Who doesn’t want fuller, healthier eyelashes? Beauty bloggers and YouTubers swear that thickening and growing your eyelashes is as simple as coating them with an ingredient you probably already have stashed in your kitchen: olive oil.
But is olive oil truly an effective remedy for eyelash growth? Here’s what the research and dermatologists have to say.
Eyelashes are a type of hair — but instead of sprouting from your scalp, they grow out of your eyelids. They’re actually most similar to eyebrow hair. They’re coarser and grow slower than scalp hair, says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist at Shafer Clinic in New York.
The complete life cycle of an eyelash is 4–11 months. Similar to scalp hair, eyelashes thin out and go gray with age.
Olive oil is rich in fatty acids, including oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid. Fatty acids have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, and they are used worldwide for hair growth.
These fatty acids may help condition the lashes, soften skin, and encourage healthy functioning of the follicles, says Engleman. “We do know that olive oil can help strengthen the hairs,” she says.
- Oleic acid. This regulates your body’s sebum production, which keeps bacteria at bay while also hydrating the eyelids. “A healthy eyelid helps produce healthy follicles and therefore healthy strands,” says Engelman.
- Palmitic acid. This acts as an emollient. “That means it helps to soften the skin or eyelash,” says Engelman.
- Linoleic acid. This helps to keep hair follicles healthy. “With daily use, linoleic acid encourages healthy skin cell turnover to prevent clogged and dead hair follicles,” says Engelman.
A dietary deficiency in essential fatty acids has been linked to hair loss. But there’s very little research showing that applying fatty acids directly to eyelash follicles helps with hair growth, notes Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology.
Most of the research that does exist is theoretical. And it looks at scalp hair, not eyelashes.
A 2015 study found that applying oleuropein (the molecule that gives olives their bitter taste) to the skin of mice helped regulate their hair growth.
But it’s difficult to know if these findings would apply to humans. What’s more, the processing olives undergo after they’re picked greatly affects the amount of oleuropein any given product contains.
Want to try olive oil on your eyelashes? Here’s how:
- Before bed, dip a clean mascara brush lightly in olive oil.
- Lightly coat the top layer from root to tip along the lash line.
- Wash it off in the morning.
- Repeat once daily (or as directed by your dermatologist) for several weeks.
The typical lash growth cycle is between 30 to 60 days, at which point hair rests before falling out. That means you can expect to see results within 2 to 4 months, says Engelman.
Since the jury is out on whether olive oil is truly effective for eyelash growth, here are a few more other methods worth considering:
“I’m a huge supporter of science-backed skin care. Some ingredients made in a lab can deliver great results and be perfectly safe to use,” says Engelman.
Latisse is the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for eyelash growth. It has been shown to increase eyelash thickness, although it may change the color of the iris and darken the skin around the lash line, says Engelman.
Always use it under the direction of your prescribing physician.
Rich in ricinoleic acid and vitamin E, castor oil helps prevent microbe growth, says Engelman. Castor oil penetrates deep into the skin to nourish the follicle, improve moisture, and promote hair growth over time.
Engelman recommends the Majestic Pure Cosmeceuticals Eyelash Serum, which uses 100 percent cold-pressed castor oil.
Research suggests this natural ingredient helps to promote eyelash growth by increasing circulation.
Vitamin E oil
A potent antioxidant, vitamin E neutralizes free radical damage to reduce inflammation that can interfere with the health of skin and hair follicles, says Zeichner.
Consider trying the Kate Blanc Cosmetics Vitamin E Oil.
While there’s little data to support the claims that biotin treats thinning hair and eyelashes, there’s little downside to taking biotin supplements, says Zeichner.
“We know that biotin deficiency is associated with hair thinning, so the thought is that biotin supplements can help hair grow,” he adds.
“Peptides help to nourish and repair damage to hair protein, which strengthens lash hair, improving shine and elasticity,” says Engelman.
She suggests the Hydropeptide Lash Longer Fuller Lusher Lash.
No matter which treatment you choose, remember to be gentle with your lashes. Don’t scrub them, pick at them, or use a harsh makeup remover.
Also, keep in mind that a well-balanced diet helps keep hair in tip-top shape. “Hair thrives on protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12,” says Engelman.
No ingredient is 100 percent free of side effects for all users.
“If you’re using a natural product, like olive oil, there should be no side effects unless there’s an allergy to an ingredient,” says Engelman. If you notice redness or irritation from any skin care product, stop using it.
There’s little research to suggest that olive oil can boost eyelash growth.
However, olive oil contains several types of fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties.
Experts say olive oil may help condition the lashes and promote healthy lash follicles function. Apply once a day for several weeks to see results.
Colleen de Bellefonds is a Paris-based health and wellness journalist with over a decade of experience regularly writing and editing for publications including WhatToExpect.com, Women’s Health, WebMD, Healthgrades.com, and CleanPlates.com. Find her on Twitter.