We spend £130 m a year on mascara but could that industry be under threat with the arrival of Latisse, a prescription only eyelash growth serum? Dr Zara Kassam explains what it is and how it works.
While the definition of beauty varies over time and from culture to culture, the eyes in particular are recognised as important contributors to our perception of physical beauty. Since ancient times, women have strived to possess long, thick, and dark eyelashes. Protuberant eyelashes are often considered a sign of beauty and can be associated with increased levels of attractiveness, confidence, and well-being and often have a positive psychological effect.
While mascara aims to temporarily darken, lengthen, and thicken eyelashes using a combination of waxes, pigments, and resins; whereas artificial eyelashes can be adhered either to the lash line or to individual eyelashes; however these effects are temporary and leave many searching for permanent alternatives. Artificial eyelashes are more commonly being used and give the visual appearance of longer eyelashes; as suggested by the nickname ‘‘falsies’’ and as indicative of the name do not result in a natural appearance.
Alternatively, single eyelash extensions can be attached to individual eyelashes. The procedure however can be costly and again, is not permanent: These artificial eyelashes are held in place by methacrylate-based glues that can result in allergic contact dermatitis.
Now though, the pharma industry has found a way to cash in on the lucrative cosmetic industry with Latisse – the only FDA approved lash serum, and a by-product of glaucoma treatment.
What is it?
Clinical trials show that Latisse ophthalmic solution 0.03% can effectively enhance the growth of a people’s eyelashes. Ironically the discovery was initially recorded as an adverse reaction to an eye drop administered for the treatment of glaucoma. They found that 42.6% of patients experienced eyelash growth. Although it was an unintended consequence of the treatment, the potential aesthetic benefits of eyelash growth were recognised which led to the development and testing of Latisse eyelash serum as a product designed to increase eyelash prominence.
Studies have shown that Latisse lengthens, thickens and darkens eyelashes through a process that isn’t fully understood. Like the hair on your head, eyelashes sprout, grow for a while and eventually fall out. Latisse both extends the growth phase and increases the number of hairs that sprout.
GP Dr Rupert Critchley, who specialises in advanced non-surgical aesthetics, explains that the serum is simply painted on to the base of the lashes each evening before bed, after the area has been gently cleansed. The eyelash growth serum gets to work overnight, providing nutrients that encourage stronger roots and longer lashes. Users begin to see results within 4 to 8 weeks, with the most dramatic results appearing between weeks 12 and 16. When you stop the serum, your eyelashes will eventually return to their original state. Latisse also appears capable of stimulating melanin production which is what makes the lashes darker too.
Potential side effects
While studies show Latisse eyelash lengthener as safe and effective for cosmetic use it doesn’t come completely risk free.
There is a chance it could cause swelling, infection or prompt an allergic reaction.
The active ingredient in Latisse lowers intraocular pressure (IOP), if you are already using IOP-lowering medications for ocular hypertension or glaucoma, you must inform your doctor before using Latisse so your eye pressure can be monitored closely.
Although most participants in the studies had no side effects using Latisse, some noted if it accidentally got into their eyes they experienced mild side effects such as dry eyes or a darkening of the skin on their upper eyelids.
But that’s not the only thing to change colour. Some people have reported that their eye colour changed to brown- permanently.
While these side effects may be rare, it worth talking about them with your doctor before you get a prescription. And if you do experience any of them or have any vision problems, see your doctor.
A good result?
Dr Critchley, who prescribes the serum says so far he’s been really impressed with the product. “The results we’ve seen have been truly astonishing. Most extraordinarily, the product even works on women who have lost or have thinned eyelashes due to ageing”.
It’s not a cheap option at on average just under £100 for a script, but it is an option that could be worth considering, if you’re game. A number of celebrities seem to swear by it, so it’s bound to put a dent in the cosmetic industry’s mascara sales.