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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.