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Longer lashes: truth or hype?

There has been a trend in the last few years in the cosmetic industry that definitely doesn’t go unnoticed and it is involving eyelashes. There are a multitude of products on the market to treat and beautify natural eyelashes, there are products for lashes extensions before and after care, and now even serums to grow longer or fuller eyelashes. We would like to dig deeper on the latest aspect i.e. eyelash growth, to see if aside from the anecdotal evidence, there is some scientific evidence to support that such products can live up to their claims.

Origins of eyelash growth products

Since the early 2000s there have been numerous studies on the effects of a certain class of drugs called  ‘Prostaglandin analogues’ on eyelash growth. Originally used to treat ocular hypertension and glaucoma, bimatoprost, latanoprost and travoprost eye drops have been associated with eyelash changes, including increase in length and darkness. The effects of these drugs (especially bimatoprost) when applied topically on the eyelid margins, have been thoroughly studied. As a result of the strong evidence collected, in December 2008, bimatoprost ophthalmic solution 0.03% was the first and only medication in the United States to be approved by the FDA for the treatment of hypotrichosis of the eyelashes (medical term to describe inadequate or not enough eyelashes). Further research has confirmed its efficacy not only on idiopathic hypotrichosis but on the chemotherapy-induced hypotrichosis of the eyelashes as well. 

In its first year on the market, the pharmaceutical company behind the commercialisation of bimatoprost for the treatment of hypotrichosis of the eyelashes was able to earn $47.7 million, making it one of the most successful pharmaceutical launches to date.

Cosmetic industry approach

Traditionally, the most common product used to lengthen, thicken, and darken eyelashes is mascara, which uses waxes, pigments, resins, as well as talc or fibers to provide a temporary enhancement in the appearance of a person’s eyelashes. Following the huge success of bimatoprost, the beauty industry started formulating its own versions of cosmetic eyelash growth serums. These products contain various ingredients such as ones described as “proprietary peptides”, natural extracts , vitamins, and in some cases prostaglandin analogues. However, in view of the potential for causing effects at very low concentrations, and due to the intended use in the proximity of the eye, many regulatory authorities have raised concerns over the safety of prostaglandin analogues when used in cosmetic products and therefore have advised against, or have prohibited, their use in eyelash growth-promoting cosmetics.


Eyelashes play an important role in determining beauty. As a result, eyelash products are an important part of the beauty industry. In the scientific literature there are a handful of recent studies for eyelash enhancement involving cosmetic preparations, which show promising results. However, small sample size, limited study duration, lack of control, and lack of investigator blinding are common limitations of such studies. 

Since cosmetics do not benefit from a comprehensive program to detect safety concerns that become evident with increased post-marketing use (such as pharmacovigilance for therapeutic products), it is important to conduct more safety studies on them, especially given eyelash enhancement products are applied to the skin of the upper-eyelid margin. Products can also vary in the quality and comprehensiveness of consumer education regarding proper use of the cosmetic, such as how to avoid risks of bacterial and fungal contamination for example. The efficacy of cosmetic products that promote eyelash growth is often also lacking robust scientific assessment and the mechanisms by which they may affect eyelash growth may not yet be known and proven. Additional larger, randomized, controlled studies are needed to confirm results of preliminary trials. 

Prominent eyelashes are a highly sought-after attribute and interest in cosmetic products facilitating eyelash growth is increasing. Cosmetic products in this space that will be able to support their claims with solid scientific evidence on both efficacy and safety will likely be the most successful in the long run.



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