Some of the best eyelash growth serums of 2021 don’t require a prescription, meaning that shopping for a suitable formula no longer requires a trip to the dermatologist. In a sea of options, we tapped experts to weigh in on their picks for formulas they actually use, and the ingredients that actually make a difference. “Eyelash serums work when used properly,” says board-certified dermatologist Purvisha Patel, founder of Visha Skincare, who recommends a consistent routine of daily application, adding that “it takes at least a month to see results.” Essentially, this isn’t an instant gratification situation (unless you’re working with a serum primer like Pacifica’s under-$15 formula below).
For those who want a supernatural, superclean option, a dose of straight-up castor oil can make an impact. “I’ve been using castor oil on dry eye patients for years to help soothe their painful symptoms,” says board-certified ophthalmologist and founder of Twenty/Twenty Beauty Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo, MD. “After seeing many of them develop thicker, longer lashes over time from this treatment, I decided to make it the star ingredient in my serum.” She points out that it’s important to first protect your lash foundation. “If the root of your lashes or brows are dead, there is no product that can bring them back,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo. ”Certain beauty practices can kill them, so for healthier hair, I recommend avoiding treatments like lash lifts and extensions.” Instead, consider fortifying the building blocks of healthy hair with supplements that fill in nutrition blanks you may be missing. “Nutrafol is a supplement taken to grow scalp hair, and can help with lash growth as well,” says Dr. Patel. Part of the reason serums can be helpful, though, will sound familiar: hydration. “And if you’re prone to dry, brittle lashes, that hydration can help stave off breakage for healthier growth,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo.
Below, 8 serums to help boost your lash growth potential:
Milk Makeup Kush Lash + Brow Serum
“This lash serum contains cannabis seed extract, which is rich in the fatty acid, linoleic acid,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo of Milk Makeup’s Kush formula that doubles as a brow serum. “Linoleic acid is believed to contribute to healthy hair growth. It also contains panthenol (vitamin B5) and many different peptides, which can help support the production of healthy keratin.”
$50.00, MILK MAKEUP
Sky Organics Organic Castor Oil Eyelash Serum
“Castor oil can be a great, natural way to grow your eyelashes,” says plastic surgeon Dr. Kevin Sadati. “Castor oil is widely used and regarded as a safe alternative to medical actives—but like any other products, make sure it stays out of your eyes.” He also provides a pro tip: “Because it’s an oil, it generally isn’t safe to use with eyelash extensions.”
Grande Cosmetics GrandeLASH-MD Lash Enhancing Serum
“My favorite, the one I use, is Grandelash MD,” says Dr. Patel of the formula that contains prostaglandin derivatives. “Prostaglandin analogues work by lengthening lashes by prolonging the anagen phase (active growth phase) of the hair follicles,” she shares. “They also stimulate the production of melanin, which produces darker eyelashes.” There are potential downsides to prostaglandins (PGAs), which Dr. Hilal-Campo explains: “Prostaglandin analogues are lab-made, synthetic hormones that mimic the function of prostaglandins that naturally occur in your body,” she says, noting that “they can cause side effects” like discoloration of the skin and iris color as well as fat atrophy that creates a “sunken look.” Essentially, when you see any ingredient with “prost” in it, proceed with this knowledge.
Vegamour Gro Lash Serum
“Vegamour’s formula contains peptides as well as mung bean extract, which is rich in selenium,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo of the “often-overlooked mineral that is believed to play an important role in hair growth.”
Shiseido Full Lash & Brow Serum
“The active ingredient is arginine, an amino acid that’s essential to keratin production and responsible for making hair healthy and strong,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo of Shiseido’s recipe that works on both lashes and brows. Vitamin E has an added benefit: “Vitamin E is an antioxidant, so it can help reduce oxidative stress on the hair follicle, and it is also said to help promote blood circulation.”
Lancôme Advanced Génifique Yeux Light-Pearl Eye & Lash Enhancing Concentrate
On top of the antioxidant powers Dr. Hilal-Campo mentions, there’s a straightforward benefit when Vitamin E is added to serums: “Vitamin E helps condition the lashes,” says Dr. Patel of the ingredient in Lancôme’s dual concentrate. This particular blend also leans on caffeine for its skin-firming bonus. “Caffeine causes vasoconstriction and helps with the micro congestion in the skin around the eyes to tighten and decrease fine lines and puffiness,” Dr. Patel advises.
Pacifica Vegan Collagen Conditioning Lash Serum & Primer
Pacifica’s formula infuses hydrating vegan collagen and vitamins B and E to moisturize lashes and “create a thicker appearance when mascara is used on top,” according to Dr. Patel. The best eyelash growth serums with a conditioning effect carry value: “By hydrating and nourishing the lashes, they appear thicker, longer, and more lustrous,” says Dr. Hilal-Campo.
Rapidlash Eyelash Enhancing Serum
“RapidLash also works,” says Dr. Patel. “Polypeptides, biotin, panthenol, amino acids, soybean oil, and pumpkin seed extracts act as conditioners to the lashes. It has prostaglandin derivatives to help lengthen the lashes.” Dr. Hilal-Campo provides another helpful tidbit about prostaglandin (PGA) products: “PGA serums also only work while you use them; once you stop using them, your lashes will go back to their prior state.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue