We've all envied the fact that children have naturally long, full eyelashes—we likely had them, too, before we were able to appreciate them. Regrettably, as we get older, those perfect, doe-eyed lashes (usually) become shorter and sparser. The reason? "There are five main factors that affect the length and strength of eyelashes," says dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer. "Nutrition (and protein intake), genetics, hormonal shifts, and cosmetic irritants."
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Luckily, aside from a good lash curler and mascara, there are ways to lengthen and strengthen your eyelashes over time. But you'll have to be patient. "The body's natural lash growth cycle is about six to eight weeks," Lancer says. "Hair growth happens at different rates for different people. There is no overnight solution for short, brittle lashes. The key is consistency." Here, a variety of ways to promote healthy, long eyelashes.
Revamp your diet.
"The first thing that needs to be included in your diet to make your eyelashes long are foods rich in keratin," says dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur, adding that keratin is the protein that hair is made of. You can find this ingredient in chicken, lamb, and low-fat beef along with cheese and milk. Dr. Lancer adds that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory fatty acids can also promote healthier, stronger lashes (think wild salmon, avocado, and walnuts).
Try a lash serum.
You can also amplify keratin's effects by using a topical lash serum infused with it, says Dr. Marmur (who recommends Latisse). Additional ingredients you can look for in a lash serum include biotin, panthenol, amino acids, and zinc. Lancer Serum Intense ($150, sephora.com) boasts all of these strengthening additives. These products' efficacy, however, is entirely dependent on your routine. "The key to successful topical lash-enhancing products is to provide essential nutrients to the lash follicles on a daily basis," Dr. Lancer says.
Vigorously rubbing or tugging your lashes with makeup remover, or incorrectly using an eyelash curler, can damage (and therefore shorten) your lashes. "Make sure your eyelash curler has a soft and spongy pad," Dr. Marmur says. "A hard pad can break your lashes."
Choose your mascara wisely.
Most mascaras are drying and can cause lash breakage—especially waterproof mascara, Dr. Marmur says. Instead, she recommends using a serum-infused option so that you can wear makeup while leaving behind its damaging effects. Try Lashfood Eyelash Extensions in a Bottle ($28, lashfood.com), which contains nano-peptides to nourish lashes.
Apply coconut oil to lashes.
Both Dr. Lancer and Dr. Marmur recommend using coconut oil as a preventative measure, as it soothes the hair shaft to prevent breakage. "It also helps to keep them moisturized and reduces shedding," Dr. Marmur adds.
Brush your lashes.
"The simple practice of brushing your lashes daily can help stimulate growth," Dr. Marmur says. "Makeup-free mascara wands work best. Gently stroke through your lashes for no longer than five minutes. That should do the trick of removing loose lashes and strengthening those that remain."