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For all the lengthening, strengthening good that eyelash growth serums deliver, they can also sometimes trigger unwelcome side effects on sensitive eyes and skin. In the clinical study for Latisse—the FDA-approved prescription lash growth serum—4 percent of users experienced red, itchy eyes and/or eyelid redness, sensitivity, and irritation. Not surprisingly, these issues were more common in people with sensitive skin, and they can occur from over-the-counter lash formulas, too. If you’ve had a reaction after using a lash growth serum, don’t toss the product and all hope of fuller fringe out the window. Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, M.D., a board-certified Dallas dermatologist, shares how to prevent these side effects while still getting maximum lash-boosting benefits.
1. Apply the serum on dry lashes, then give it a few minutes to set
Any moisture on your lashes may cause the serum to seep into your eyes, so wait a couple of minutes after washing your face to ensure all the hairs are dry before you swipe on the formula, advises Houshmand. If it’s a twice-a-day serum, give it a full five minutes to dry in the morning before you put on eye makeup. “Otherwise, an aggressive mix of both makeup and serum can run into your eyes,” she says.
2. Don't overload the applicator brush with too much serum
“The lash roots can only absorb so much formula, so globbing on extra won’t enhance your results,” says Houshmand. All that will happen is the serum may spread beyond your lash line, increasing your chances of skin irritation. Wipe the brush along the inner edge of the tube’s opening as you pull it out to clear off any excess that could drip, “then apply the serum in a single, thin layer right at the lash roots,” she says. “If you missed a spot, go over it with a second, very thin layer.”
3. Brush the serum directly on the roots of lashes, not along the skin next to your lash line
“Putting serum on the eyelid skin instead of the actual lash roots is pointless,” says Houshmand. “Plus, it can trigger contact dermatitis,” which is an itchy rash or allergic skin reaction. She recommends using a magnifying mirror for precise application. Close your lid, then position the brush tip right at the right at the roots of your lashes; starting from the inner corner of your lid, sweep it along the lash roots to your lid’s outer corner. “And never apply lash serum to your bottom lashes, which can block tear ducts and really irritate eyes,” notes Houshmand.
4. Consider a gentler formula
Many over-the-counter lash growth serums as well as prescription Latisse contain prostaglandin analogues or their derivatives, such as cloprostenate. These actives work to densify and darken lashes, but they can aggravate sensitive eyes, so switch to a lash serum with alternative enhancing ingredients. “Formulas that contain peptides, panthenol, sodium hyalurante, or castor oil will still help with the growth and nourishment of lashes,” says Houshmand. Revitalash’s new Advanced Sensitive Eyelash Conditioner ($105) is designed specifically for easily irritated eyes, with time-release technology to deliver peptides and other actives slowly and gently to the lash roots, along with skin soothers like aloe vera.
If, despite best efforts, your lids become red or itchy from using a lash serum, Houshmand says to stop use of the product for a few days and dab a healing ointment such as Aquaphor on the affected skin until it heals. (Do not use a hydrocortisone cream on thin eyelid skin, warns Houshmand.) If the skin doesn’t improve within three to five days, consider seeing a dermatologist.
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