Are My Eyelashes Causing My Dry Eye?

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Written by Optometrist Megan Lafferty, contact us to book an appointment with Megan.

While eyelashes are often regarded as a feature enhancing the beauty of our eyes, their broader significance commonly goes unnoticed. The role they play in sustaining eye health is crucial, yet frequently underestimated and by acknowledging the connections between eyelashes and overall eye health, we can actively encourage and support our eye health and well-being.

The Role of Eyelashes1

Research has found multiple theories for the purpose of eyelash development. The most obvious being that they catch dust particles or they trigger the blink reflex to protect the eye against foreign objects. It is for this reason that animals from dry and dusty environments are thought to have thicker, multi-layered eyelashes. For some animals living in sunnier tropical climates, eyelashes can also act as a sun shield.
In humans, it has been suggested another purpose of eyelashes is that they draw attention to the eyes for communication purposes. There is also some correlation between conditions such as alopecia (hair loss) and madarosis (loss of eyelashes) and higher rates of eye infections which draws the conclusion our eyelashes play a defensive role in preventing infections.
Children with allergies are found to have longer and thicker eyelashes than those without, again presumably to act as a protective function from allergen exposure.3

Does Length Matter?

As it happens, eyelash length does play an important role with regards to the ocular surface composition and tear film stability. Eyelashes form an aerodynamic barrier to control and divert airflow into the eye which influences the rate of tear evaporation on the surface of the cornea and to disperse particles that may land on the eye. One study of 22 different species of mammal, including humans, elephants, kangaroo and deer, found that there is an optimum eyelash length ratio which provides the best protective effect. This golden ratio is ⅓ of the width of the eye. When eyelashes of these studied mammals were close to this ratio, evaporation of the tear film and the number of deposits on the eye’s surface were minimised.
Having too long eyelashes can lead to enhanced evaporation and orientation of eyelashes was also studied in particular for curved fake eyelashes. This too showed an increase in evaporation as the new lash position provided less effective shielding, although eyelash curvature overall does not contribute as much as lash length.

Eyelashes and Dry Eye

Each eyelash is intricately connected to a hair follicle and is surrounded by sebaceous (oil secreting) glands. The oily sebum created forms a protective barrier, preventing the evaporation of tears and maintaining the moisture balance on the eye’s surface.2 Anything that affects the proper function of the eyelids and eyelashes is thought to contribute to dry eye or eye infections. Dry Eye Disease is a particularly prevalent condition in Asia4. It can cause a lot of discomfort and even affect an individual’s ability to perform vision related tasks. Conditions such as allergic blepharitis is also a fairly common complication of eyelash extensions.5

Preventative Measures

Although conditions like Dry Eye and Blepharitis are fairly common in today’s society, there are some preventative measures we can take to limit them:
  1. Proper Eyelid Hygiene: Regular cleaning of the eyelids and lashes can help prevent the accumulation of debris and bacteria, reducing the risk of blocked tear ducts and meibomian gland dysfunction.
  2. Balanced Makeup Use: Choose makeup and cosmetic products that are gentle on the eyes and avoid excessive use of products that may clog the pores. Ensure makeup is properly cleaned off at the end of every day to prevent build up and possible infection.
  3. Artificial Tears and Lubricating Drops: Use of artificial tears and lubricating eye drops can help alleviate dry eye symptoms by supplementing the natural tear film with moisture.
  4. Consultation with an Eye Care Professional: Individuals experiencing persistent dry eye symptoms should seek the guidance of an eye care professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised treatment plan.
Eyelashes are often overlooked in their importance but do play a crucial role in maintaining ocular health. Understanding the connection between eyelashes and conditions such as dry eye syndrome highlights the importance of proper eyelid hygiene and seeking professional eye care guidance to ensure the delicate balance of this ocular ecosystem is preserved. By taking proactive measures, individuals can minimise the risk of dry eye syndrome and promote overall eye health.
If you would like to book a Dry Eye Examination, please click here.


  1. G. J. Amador, W. Mao, P. DeMercurio, C. Montero, J. Clewis, A. Alexeev, and D. L. Hu. Eyelashes divert airflow to protect the eye. J R Soc Interface (2015) doi:10.1098/rsif.2014.1294. (
  2. American Optometric Association. Care of the patient with ocular surface disorders. (2011) (
  3. Y. Levy, N. Segal, D. Ben-Amitai, Y. L. Danon. Eyelash length in children and adolescents with allergic diseases. National Library of Medicine (2004) doi: 10.1111/j.0736-8046.2004.21501.x. (
  4. Y. Cai, J. Wei, J.Zhou, W. Zou. Prevalence and Incidence of Dry Eye Disease in Asia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Karger Ophthalmic Research VOlume 65 Issue 6 (2022). doi:10.1159/000525696 (
  5. M. Masud, M. Moshirfar, T, J. Shah, A. T. Gomez, M. R. Avila, Y. C. Ronquillo. Eyelid Cosmetic Enhancements and Their Associated Ocular Adverse Effects. Med Hypothesis Discov Innov Ophthalmol (2019) (