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