If you never feel fully dressed without a few coats of mascara, you’re not alone. But your fave product can be pretty tough on your lashes—especially if you’re using a waterproof one. That’s because taking it off is a b*tch. “Women often complain that their eye area is the first to show signs of aging, but we don’t realize that most of the lines and wrinkles are caused by the tugging and pulling we do on our lashes,” says Heather Wilson, a licensed esthetician and director of brand development at InstaNatural. “Be gentle with your lashes now, and your entire eye area will look youthful and radiant for years.” Read on for tips on keeping your lashes as healthy and bat-worthy as possible.
Rule 1: Take a biotin or collagen supplement daily.
These magic beauty nutrients stimulate lash growth the same way they stimulate the growth of the hair on your head, says Janna Ronert, a licensed esthetician and founder and CEO of IMAGE Skincare. You can find biotinsupplements in the vitamin aisle of your local pharmacy or grocery store. “Biotin improves the foundation of keratin to help stop and possibly even reverse hair loss,” says Alexandra Rogers, a nurse practicioner and co-founder of LexRx. “Those 18 or older can take up to 30 micrograms a day with their doctor’s permission.”
Collagen supplements typically come in liquid form, but you can find it in pill or powder form at health food stores as well. We’re fans of the drinkable Minerva Pure Gold Collagen ($40 for a month’s supply, ulta.com). In addition to containing collagen, which is essential for healthy skin and lashes, it’s full of hyaluronic acid and borage oil, both of which are hydrating. For best results, ask your doctor how much to take. Most powders or pills suggest taking 6 grams (you can get that from one scoop or from six pills) a day.
If supplements aren’t your cup of tea, eating a healthy diet rich in protein and vitamins—think fish, eggs, beans, soy, and yogurt—can also help make lashes full and thick and stimulate growth, say the pros.
Rule 2: Apply an eyelash-enhancing serum before putting on makeup
The lash serum craze started with the prescription-only brand Latisse. “The active ingredient in [Latisse] is bimatoprost, which works to stimulate hair growth directly from the root underneath your skin,” says Rogers. But it’s important to note that bimatoprost can, in very rare instances, change your eye color when applied directly on the cornea. Ronert points out that there are a lot of non-prescription serums out there if this is a concern for you. (Regardless, check with your doctor before adding one to your routine.)
Want to try a serum? Here’s how to use it: Apply the serum to a clean face and make sure to take out contact lenses if you wear them. Remove the sterile applicator (supplied) from the tray and place a drop of the serum close to the tip. Then draw the serum on the applicator along the skin at the base of the upper lashes from the inner part of the eyelid to the outer part. Be sure not to apply in the eye or on the lower lid (or you might get excess hair growth). Blot any excess serum away with a cotton ball and then repeat on the opposite lid.
Although experts say lash serums are effective, don’t expect to see results overnight. The natural lash growth cycle is around 8 weeks, so for some, it may take up to 4 months for your lashes to fully develop that luxurious appearance and thickness.
Rule 3: Use mascara with care
Remember to change out your mascara every 3 months, even if there is still some liquid left in the tube. “This will stop your mascara from drying out your lashes and possibly transmitting bacteria into or around your eyes,” says Lori Leib, a makeup artist and creative director of Bodyography, a professional cosmetics line. And when you do apply it, do so only on the tips of your lashes—never from root to tip, says Shannique Austin, a celebrity lash artist and owner of Glam Spa in California, since that can be abrasive and cause tearing.
Rule 4: Remove eye makeup gently.
It may sound obvious, but sleeping in your makeup is a no-no. “It’s especially important to remove mascara because its stiffness can tug and break lashes while you sleep,” says Ronert. And keep this in mind when you’re wiping everything off: “The hair follicles that grow the hair that make the lashes can be quite fragile, so using too much pressure to wipe off mascara can irritate these follicles, causing them to go into a non-growth or ‘latent’ phase,” says Robert Grant, MD, plastic surgeon in chief at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “This can also occur when using non-pH-balanced soaps and cleansers that may have an alcohol base.”
So use a cotton ball and take your time. “I recommend holding a cleansing water-drenched cotton pad or a high-quality cleansing cloth over the eyelid for 30 seconds to loosen the mascara and then swipe away the excess product,” says Leib. Joey Chancis, co-founder of Labb Aesthetic Beauty Bar, likes Clinique Take the Day Off ($35, amazon.com), which is safe even for contact lens wearers.
Rule 5: Avoid repetitive extension treatments.
Repeatedly using falsies or extensions with harsh glues “could result in ripping out the eyelashes themselves or causing damage to the follicle, which leads to them not growing back in,” says Chancis. What’s more, liquid eyeliner can sometimes create a chemical reaction, cementing the glue to the natural lashes and causing them to fall out, says Chancis.
It’s important to know what’s in the glue used to apply them, says Ronert. “Some lash glues contain ingredients such as latex or formaldehyde, so be sure to check the label or ask your lash extension technician for more information,” says Ronert. False eyelashes that contain a gentler glue should be safer for everyday use.