The Low Down On Lash Lengtheners

Gregory A. Buford, MD, FACS
Article by
Denver Plastic Surgeon

Interested in looking your very best but not sure where to start? You might want to check your lashes. In most cultures, long lashes are seen as a symbol of beauty and femininity and revered as a beauty statement for thousands of years.

As most beauty experts will support, the eyes are truly the windows to the soul and are the first things that anyone looks to when they see your face. And if your lashes don’t pop, neither will your eyes. So why are your lashes so important and how can you help them look their very best?

First, think of your lashes as the window dressing around your eyes. When they are long, thick, and curled, they beautifully frame your eyes and provide an elegant border which draws the viewer (or potential suitor) into your eye’s center. But they serve an even more important function which may help explain our unconscious attraction to them.

Physiologically, lashes protect our eyes from dust and other small particles and so long, healthy lashes may potentially suggest that the eyes they protect are then healthy, as well. And so it stands to reason that one explanation for why we are attracted to people with long lashes is that we see them as a potentially healthy mate who would ultimately be a good provider. Does that sound crazy? It might, until you consider the subtle everyday clues which attract us to one another. Many of these clues unconsciously draw us to specific people without us knowing exactly why. It makes sense to us that long, full lashes are a symbol of beauty but we really don’t understand the reason. Again, propagation of genes is known to be a strong driver of attraction and if some aspect of another person suggests that they will be a healthy and suitable mate then it makes sense that we would be attracted to that person.

So if you’re like most women (or men for that matter), you were probably born with lashes that could stand some improvement. But with all of the products on the market, which ones actually work and which ones don’t? To answer that question, we need to look at two types of products---those that merely condition your lashes and those that actually grow them.

The first category of products (laser conditioners) constitutes a majority of products currently available over the counter. And while many of them claim to be able to grow lashes, they really don’t. What they are doing is merely conditioning your lashes and making them appear more healthy in much the same way that a good shampoo and conditioner can improve the overall appearance of your hair (without actually doing anything to encourage it’s growth). These products often contain various combinations of oils, vitamins, etc. and can potentially improve the overall appearance of your lashes. However, they do not contain active ingredients that will ultimately grow your lashes.

The next category is the one that every product claims to be…but most are not. And that is the category of products that actually are effective in growing lashes. And, of these, probably the best known product is Latisse. So how does Latisse actually help to improve your lashes and is there any fact behind the hype?
For many years, ophthalmologists began noticing that patients (both male and female) who were being treated with prostaglandin analogue (PA) products for Glaucoma were showing improvement not only in their glaucoma but they were also seeing dramatic positive changes in the appearance of their lashes. And so one thing led to another and Allegan eventually assembled a group of physicians to evaluate their PA medication (Lumigan) for growing lashes and to evaluate the safety profile. In much the same way that they accidentally stumbled upon the cosmetic application for Botox, they did the same with Lumigan. And what this team of investigators found was that Lumigan was not only highly effective in improving the length, thickness, and darkness of lashes but it also did so with a very high safety profile and very few adverse events. From this study, and others, Latisse has been postulated to improve lash appearance by effectively increasing the time that your lashes spend in their growth phase. And for some women with thinning brow hair, the product has been anecdotally touted as being effective for enhancing this area, as well.

But even with a well constructed study documenting safety of Latisse, there have still been concerns. And the biggest one is the potential for iris pigmentation. The number one question that my patients repeatedly ask me is, “Will this change the color of my eyes?” And the simple answer is, probably not. While there were a few scattered reports of iris color change in patients using Lumigan, keep in mind that the drop was being delivered directly into the eye and at 20 times the dose used for Latisse. And, color change appeared to be limited to a few eye colors with the hazel speckled variety being the most common. That being said, as a national speaker for Latisse and a recent member of the Allergan Latisse Expert Panel, I have yet to hear of any reports of iris changes using this product.

If we consider the eyes to be the aesthetic landmark of the face, then the importance of long, thick, dark healthy lashes suddenly becomes obvious. And with that, we now have a way to substantially enhance the appearance of our eyes with absolutely no downtime, no pain, and minimal fuss.