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Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Feeling dissatisfied with the length and thickness of your lashes? Welcome to the club. As one of your most prominent facial features, your eyelashes are one of the first things people notice, as well as a vital feature for emphasizing the size, shape and color of your eyes.
Step into the cosmetics section of your local department store and you’ll find countless products designed to extend, thicken and boost your lashes. From falsies to mascara, it’s far from difficult to create the illusion of longer lashes with a little extra makeup and maintenance.
Add cosmetic treatments like eyelash extensions into the equation and it’s pretty easy — albeit not exactly cheap — to add a little artificial length and fullness to your lashes.
But what about options that don’t require you to stick on falsies or apply mascara daily?
Below, we’ve listed all of the current treatments out there to help you grow longer eyelashes without any need to rely on extensions or falsies, as well as a range of tips and tactics for healthy eyelash growth.
Since there’s an entire category of products designed specifically for your eyelashes, it’s easy to assume that your eyelashes are biologically different from the hairs on your scalp.
In reality, your eyelashes grow in exactly the same way as the other hairs on your body. As we covered in our guide to healthy hair growth, each hair goes through a series of different phases as it grows to its full length, then falls out:
The Anagen (Growing) Phase. This is the phase in which the eyelash grows. While it takes about five years for the hairs on your scalp to reach their full length, it only takes 30 to 45 days for your eyelashes to grow to their full length.
The Catagen (Regression) Phase. During this phase, the hair follicle inside your upper eyelid releases the hair, meaning the eyelash is no longer attached to the follicle.
The Telogen (Resting) Phase. During this phase, the eyelash is no longer growing. In its place, a new eyelash starts to grow from the follicle.
The Exogen (Shedding) Phase. As the new eyelash grows out of the hair follicle, the old eyelash fully detaches from your skin and falls out, letting the new eyelash take its place.
Your eyelashes are constantly going through this cycle, meaning new eyelashes are growing and old ones are being replaced all the time. This cycle is an essential part of keeping your lashes strong, thick and healthy. Without it, your lashes would become thin and brittle as they get older.
If you notice a stray eyelash on your cheek or on your pillow after waking up, there’s no need to panic. Instead, view it as a signal that there’s a new eyelash growing out from the hair follicle in its place.
Currently, the most effective treatments for growing longer lashes work by stimulating your hair follicles to enter the anagen phase of the hair cycle. This is the phase in which your lashes grow to their full length.
These treatments may also extend the length of the anagen phase, meaning your eyelashes will grow for longer. The end result is longer, thicker and more prominent eyelashes.
Right now, there are numerous products on the market for growing longer eyelashes. However, only one of these products is backed up by peer-reviewed studies and approved by the FDA as a treatment for growing longer eyelashes.
Latisse is an FDA-approved medication that’s clinically proven to help you grow longer, thicker and darker colored eyelashes. It’s currently the only treatment for improved lash growth that’s approved by the FDA.
Used daily, Latisse produces improvements in eyelash prominence for 79 percent of people after 20 weeks of treatment.
Latisse is a liquid solution that’s applied to the upper eyelids. It’s safe, effective and easy to use. Most people who use Latisse notice results within six weeks, although it takes about four months before your eyelashes will typically reach their full length and thickness.
Because Latisse is a prescription medication, you’ll need to talk to your doctor before you can buy and use it.
Interested in using Latisse? Our Latisse 101 guide goes into more detail about how it works, as well as how you can use it for optimal eyelash growth.
Although Latisse is the only FDA-approved medication that’s available for improving the growth of your eyelashes, there are countless over-the-counter products available that promise longer, thicker and more prominent eyelashes.
Many of these products are promoted by multi-level marketing companies, meaning you might have spotted them before on your Facebook News Feed and on other social networks.
While the science behind these products is mixed at best, many contain useful ingredients such as biotin and keratin. Our Latisse vs. Lash Boost guide goes into more detail on several of these products, as well as how they compare to Latisse.
In general, it’s best not to expect too much with these products. However, some may contribute a small amount of additional eyelash growth if used over the long term.
Although FDA-approved treatments such as Latisse are the most effective way to grow longer, thicker eyelashes, there are also a variety of steps that you can take to improve and speed up your eyelash growth naturally.
Eating a balanced diet that’s rich in important nutrients can help you grow stronger, thicker and more prominent hair, including your eyelashes.
As well as eating healthy food, it’s important to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated not only helps you stay alert and energetic, but is also essential for healthy skin and hair, including your lashes.
Eyelash extensions are a simple way to temporarily increase the length of your eyelashes, all without the three to four months of waiting required before you’ll notice the effects of Latisse.
While eyelash extensions can look great, the glue used in the application process can damage your natural lashes. If you use extensions frequently, it’s far from uncommon for your eyelashes to become thinner, shorter and uneven over time.
In short, if you want to grow your lashes longer naturally, it’s best to take a break from eyelash extensions. Since eyelash extensions can be pretty spendy, not only will you improve your natural lash growth by avoiding them — you’ll also save money.
Mascara and other makeup can dry out your lashes, making them brittle and easier to damage throughout the day. When you’re at home, remove your mascara and other makeup near your eyelashes to avoid causing any damage to your luscious lashes.
While it might seem obvious, it’s also important to remove your makeup before bed. Even a small amount of mascara can damage your lashes if it’s worn overnight, making it essential to gently clean your lashes and eyelids before you go to bed.
Picking mascara off your lashes is a common habit, but it’s definitely not one you’ll want to keep if you value long, thick and prominent lashes. When you pick away mascara, it’s easy to pull out lashes in the catagen and telogen phases, temporarily leaving you with thinner eyelashes.
Likewise, it’s important not to pick at your eyelashes even if you aren’t wearing mascara. Use a gentle touch when you handle your lashes, whether you’re removing mascara at the end of the day or just itching your upper eyelid.
Used properly, your eyelash curler can help make your eyelashes look longer and your eyes brighter. However, using your eyelash curler too often or applying too much pressure when you curl your lashes can quickly lead to damage.
When you use your eyelash curler, make sure you don’t tug at your lashes. Even light tugging can pull out the lashes and damage your hair follicles, leaving you with thinner, less consistent eyelashes that can take months to grow back to their normal length and fullness.
This one is absolutely essential. While using mascara won’t damage your lashes on its own, mascaras with certain ingredients can make your eyelashes become dry and brittle.
If you wear mascara often, check the label to see if it contains isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. These are both frequently used to help mascara dry quicker. While they’re not dangerous per se, they can cause your mascara to dry your lashes, making them weaker and more likely to break.
These, as well as other drying chemicals, are particularly prevalent in waterproof mascara. If you find that your eyelashes frequently feel dry after you wear mascara, it could also be worth switching to an alternative mascara with natural, non-toxic, non-waterproof formula.
Cheap, easy to use and available from just about any cosmetics section, an eyelash comb is one of several essential tools for making your eyelashes look longer and more obvious without falsies or mascara.
Most eyelash combs are small enough to fit inside your purse, with many models including a second brush for your eyebrows. Used for a few minutes at the start of the day, a good comb can volumize and separate your eyelashes, helping you limit mascara-related damage.
There are several ways to grow longer and thicker eyelashes. Right now, the most effective option for enhancing your eyelash growth is Latisse, an FDA-approved medication that you apply directly to your upper eyelids.
While other eyelash growth serums aren’t supported by scientific studies, they may also be helpful if used consistently.
Beyond specific treatments, maintaining a healthy diet, lifestyle and adhering to solid eyelash care habits may help you grow your eyelashes to their maximum length. Whichever option you choose, it’s important to be consistent — even with Latisse, you’ll only see results after several months.
Used every day, Latisse can help you grow longer, thicker and noticeably darker eyelashes in just three to five months. Our guide to Latisse goes into more detail on how Latisse works, as well as how you can use it to enhance the appearance of your eyelashes.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.