Do Eyelash Growth Serums Actually Work? A Dermatologist Weighs In
Spoiler Alert: It Depends.
Eyelash growth serums are having a moment. It makes sense: Who doesn't want long, luscious, fluttery lashes? But if you're interested in trying these products out — especially if you have experienced eyelash loss due to aging, medical conditions, or cosmetic treatments, for example — you might be wondering if they actually work, and importantly, if they're safe for regular use.
We spoke to dermatologists to answer your questions about this relatively new group of products' safety and effectiveness, and the short answer is: It very much depends. The full answer, if you'd like it, is below.
What Is An Eyelash Growth Serum?
Though there are different types of eyelash growth serums available, they all have certain characteristics in common. "An eyelash growth serum is a cosmetic product designed to promote the growth and enhance the appearance of eyelashes," explains Cameron Rokhsar, M.D., a double board-certified dermatologist at New York Cosmetic, Skin & Laser Surgery Center. "It typically comes in the form of a liquid or gel and is applied to the base of the eyelashes, similar to how one would apply eyeliner. The serum contains ingredients that aim to nourish, strengthen, and condition the eyelashes, leading to the growth of longer, thicker, and fuller lashes."
There are three major types of eyelash growth serums available: Bimatoprost (prescription), over-the-counter lash serums with prostaglandins or peptides, and over-the-counter lash serums with botanical oils, such as castor oil.
Related:What's Really In Your Eyelash Growth Serum?
Bimatoprost, a prescription-only product, is thought to be the most effective option, while you can also find serums formulated with either peptides or plant oils over the counter. "Latisse, or bimatoprost, is the only medication that is FDA-approved to grow your eyelashes longer and thicker by increasing the longevity of the follicle's growth phase," explains Michele Green, M.D., a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist. "Bimatoprost is a type of prostaglandin, a group of lipids that generally control inflammation, blood flow, and blood clot formation. Latisse is prescription-only and can be applied regularly to the upper lash line and should be used daily for at least two months."
Over-the-Counter Lash Serums
Dr. Green goes on to describe the other options available, which don't require a visit to a dermatologist for a prescription. "Some over-the-counter lash serums may contain prostaglandins but at a lower concentration than prescription Latisse," the expert says. "Other lash serums may contain peptides, which supply the amino acids the eyelashes use to grow. There are also lash serums with various botanical oils for nourishment and hydration. Castor oil has become a popular ingredient in eyelash growth serums." Dr. Rokhsar also notes that this third option might be right for you if you tend to privilege natural ingredients in your skincare routine.
How Effective Are Eyelash Growth Serums?
If improving lash length and thickness is really important to you, bimatoprost is likely the way to go — though you'll need to consult a medical professional in order to assess your eligibility for the product and obtain a prescription. "The efficacy of Latisse (bimatoprost) is supported by its FDA approval, which requires controlled clinical studies to prove its effectiveness," Dr. Green explains. "A study of 137 patients applying Latisse nightly for 16 weeks showed an increase in eyelash fullness, length, and darkness for 78% of the patients."
If you'd like longer, thicker lashes, but you don't want to or aren't able to see a dermatologist for any reason, over-the-counter serums are definitely worth trying — there's just less evidence for their effectiveness. "OTC eyelash growth serums do not require FDA approval, and independent studies that show the efficacy of the ingredients in these serums are sparse," says Dr. Green. "However, anecdotal evidence is widespread, and many users of these OTC eyelash serums report visible improvement in the fullness of the lashes. Eyelash growth serums must be used consistently to achieve the best results."
There are also individual variations in how effective eyelash growth serums can be from person to person, and from product to product. Dr. Rokhsar cites age as one potential factor here: "Younger individuals may generally experience better results as their lash follicles are more active, while older individuals may have a slower response to lash growth serums due to the natural aging process," he says.
Genetics also play a role, according to the expert. "Those with a genetic tendency for thicker and longer lashes may observe more pronounced results compared to individuals with naturally sparse lashes," he says. Lastly, "certain medical conditions or treatments can affect lash growth and potentially impact the effectiveness of eyelash growth serums," according to Dr. Rokhsar. He continues, "For example, conditions like alopecia areata or chemotherapy treatments, or even hypothyroidism, can cause temporary or permanent lash loss. In such cases, the effectiveness of serums may be limited."
What Are The Potential Risks and Benefits of Using An Eyelash Growth Serum?
There are some risks to be aware of if you're thinking of using an eyelash growth serum, though most are mild and will disappear once you stop using the product (which, to be clear, you should do immediately if you do experience these side effects). "Eyelash growth serums can have a small risk of side effects like irritation, itchiness, and redness of the eyes and eyelids," says Dr. Green. "It is important to avoid getting the serum in the eyes and perform a small patch test if there is a history of sensitivity or allergy." The expert adds, "There have been some reports of increased iris pigmentation and darkening of periorbital tissues when using bimatoprost."
With that in mind, both experts stress the benefits of eyelash growth serum in general. "Eyelash growth serums can increase the rate of eyelash growth and create fuller-looking, voluminous lashes that are longer," says Dr. Green. "Eyelash serums also contain nourishing and hydrating ingredients to promote healthy hair and follicles, helping to reduce damage, breakage, and hair loss. Having healthy and full lashes can make the eyes look rejuvenated and more awake."
Lastly, if you want to enhance the look of your lashes, "but find applying false lashes or using mascara daily to be time-consuming, an eyelash growth serum can be a convenient alternative," says Dr. Rokhsar.
What To Consider Before Using An Eyelash Growth Serum
If all of the above has made you curious about eyelash growth serums, there are still a few more things to keep in mind. Firstly, "OTC eyelash growth serums have not been FDA-tested," says Dr. Green. "Thus, their efficacy is anecdotal, and safety has not been clinically tested. It may be worth consulting your physician or dermatologist about receiving a prescription for Latisse, which is currently the only FDA-approved eyelash growth serum."
Another important point to keep in mind is that how and when you use an eyelash growth serum will make all the difference. "Eyelash growth serum should be applied on clean lashes free of mascara and makeup," advises Dr. Green. "The individual product will have specific instructions that should be followed. Typically, applying the lash serum two to three times a day is recommended. Do not apply the lash serum while wearing contacts, and avoid getting the product in the eyes."
You should also try to stick as closely as possible to a schedule when applying this serum. "Consistency is key when using eyelash growth serums," says Dr. Rokhsar. "It's often recommended to use the serum regularly and consistently for several weeks or months to see noticeable improvements in lash growth and appearance."
Not all eyelash growth serums are created equal, and there is a slight risk of side effects from using them, but overall these products are generally safe and can help you to achieve fuller, longer lashes — as long as you stick to a few simple guidelines.
Related:The 10 Best Eyelash Growth Serums of 2023, Tested & Reviewed
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