Lash enhancers: Are they safe?

Longing for luscious, lengthy lashes? Best Health has the lowdown on the latest lash enhancers

By Michelle Villett

Lash enhancers: Are they safe?

Lately, everyone’s been talking about the drug that grows lashes. Introduced in the U.S. in 2008, Latisse is the first prescription treatment for hypotrichosis (inadequate eyelashes). The serum-like solution is applied daily to the base of the roots of upper lashes for as long as you want to maintain the effect.  The active ingredient is bimatoprost, a prostaglandin used in prescription eye drops for glaucoma. It’s believed to extend the duration of the growth cycle of eyelashes (meaning they will last longer before falling off) and increase the number of hairs in each cycle, says Heather Katt, senior manager, corporate communications at Allergan, maker of Latisse.

In clinical trials leading to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, users noticed longer, thicker and darker lashes after 16 weeks, but needed to keep using the treatment to maintain results. The FDA hasn’t tested it for alopecia-related eyelash and eyebrow loss or hair loss on the scalp. However,  “people with sparse eyebrows can use it
 effectively and safely,” according to Dr. Jean Carruthers, a Vancouver-based oculoplastic surgeon and researcher for Allergan.

Until Latisse becomes available in Canada, there is an alternative, says Carruthers. The same solution is sold by Allergan under the brand name Lumigan as a prescription glaucoma medication, and any doctor can prescribe it for eyelash growth. “Latisse and Lumigan are considered safe and there’s no concern about serious side effects,” says Dr. John Lloyd, an ophthalmologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

Side effects of lash enhancers

Eye redness and/or itching are the most common side effects; more rare are eye irritation, dryness and darkening or reddening of the eyelids. Both Latisse and Lumigan can permanently increase the amount of brown pigmentation in the iris, but the risk is low: In a 2002 study of 474 people using bimatoprost for glaucoma once a day, 1.5 percent of the patients had darkening of the irises.

False lashes now have some competition.

Lash enhancers at the makeup counter

A number of cosmetic brands, including L’Oréal Paris, Smashbox, FusionBeauty and Cargo, offer lash treatments they claim hydrate and strengthen eyelashes and protect them from environmental damage.

This helps prevent lashes from falling out, thereby lengthening the growth phase so they can get longer. Cargo LashActivator Night, for example, includes a citrus-derived flavonoid, a peptide-biotin complex and hydrolized keratin, all designed to promote optimal lash health and vitality, says Cargo product manager Marc Desmarais. Similar ingredients are in non-prescription brow growth products like Damone Roberts Brow Gain.

Look for more of these to start hitting the shelves.

This article was originally titled "Fringe Benefits" in the May 2010 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience—and never miss an issue!—and make sure to check out what's new in the latest issue of Best Health.

Best Health Magazine, May 2010

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