“I feel like I can deal with the hair on my head going—I can mask that with a wig, turban, whatever—but no eyelashes and eyebrows? That’s how people are going to know…”
These were my thoughts I shared with a friend as my hair began to shed, two rounds into ACT, scalp-cooling be damned (meaning, I did scalp-cooling, but it only slowed down the process of me losing all my hair).
The Process of Losing My Lashes and Eyebrows
I started with Adriamycin and cyclophosphamide, which eventually took all my hair, but surprised me by sparing my eyelashes and eyebrows. Yes, they probably thinned a bit during AC, but I have thick, dark brows and lashes, and if they did shed, it was minimal.
Then came Taxol. Bub-bye eyelashes and eyebrows.
For me, the loss was also gradual. For some, eyebrows don’t shed until after they have finished chemo. Each person, and each chemotherapy drug, reacts differently. For me, first, the fronts of my eyebrows thinned, so I used a fine-tipped brow pencil to draw in hair-like lines. Then, by the time I noticed new hairs sprouting there, the ends of my brows were nearly gone. Because of this, I never lost every single eyebrow hair at once.
Draw Them On
I found having a few hairs at all times helpful because when I drew in my brows, I was grateful for the added texture those few hairs gave my drawn-in brows. I also experimented with dipping an angled eyeliner brush in a powder eyeshadow–a similar color to my brows–and pressed that into my eyebrow area.
The powder ended up adding another “fluffier-looking” dimension, its texture seemed to me, more 3D than the lines I was drawing in with an eyebrow pencil. A brow pomade, like Plume Nourish & Define, not only adds more texture than most pencils, but it also contains ingredients that promote the regrowth of your brows.
It sounds like a lot of work, and for some it is. Some women prefer the convenience of microblading after chemo, or even before they start chemo so they never need to go “browless.”
Microblading is the semi-permanent tattooing of fine, hairlike lines that help give the appearance of, well, eyebrows, which lasts from 18 to 30 months. Your eyebrows will still grow in normally after the process.
My eyelashes were the last to go (and this is different for everyone, and different chemotherapy regimens affect how much or how little, and hair you lose.) I genuinely thought my lashes might stay, but, of course, wishful thinking.
When they began falling out and I was having trouble adhering full fake lashes to my increasingly bare eyelids, I contacted my friend—and incredible make-up artist—Romy Soleimany. She immediately suggested I try individual lashes and triple “individual” lashes, that way I could work with the lashes I had left… and they were much easier to control. You can use different sizes (short, medium, long) to create a look that is similar to how your lashes used to look with mascara.
By the time I got down to one lash on one eye and two on the other, Romy suggested I try a “corner lash” for a more natural look. A corner lash is either a half or three-quarters length false lash, usually used to give a “cat-eye” effect: lashes that fan out at the outer edge of your eye. These corner lashes worked beautifully for me, elongating my eye and making me look a little more “exotic” than I usually do.
These shorter lashes are also easier to control when applying. For my eye shape, this lash was enough. I didn’t need to add extra individuals, I was able to just line my lid with a liquid liner and then apply the corner lash.
How to Grow Back Lashes and Eyebrows Fuller Than Ever
Before long, my lashes started sprouting again. At first, they were short, but that still looked better than nothing. It took a while for both my eyebrows and lashes to return to their full glory, but they did. And when they did, they were the longest, fullest they’ve ever been. I think the reason for this is two-fold:
- I was using a lash and brow growth serum (Plume has a great one available here) as well as putting caster oil on my lashes and brows every night, and often in the day, if I wasn’t wearing make up.
- All your eyebrow hairs and lashes grow back at the same time… usually they shed, and grow, different hairs at different lengths at different times, but when you start fresh, they all grow together and it was pretty amazing.
That said, because they all grow together, what happened to me might happen to you: when all those new long eyelashes decide to shed, they also shed together, leaving you with a set of less-than-long lashes.
For me, my right eye did this for almost a year, maybe longer, until it finally normalized. I actually needed to plug in a few of my old individual/triple false lashes to fill to make my lashes look longer while they grew in.
There are all kind of tricks we figure out along the way. You have to take it day-by-day and see what happens and how you can fix up whatever is bothering you.