For some women, mascara just doesn't cut it anymore. Women are using eyelash enhancers to create thicker, more dramatic-looking lashes. Latisse, approved to treat people with inadequate lashes, is being used mostly by women with normal eyelashes, physicians say.
Dozens of over-the-counter products are marketed with claims of enhancing eyelash prominence, but only Latisse has regulatory approval based on strong scientific evidence to say it grows lashes.
Eyelashes can become come sparser with age, chemotherapy, genetics or other medical conditions, dermatologists say. The condition of having inadequate eyelashes is called hypotrichosis. Eyelashes protect the eyes from dust and dirt, with 100 to 150 lashes on the upper lid alone. The average person has lashes about nine millimeters long—of which seven millimeters extends beyond the skin, according to scientific literature.
Eyelash enhancers have a range of ingredients that includes "peptides" and nutrients for the lashes. They are typically applied once a day—often at bedtime—at the base of the top eyelash using an applicator. A product will transfer to the bottom lash when you blink, some companies sa
Latisse, sold by Allergan Inc., Irvine, Calif., is the only product approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat hypotrichosis. Latisse, which hit the U.S. market in 2009, is identical to Allergan's glaucoma drug Lumigan, an eyedrop that was discovered to grow eyelashes. However, most Latisse users are women with normal lashes who want a cosmetic boost, physicians say.
Latisse is relatively safe to use, doctors say, though some think their patients are overdoing it. "I've seen women who can't wear sunglasses without their eyelashes brushing the lenses," says Richard Glogau, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California in San Francisco and a paid consultant for Allergan.
Latisse makes lashes longer and thicker by prolonging their one-to-two-month growth phase, the time in which they are actively growing, likely by several weeks, says Frederick Beddingfield, Allergan's vice president of clinical development. Lashes also become darker, which is believed due to stimulation of an enzyme that boosts production of hair pigments, says Dr. Beddingfield.
Results are visible after as little as two months of use, peaking after four months, Allergan says. You must continue to use it, or your lashes go back to normal in a few weeks or months, the company says. Latisse costs $90 to $120 for a month's supply and isn't usually covered by insurance. Latisse is undergoing tests for eyebrow growth too, and some doctors are already prescribing it for that purpose.
In an Allergan-funded 278-person, four-month trial, Latisse increased the average length of eyelashes by 1.4 millimeters, compared with about a 10th of a millimeter for a placebo, the company said. In the study, published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 78% of patients on Latisse saw an increase of at least one point on the four-point scale designed by Allergan to measure the prominence of eyelashes. That's compared with 18% of those on a placebo. Latisse made lashes thicker and darker based on computer photo analysis results, according to the study. To be in the study, patients had to score 1 or 2 on the scale, or minimal-to-moderate lash prominence, before treatment.
EnvyDerm Cosmetics Co., Dana Point, Calif., says on its website that its EnvyDerm Eyelash Enhancement & Conditioning Nighttime Serum "increases the length and density of lashes." The product, which contains Sympeptide 226, costs $100 for a vial that lasts up to six months. The company—which cites the Symrise test as proof of efficacy—also sells peptide-containing mascara and eyeliner.
According to Athena Cosmetics Inc. in Ventura, Calif.'s website, a clinical study found its RevitaLash Advanced product "improved appearance" of eyelashes. The company didn't respond to requests for a copy of the study or a list of ingredients. A six-month supply costs $150.
Eyelash enhancers can be sold as over-the-counter cosmetics, but companies that claim their products grow lashes could face scrutiny. In general, an eyelash-growth claim "would indicate an intent to affect the structure or function of the body, and thus, cause the product to be a drug," which would require FDA approval, says Shelly Burgess, a spokeswoman. Whether a eyelash product's enhancement claims would require approval, would be determined on a case-by-case basis, she adds.
Because they haven't been through rigorous trials, the adverse effects of using over-the-counter lash enhancers aren't known, dermatologists say. The products, which generally have reusable applicators, would likely pose similar infection risks to mascara, which can sometimes cause eye infections, says Tina S. Alster, a Washington, D.C., dermatologist. Companies say they haven't had any reports of eye infections. Ms. Marini says Marini Lash is made with preservatives to prevent bacteria growth.
Latisse uses sterile wands for each application, but carries other risks, including eye redness and itchiness, and skin darkening, which goes away after the product is no longer used. Latisse could potentially cause hair growth if it drips on the face or darken eye color, but eye-color changes weren't seen in Latisse clinical trials, Allergan says.