What Are Our Eyebrows and Eyelashes For?

May 16, 2022

We don’t just have eyelashes and eyebrows to look pretty.

They also aren’t there simply to help us make facial expressions or flirty looks. Their most important job is actually to be the first line of defense our eyes have against contaminants and other hazards in the air.

The Defense Eyelashes Provide

As much as we tend to like the way eyelashes look, they’re more than decorative. They help to keep dirt, debris, and dust in the air away from our eyes. When we close our eyes, they form an impenetrable barrier locking those irritants out. Eyelashes are also very sensitive, triggering a strong blinking reflex if anything touches them to keep it from getting any closer to the eye. This exact reflex can work against someone who wears contact lenses, and it’s why it can be difficult not to blink while applying makeup.

Eyelashes are already the correct thickness and length to keep the dust out of our eyes while keeping the moisture in, and false eyelashes can throw this balance off, making dust exposure and dry eye more likely. Some people can have allergic reactions to false lashes or develop an eye infection from them. Even more serious, eyelash extensions carry the risk of temporary or permanent loss of eyelashes.

The Defensive Function of Eyebrows

It might make sense that eyelashes serve a protective function given that they’re positioned so close to the eyes, so what can eyebrows do when they’re so much farther away? Eyebrows help to channel liquids like sweat or raindrops away from our eyes and down the sides of our faces instead. It’s a little like having thatched roofs above our eyes. The angle of the hair growth and the arching shape of the brows help with this function too.

The same way that cosmetic eyelash enhancements can impede the protective role of eyelashes, plucking or waxing too much of the eyebrow away can make them worse at their job too. That’s one reason we’re fans of the thick eyebrow trend! We hope that one’s here to stay.

Optometrists Can Answer Questions about Eyebrows and Eyelashes Too!

Most of the time, our brows and lashes will stay healthy without much help, but they can develop problems like ingrown hairs, inflammation, or hair loss. We’d be happy to take a look if you’re experiencing problems with your eyebrows or eyelashes and recommend treatment if it’s necessary.

We love seeing our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.