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How Eyelashes and Eyebrows Protect Your Eyes

Pediatric Eye Clinic

Wearing a facial covering or mask—as many of us are doing this summer—draws a lot of attention to your eyes! Because of masks, you’re likely noticing other peoples’ eyes and eyebrows more than ever. Have you ever wondered why humans evolved to have eyelashes and eyebrows, and what functions these perform in overall eye health and function?

In addition to being uniquely expressive, eyebrows and eyelashes serve as the first line of natural defense against airborne debris and other hazards getting into the eyes.

How do eyelashes protect your eyes?

The focus on eyelashes is often for their aesthetic beauty. And indeed, mascara, eye makeup and false eyelash sales are increasing during the Covid era. However, while they add drama to the eyes, eyelashes also serve a critical function in eye safety.

Have you ever gotten a piece of lint or a grain of sand caught in your eyelashes? That’s the preventive nature of eyelashes in action. Eyelashes are a first line of defense for your eyes, keeping airborne dirt, dust, lint and other debris from reaching the delicate eye tissues.

With eyes open, eyelashes catch some airborne debris, but when closed, eyelashes form a nearly impenetrable barrier against foreign irritants in the eye.

Eyelashes are also incredibly sensitive.

How sensitive? Reach up and touch the very tip of one of your eyelashes. No matter how lightly you touch them, you can sense it immediately. Touching your eyelashes also triggers your body’s blinking reflex, which occurs to prevent debris or dirt from getting any closer to the eye itself. The blinking reflex is why it can be challenging to keep your eyes wide open while inserting a contact lens or applying makeup.

And while we mentioned false eyelashes above, we don’t recommend wearing them. The glue necessary to attach them to your eyelids can be an eye irritant. Extra “added” lashes can also be detrimental to the natural function of eyelashes, increasing your risk of dust exposure and even dry eye. Anytime you put a foreign material—mascara, false lashes, other cosmetics—near the eye, you risk eye infection and allergic reactions. If you must use these, do so very sparingly and practice the highest level of good hygiene with cosmetics and other eye accoutrements.


Source: WytheEyesAssociates

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Pediatric Eye Clinic.

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