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What Causes White Eyelashes?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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A person's hair and eyelash color is determined by the amount of melanin present in each hair. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes, which are present in hair follicles. When melanocytes stop functioning properly, hair often becomes transparent and looks gray or white. White eyelashes are usually caused by melanocytes that are not working like they should. This can be caused by aging, and certain medical conditions, such as albinism, vitiligo, and blepharitis.

As people age, melanocytes stop producing as much melanin, so the hair turns gray or white. The age that a person's graying hair becomes noticeable varies, but it typically begins in middle age. Eyelashes usually take a little longer to lose their color, but they are not uncommon in individuals in their 70s or older. They may not be shockingly white, however, and a more probable cause of white eyelashes is typically a medical condition.

Albinism is often the first thing that will come to most people's minds when they think of white skin or eyelashes. People with this congenital disorder, commonly referred to as albinos, are born without the ability to produce the proper amount of melanin. This usually results in a lack of pigment in their hair, skin, and eyes. Most have white eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair, along with white skin and pinkish eyes.

Vitiligo is another medical disorder that, unlike albinism, usually develops later in life. This chronic condition is typically characterized by patches of skin and hair that lose pigment and turn white. These white patches often start on a person's extremities and can gradually get larger over time. A vitiligo sufferer's hands and face are usually the first place that the patches appear, especially around the eyes and mouth. White eyelashes, as well as white eyebrows, are not unheard of in people with this disease.

Often considered to be an autoimmune disease, vitiligo is thought to be caused by a person's immune system attacking and destroying a person's melanin. Some evidence suggests that the condition is hereditary. Minor cases often need no treatment other than covering the light spots of skin and hair, but more severe cases of this disease, the depigmentation may be reversed with corticosteroid creams.

Blepharitis is an infestation of bacteria on a person's eyelashes. Many times, this is caused by poor eye hygiene, and symptoms include eye styes, irritated eyelids, crusty formations on the eyelashes, ingrown eyelashes, and loss of eyelashes. In more severe cases of this condition, loss of pigment in the lashes could result in them turning white.

The treatment for white eyelashes varies depending on what has caused the loss of pigment. There is almost nothing that can be done to reverse gray or white hair that is caused primarily by old age. Aging eyelashes, however, can often be covered up with either mascara or an eyelash dye. These dyes are available in a number of shades to match a person's real hair color, and they can be applied by a professional or using an at-home kit.

What Are Other Causes of White Lashes?

These are some other reasons you may develop white lashes.

Alopecia Aerata

Alopecia Areata is an auto-immune condition in which patches of hair are lost, usually around the scalp area. Yet, it can affect all hair on your body, including eyelashes and eyebrows. Research shows that lost hair can sometimes regrow as white hair. Generally, the presence of white hair is only temporary, but in some cases, it could become permanent.

Hormonal Problems

Sometimes, white eyelashes can indicate an underlying hormonal problem, such as a thyroid disorder. Variations in these hormone levels can affect the production of melanin, provoking sudden or premature white hair. 

Nutritional Deficiencies

The unexpected presence of white hair can also be caused by certain vitamin deficiencies, such as B12 deficiency. This vitamin is present in various animal food sources, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, but its insufficiency or deficiency is quite common. Some symptoms associated with this condition are fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and depression.

Prevention for White Eyelashes

Here are some things you can do to prevent white eyelashes:

Use a Moisturizing Oil 

Use an oil-based eye cream on your lashes every night before bedtime to help restore moisture to the skin around your eyes, which will help keep your lashes healthy and vibrant. 

Cleanse your Eyes Daily

Cleaning your face regularly with a gentle cleanser will help keep dirt from building up on your lashes, preventing them from turning white over time due to lack of moisture in the skin around them (which can lead them to become brittle).

Dietary Changes

Your diet plays an essential role in your overall health and well-being, including the health of your hair and skin. Eating foods like dark green vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C and B12 will help optimize your body's ability to produce melanin, which will delay the appearance of white lashes.

Avoid Harsh Products

Avoid using too many harsh products on your eyes—especially those with chemicals like glycolic acid and salicylic acid. These can strip away natural oils from the skin around your eyes, which can cause irritation and inflammation that leads to white lashes over time.

When To Call a Doctor

If you notice white eyelashes, it's important to know when you should call a doctor and when you can treat the condition on your own.

If you have white eyelashes and they're accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain or swelling in your eye, you should call a doctor immediately.

Also, if your eyelashes start to turn white and you don't think aging is the cause, you should probably make an appointment with a doctor. It's a good idea to rule out an underlying problem, like a thyroid disorder, even if the majority of causes of white eyelashes aren't dangerous.

However, if your child grows grey hair, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. This can be caused by several serious conditions, including alopecia areata and vitiligo, which should be treated immediately.

It's also important to remember that some people are born with white eyelashes, so if this is the case and continues as they age, it's not necessarily a cause for concern.

Wrap Up

White eyelashes are caused when the pigment in your hair is disrupted. This can happen for several reasons, but it's usually due to aging, different medical conditions, genetic mutations, or hormonal imbalances.

If you're genetically predisposed to having white eyelashes, it's important to know that this does not mean anything is wrong with you. It's just another way for your genetic makeup to express itself. It is not harmful and does not mean something is wrong with your eyes.

Sometimes white eyelashes are just a cosmetic issue—but they can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. So if you're concerned about your white eyelashes, it's best to talk with your doctor to find out what's causing them and whether they require treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes white eyelashes?

White eyelashes can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, including leukotrichia, vitiligo, albinism, trichiasis, and psoriasis. Leukotrichia is a condition in which the hair follicles lose the melanin that gives hair its color. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes a loss of skin pigment in some areas of the body, including the eyelashes. Albinism is a genetic disorder that causes a lack of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. Trichiasis is when eyelashes grow inward, rubbing against the eyeball and causing irritation. Finally, psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause white patches of skin, including the eyelashes. 

Are white eyelashes permanent?

The permanence of white eyelashes depends on the underlying cause. For example, if the cause is leukotrichia or vitiligo, the eyelashes will likely remain white. However, if the cause is trichiasis or psoriasis, white eyelashes may be temporary. Treatment of the underlying condition may help reduce the whiteness of the eyelashes.

Are there any treatments for white eyelashes?

Yes, there are treatments available for white eyelashes. If the underlying cause is leukotrichia or vitiligo, treatments such as laser therapy, topical steroids, and medications may help restore the color of the eyelashes. For trichiasis, surgery may be necessary to remove the ingrown eyelashes. If the cause is psoriasis, topical treatments and light therapy can help reduce the whiteness of the eyelashes.

Can white eyelashes be prevented?

No, white eyelashes cannot be prevented. However, some lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing certain conditions that can cause white eyelashes, such as vitiligo and psoriasis. For example, reducing stress levels, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding triggers such as certain foods and medications may help reduce the risk.

Are white eyelashes more susceptible to damage?

Yes, white eyelashes are more susceptible to damage than darker-colored eyelashes. This is because they lack the protective pigment that darker eyelashes have. To protect white eyelashes, use a gentle, non-irritating eyelash cleanser, avoid using products that contain harsh ingredients, and use a nourishing eyelash serum to help keep the eyelashes moisturized and strong.

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Discussion Comments

By anon996384 — On Aug 21, 2016

I have noticed I have some white eyelashes on my left eye - is this due to age - 59 - or an auto immune disease? My son also has developed vitiligo in the last few years.

By anon989181 — On Feb 23, 2015

I am upset and annoyed by your albinism stereotype! My son has albinism and is fair skinned and has yellowish hair and green eyes. Not all people with albinism have white hair and white skin and very few actually have pink eyes! There are a really lot of forms of albinism so please don't be stereotyping them!

By anon253188 — On Mar 08, 2012

I have strawberry blonde hair, and my eyebrows and lashes (although very long) are so blonde that you cannot see them. Being a young lady in this day in age, I just want to look like everyone else. The trick is to learn what works and what doesn't.

About dyeing your eye brows: it can be expensive if you do it excessively. The color usually washes out within two or three weeks, depending on how dark you go. It's nice if you're going on vacation or something, but I personally recommend using a pencil (check out Maybelline's brow pencil) to shade your brows in; use light strokes going in the same direction, and don't over do it (caked on brows look fake and unnatural).

I'm not going to lie. Dyeing your eyelashes kind of burns, and is generally more expensive than dyeing your brows. Pain is a good indication that it's not good for you; stick with mascara.

If you're a light blonde, I would try a soft black or dark brown before you apply the blackest black shade of mascara. The trick is for the coloring to look natural, so play around with mascara and brow colors before committing to one. I prefer applying mascara on my bottom lashes as well, but some people prefer using a light eye liner instead.

By FernValley — On May 10, 2011

A lot of false eyelashes can be toxic or use toxic glue. I had to use them for a show once, a few years back, and they were pretty awful to put on and take off.

I've known people to get them to cover up particularly white or blonde lashes, and at the same time I know people who get white false eyelashes for costumes. It's always interesting to see what some people want that others just want to get rid of.

By mitchell14 — On May 08, 2011

Sometimes blondes or redheads can have eyelashes so pale,they look white. I personally think it looks strange, though, when people with such pale hair use things like mascara to darken their lashes. I know that we see it as "normal" in today's fashion and style, but when it is that obviously unnatural, it's just strange to me.

Likewise, I think eyelash dye is a little extreme- applying dye to your lashes, brows, or anywhere else that close to your eyes and nose could be dangerous if you ingest it or get it into the eye.

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