Latisse for Longer Eyelashes:
Is It Safe for Your Eyes?
You have probably heard about Latisse, the eyelash grower that's been on the market since the FDA approved it in December 2008. How do you use it? Is it safe for your eyes? And does it really work as an eyelash lengthener?
Latisse is actually a version of a glaucoma drug in eye drop form called bimatoprost (brand name Lumigan, manufacturer Allergan, Inc.), in use since FDA approval in 2001. During that period, eye doctors and their glaucoma patients noticed the hair growth side effect, with longer, lusher eyelashes appearing over time.
Celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy and Mandy Moore have reportedly used Latisse, and its advertising spokespeople have included Brooke Shields and Claire Danes. Recently, Christina Hendricks, star of Mad Men, signed on to promote the product in conjunction with a charity fundraising campaign called the Latisse Wishes Challenge.
The question is, should you try it?
How Does Latisse Work?
According to studies, Latisse lengthens, thickens and darkens eyelashes via 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.
During clinical studies, full results appeared after 12 to 16 weeks of daily use. (Images: Allergan, Inc.)
You apply Latisse by dabbing it on the upper lash line each night with the sterile applicators supplied. The drug spreads to your lower lash line automatically as you blink. According to the manufacturer, you should never apply it in your eye or onto your lower lid. Before you apply, your face must be clean and your makeup and contact lenses removed.
Always discard each applicator after one use. Re-using applicators, even just once the next evening, can cause serious problems, such as an eye infection or allergic reaction. And apply it carefully, since Latisse may promote hair growth on other skin areas.
After two months of nightly use, you may begin to see results. After three or four months, your doctor may recommend a treatment schedule of every two days. If you stop using Latisse, your eyelashes will gradually return to their former state.
Study participants experienced these results after 16 weeks:
- Eyelash length increased by 25 percent.
- Thickness and fullness increased by 106 percent.
- Eyelash darkness increased by 18 percent.
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Potential Latisse Side Effects
According to clinical studies conducted before FDA approval, Latisse eyelash lengthener is safe for most people.
However, you may not be a candidate for it if you have certain eye problems (such as uveitis and conjunctivitis), risk for macular edema, severe allergies or skin infections of the upper eyelids. Pregnant women shouldn't use it, and nursing women may want to wait as well.
Because the active ingredient in Latisse lowers intraocular pressure, if you are already using IOP-lowering medications for ocular hypertension and/or glaucoma, you must tell your eye doctor before you try Latisse so he or she can monitor your eye pressure closely.
Most study participants had no problems if Latisse accidentally got into their eyes. But a few did experience side effects that included dry eyes and eyelid skin darkening. The side effects that occurred in the largest percentage of participants were eye redness (3.6 percent) and itchiness (also 3.6 percent).
Allergan reports that permanent brown pigmentation of the iris is a potential side effect, but it was not reported as occurring during the studies.
Tell your doctor if you have any of the above side effects, as well as any vision problems, eye infections or allergic reactions. Also tell your doctor if you are planning to have any eye surgery.
What is the cost of Latisse? A supply of 60 applicators for one month is about $120, but the price may vary from one source to another. Some sources offer volume discounts, such as for a three-month supply.
Where to Buy Latisse
It's not a cosmetic like mascara: Latisse is a drug, and you do need a prescription for it from your doctor. However, you can use mascara over it.
Be aware that not every doctor will be familiar with Latisse. However, eye doctors, cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists are specialists who are more likely to know about the drug's availability.
[Page updated December 18, 2014]
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