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Is Your Eyelash Serum Causing Permanent Damage?

According to numerous studies, many women would love to have longer, fuller eyelashes.  But are these luxurious lashes worth the potential danger to your health? 

In 2001, the drug company, Allergan, released a product called Latisse; an eye drop with the intention to help alleviate intraoccular pressure in patients with glaucoma.  After several months of use many patients reported a side effect that their eyelashes were thicker, fuller and longer.  

The drug did not quite do what it was supposed to so it was pulled from use until 2014 when Allergan completed a study showing that over 75% of women ages 18-65 wanted their lashes to be thicker and fuller.  Latisse was repackaged and brought back to the market as a prescription for women who worried about their minimal lashes. 

So what is it about this drug that made the lashes grow? The active ingredient was bimatoprost which is what is called a prostaglandin analogue.  Prostaglandin analogues work by increasing the flow of aqueous humor (the fluid your eyeball is filled with) which is responsible for maintaining the intraoccular pressure.  

Unilateral Prostaglandin DamageThis drug, however, came with lasting side effects that darkened the iris, the lids and diminished orbital fat causing eyes to look sunken in. In addition to these symptoms, the drug triggers the inflammatory response which causes the body’s natural secretions to thicken thus causing chronic dry eye disease. 

Meibomian GlandsAlong your lash line is a series of meibomian glands that release sebum every time you blink.  When the sebum becomes too thick they cannot secrete and can become clogged up which will permanently damage the gland. This condition is called meibomian gland disease (MGD) and was found in an alarming number of glaucoma patients. 

MGD in cases of glaucoma medicationSo what does glaucoma medication have to do with current lash serums? Introducing isopropyl cloprostenate, a synthetic version of the prostaglandin analogue. This version of the drug was shown to have similar results as the natural chemical but with fewer side effects. However, it still causes the same reactions that cause MGD and permanent damage to the eyes.  

In 2011 the FDA tried cracking down on companies using this ingredient to make lash growth serums.  These companies were illegally making claims of what the serum would do for your lashes violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they had not been properly tested or their safety approved for that use. 

After relabeling and careful wording these products are still available on the market today and gaining in popularity. Due to these serums containing the drug, the FDA recommends that anyone who use them be under the supervision of a licensed practitioner as they can cause other damaging side effects, such as unnecessarily lowering intraocular pressure or causing macular edema. Additionally, ophthalmic applications of prostaglandin analogues are classified as Pregnancy Class C which are drugs that have been shown to cause risk to the fetus. 

If you have any concerns about the use of any products containing this ingredient, whether for glaucoma or in a lash serum, speak with your ophthalmologist about the potential risks of use. 

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