Is Your Lash Growth Serum Causing Lasting Damage?

10:04 PM

What do women want? The results of a 2014 Allergan survey showed 75% of women age 18-65 want longer, thicker and darker eyelashes. It was that kind of overpowering demand from market research that drove Allergan to bring Latisse to market, their blockbuster lash growth serum that shows clinically significant changes to lash length, thickness, and darkness within 16 weeks of use.  The results speak for themselves:


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But what is the real price of longer lashes? Latisse has well documented side effect potential. The main active ingredient bimatoprost is a chemical known as a prostaglandin analogue. Prostaglandins are chemical compounds found in naturally within almost all of our body's tissue that are responsible for signaling inflammation within the body. As such, it's no surprise that Latisse has been associated with common symptoms of inflammation around the eyes like swollen lids (also called chemosis), redness, itching, and watering. FDA clinical testing show about 4% of Latisse users experience itching, redness, and watering, while a much lower number experience an allergic reaction causing the eyelids to swell. In addition to chronic irritation, Latisse has also been known to darken the eyelid skin and the color of the iris in people with light brown or hazel eyes, as well as potentially causing a sunken eye appearance by shrinking the layers of orbital fat around the eye socket. 


Popular beauty blogger Kate of The Small Things Blog shared the dry eye side effects that made her quit Latisse on her blog. via

It's easy to brush off eye irritation as no big deal, but ocular surface dysfunction and chronic dry eye can take a permanent and lasting toll on your vision quality and ocular comfort. Prostaglandin analogues have been used for decades in glaucoma treatment (including bimatoprost - the main active ingredient in Latisse), and studies have confirmed that they are strongly related to lasting dry eye issues.  In fact just under 50% of all patients on prostaglandin analogue eye drops for the treatment of glaucoma also have a diagnosis of clinically significant chronic dry eye disease.  While the preservatives in medications like Latisse or glaucoma drops have historically been blamed as the main culprit in causing dry eye, we know now that prostaglandin analogues in and of themselves can cause significant dry eye disease.

By promoting inflammation on the ocular surface, prostaglandin analogues can disrupt tear film production and expression at all layers.  This includes the water layer of our tear film expressed by the lacrimal gland and the mucin layer expressed by the goblet cells on the surface of the conjunctiva. Inflammation also promotes thickening of the oil secretions (sebum) expressed by sebaceous glands in our eyelids. The meibomian (sebaceous) glands run vertically through our top and bottom eyelids and are responsible for secreting the top coat oils that hold the water and mucin layers of our tear film onto the surface of the eye.
Inflammation causing dry eye can disrupt the ocular surface at every level. via

Every time we blink, the meibomian glands secrete their oil. If that oil is too thick, it's difficult for the eyelids to spread it evenly over the surface of the eye --more like toothpaste than olive oil. It may even get so thick that the oil blocks and backs up in the gland.  This will slowly but surely damage the gland permanently. If the meibomian glands atrophy or die off, the body is not able to repair the tissue and the gland becomes permanently nonfunctional.  The result is irreversible and often severe dry eye. 2015 study showed a shocking 91.7% of patients treated with prostaglandin analogue drops for glaucoma had meibomian gland disease, versus only 57.7% of patients being treated for glaucoma on a different category of medication.

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What's gotten more press than the possible risk of permanent and irreversible dryness and ocular surface damage caused by Latisse or other prostaglandin analogue agents is the financial cost. At around $130 per month, prescription lash growth isn't cheap. Over the counter alternatives have increasingly gained popularity due to this price point, but unfortunately the fact that they are not prescription leads some to falsely feel they must also be safer.  A list of the ingredients of one of the most popular over the counter lash growth serum, Rodan and Fields Lash Boost, shows a not-so-friendly potential dry eye culprit:

Ingredients: Water, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Keratin, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Biotin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Isopropyl Cloprostenate, Octapeptide-2, Allantoin, Panthenol, Copper Tripeptide-1, Pantethine, Polypeptide-23, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Extract, Glycerin, Sea Water, Malus Domestica Fruit Cell Culture Extract , Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Fruit Extract, Backhousia Citriodora Leaf Oil, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Rhizobian Gum, Styrene/Acrylates/Ammonium Methacrylate Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, PVP, Lecithin, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Alcohol Denat, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide

What is Isopropyl Cloprostenate? It's a synthetic prostaglandin analogue. As such it has the same method of action described above, and yes all the same potential side effect profile.  In fact, the FDA issued a warning to OTC lash serum makers back in 2011 about the potential dangers of including a synthetic version of a prescription product with known FDA-studied side effect profile in their formulations. Statements from companies claiming that they "contain no active medical ingredient" like this from the FAQ for Rodan and Fields Lash Boost makes it all the more confusing for potential patients trying to do their due diligence if they know they have a previous diagnosis of dry eye or are at increased risk. 


The advertising claims that this product is safe, but it contains a synthetic version of the same chemical category (prostaglandin analogues) that have proven dry eye and ocular surface side effects in glaucoma medications.

Here's a list of the most popular OTC lash growth serums using synthetic prostaglandin analogues in their formulas:
  • Xlash Eyelash Enhancer
  • Neulash
  • NeuveauBrow
  • RevitaLash
  • Nutraluxe MD Lash
  • M2 Lashes Eyelash activating serum
  • Peter Thomas Roth Lashes to die for Platinum
  • Rodan and Fields Lash Boost

Take Home: If you have chronic dry eye, or experience any increase in redness, watering, or eye irritation using these products, understand that you may be causing permanent damage to your delicate tear film and ocular surface. Listen to your body and discontinue use immediately if you experience any symptoms. There is a major push within the medical community to have the FDA put stronger regulations on beauty products that are using chemicals with known side effects without disclosing the risks involved, but regulation and oversight may be many years away. Just because a product is over the counter, doesn't mean that it is safe.  Make sure you read the ingredients closely on all cosmetic and facial products that you use, and if you spot Isopropyl Cloprostenate in any product you are using around your eyelid, consider that lasting dry eye issues could result as a side effect.

Want to learn more?  Check out this podcast with Dr. Leslie O'Dell, Dr. Laura Periman, and Amy Gallant Sullivan, the executive director of the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society.

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38 comments

  1. Hi there - Thank you for this. I started using Nanolash and the effects were incredible. Sadly, by about one month into use, I started developing styes on a monthly basis. Please note that in my 42 years, I have NEVER EVER had a stye. After having four styes (one per month beginning in Oct), February suddenly showed up with two chalazions on my left eye. I mean, it was incredible! A surgeon removed the chalazions and told me that both styes and chalazions are caused by blocked glands.

    Because I am a little slow, and because I really loved Nanolash, I only quit it about a month ago (shortly before the surgery to remove the chalazions) and have not had any issues since. Fingers crossed. But honestly, what an unfortunate side-effect of a product that actually does work.

    Though it has it's own problems (but not styes or chalazions!), I will go back to fake lashes every few months. Thanks for this article. Cheers.

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    1. I had the exact same thing! I first thought it was because of some bacteria in my nanolash serum so I even threw it away and purchased a new one! But I kept getting tiny painful styes around my eyes. Too bad because the serum does work for your eyelashes... but not worth it!

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  2. Hello, My meibomian glands were permanently damaged after using Latisse. I never experienced dry eye symptoms prior to using Latisse. I am unable to wear eye makeup regularly and take doxycycline on a daily basis. A friend selling Rodan and Fields Lash Boost says that the ingredients are safe, but sadly your article indicates otherwise. I hope that people do their research and find your article before their eyes are permanently damaged like mine.

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  3. Great article. I would love to see an additional discussion of periorbital fat atrophy (a very real and COMMON side effect of prostaglandin analogous such as these mentioned here). I so frequently see before and after photos of lash boost where the persons eyeball is much more physically prominent and it appears they no longer have the same level of "hooding" as they do in most before photos. Frequently I see people attributing this to whatever eye cream they are using when in fact it is the prostaglandin analogue causing periorbital fat atrophy. I believe it is unclear as to whether or not it is permanent upon discontinuation (my understanding is that there is a direct relationship to duration of therapy - the longer it is used the less likely to be reversed). This is troubling for myself as a medical professional. I strongly feel there needs to be more discussion around the side effects of prostaglandin analogues.

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    1. Yes! I had the misfortune of experiencing orbital eye fat atrophy after just three weeks of using Latisse. The eyefat returned 100% after about a year of discontinuing this product's use. When a friend became an R+F Rep and recommended LashBoost, I shared my misgivings after my bad experience with Latisse. She reiterated the company line, that [theirs had a different active ingredient, did not require a prescription, and, furthermore, they'd never had anyone suffer orbital eye fat atrophy]. Immediately after beginning to use LashBoost my eyes were severely dry, and just three weeks after using LashBoost, I noticed my orbital eyefat had begun to atrophy just as it did when I used Latisse. Disappointingly, neither product lists orbital eyefat atrophy as a possible side effect in their products' accompanying leaflets. Latisse lists it as a "post-marketing anecdote", but LashBoost makes zero mention of it anywhere.

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    2. I used Rodan & Fields lash serum for only 2 nights and now my eyes feel uncomfortable I have broken capillaries across my eyelids where I applied the serum and my eyes feel dry. Since I only used it for two nights do you think my eyes will go back to normal?

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    3. Hello I used Rodan & Fields lash serum only two or three times and I have broken capillaries along the tops of my eyelashes where I applied it and also my eyes feel dry. The puffiness of my eyelids seems to have subsided but will the dry eye and the broken capillaries go away since I discontinued it after only using it two times perhaps it was 3 I can't remember if you could please let me know I would greatly appreciate it

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    4. You should schedule with a doctor!

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  5. I worry about this as a consumer and I'm trying to avoid it. Like you said, companies are totally misleading/lying to us. It is hard to know by looking at an ingredient list if one of them is a prostaglandin analogue. Could you update this article with a list of known prostaglandin analogues to look out for. Also, a list of safe lash conditioning serums would be helpful. Thanks!

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    1. Will do! I'm definitely planning on updating this with scientific study data as the topic generates more research. At this time isopropyl cloprostenate is the only synthetic prostaglandin I've seen reported. As far as safe last serums that wouldn't cause anyone any possible ocular side effects, I don't know of any. Even if they don't have a prostaglandin, they usually contain preservatives, ethanols, and other known irritants. Depending on your unique body chemistry, you could react negatively to any of these chemicals. Knowng to be aware of side effects and discontinuing if they occur is what I'm hoping we can achieve. Many people are using lash growth serums comfortably, but for those who aren't, they should be aware of the risks and be empowered to make an informed decision.

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    2. I've been using LashExtend by SeneGence International and haven't felt any such side effects. I've checked the tube and from the prostaglandin analogues listed in this article it does not contain any. Dr. L if you would check it out and maybe comment on the this thread? That'd be so cool!

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  6. Sorry, another ingredient I see in many formulas that people swear by is myristoyl pentapeptide-17. Do you have any information on that? Thanks.

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    1. There isn't a lot of data unfortunately. It stimulates keratin growth but the good news is I don't see any studies specifically linking it to side effects at this time.

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    2. Oh that is listed in the LashExtend that I just commented about! I'm glad to hear at this time you haven't seen any studies linking them to any side effects as listed in the article

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  7. Have you ever heard of VegaLash? Apparently there's a mascara that can be used solo but the company recommends use with its lash serum. Thoughts?
    Btw. I started using lashboost 2 weeks ago and noticed dark circles under my eyes and the skin looks very thin. I wondered if it was my imagination. Thank you for confirming.

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    1. I'm not personally familiar with it, but I would say listen to your body! If your eyes get red or irritated, it's likely causing problems! Having your eyes assessed for dry eye before and then again 3-6 months after you start using is also a great way to find issues.

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    2. Aimee, are you applying Lash Boost on the bottom lashes? It's only supposed to be applied to the top lashes.

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  8. Just want to thank you for all this info. I've been using Latisse for a few years, with "okay" results, but eyes are getting more dry ( I do wear contacts which also contributes to dry eyes), but lately have been reading about diminished orbital fat, so certainly don't want tha. All these issues combined convinces me to stop using it now. thanks again!

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  9. I too have experienced eye irritations and actual changes in my vision after using LashBoost. As a R&F rep myself, I was so excited when I got my first tube. I had great results, but my eyes were becoming more and more irritated and dry; so bad that I went to my ophthalmologist one day with a severely irritated eye. I didn't correlate the LashBoost and my symptoms right away, but did back off and only use the product 3 x week, but my eyes were still very irritated. I have also had weird eyelash growth just under my brow. I now have decreased vision and require reading glasses for computer use, just a few months after a perfect eye exam. So, I will not sell or promote this product until there has been further testing. There's a reason similar products require physician supervision. I for one, have discontinued use and pray my eyes and vision return to normal.

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  10. What do you think of Jo Mousselli Xtreme Lash Amplifeye? Supposedly the only active ingredients in it are peptides, and many women say it works. I haven't tried it, but would love to find a safe and effective alternative to Latisse. Would this be it?

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    1. I can't find a full ingredient list so it's hard to say.

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    2. I took a photo of the ingredient list at my salon. Can I post a photo here? It's a pretty long list -- would take me a while to type it out. :-)

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  11. Hi - this is such helpful information! I was having great results and no irritation with VegaLash. However, I had a family member who had just started selling R+F. I wanted to support her new business- so I switched to LashBoost. Although I didn't have a tingling sensation, the very next day I had red, irritated eyelids and my eyes were tearing up. I roughed it out for a few days thinking it would let up, but it didn't. Then I took a break for a few weeks and just recently started up again. The irritation came right back, which is what prompted me to find this article. I'm going to try to get my money back. This is expensive stuff and it's clearly not going to work for me.

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  12. What are your thoughts on Elleebana's Elleevate Mascara - that sells itself as a Serum, as well as a Mascara?
    Ingredients: Aqua (Water) Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Polyacrylic Acid, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Carnauba Wax, Ozokerite Wax, Polyvinylpyrrolidone, Bees Wax, Stearic Acid, Triethanolamine, Glycerine, Methyl paraben, Propyl paraben, Phenoxyethanol, Black iron oxide, Keratin, Biotin, Arginine.

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    1. Parabens and phenoxyethanol are known eye irritants

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  13. Rodan + Fields stands by the safety and efficacy of our products, and Lash Boost has been clinically and ophthalmologist tested. As you can understand, we do not control or censor what critics may say about the general use of lash products, even if their commentary does not pertain to the efficacy or safety of our product portfolio.

    To provide more explanation, we can clarify the chemical category in question - prostaglandins. Not all chemicals are created alike. Isopropyl Cloprostenate (ICP) is a cosmetic ingredient, not a medical grade ingredient such as found in prescription lash products with their associated side effects. A good analogy is ethanol, one form is your classic drinking alcohol, such as vodka, which can be consumed, but another form is rubbing alcohol, which is lethal if consumed.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency that regulates the safety of ingredients in the US, has allowed ICP for use as a cosmetic, so long as proper cosmetic claims are made. The warning letter cited is old and has been superseded by later FDA action. The company in question agreed to amend its claims to make it clear that it was marketing a cosmetic product, which is now being sold through retail stores. The cited article is a great lesson on the importance of using proper cosmetic claims.

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  14. Hi there, I have been using a product called eyenvy, with fabulous eye lash growth result. Sadly I also have started experiencing eye twitches on both eyes, primarily on my left. Do you have any information about this product? Thank you, A

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  15. I think these products are quite safe when used as directed. When prostaglandins are used for glaucoma the quantity of prostaglandin dumped directly into the eye is thousands of times more than when a small amount is applied to the lashes which may transfer to your eye. I have no possible idea how any would get in your eye while using a brow conditioner so that sounds like scare tactics. When used as directed these product are safe. Latisse is a drug and therefore has had tons of testing but most of that testing was not as a lash product but as an eye drop sold as Lumigan, which when tested, was dumped directly into the eye for glaucoma. Latisse is a thin runny product and does not have thickeners or anti-microbial ingredients that are contained in cosmetic lash conditioner which actually makes them safer. Summary: Use as directed and don't put lash conditioners into your eye and you should be fine.

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    1. I agree with you Anon that the studies I've cited here are for prescription prostaglandins. I've been careful to document and label them as such. I would love to read any research done about OTC prostaglandin analogues in lash growth serum investigating rates of meibomian gland dysfunction or ocular surface disease with tests like tear break up time, MMP-9 or inflammatory cytokines on the surface of the eye. I've reached out to see if any company could provide these studies but so far no luck. I have been told that these studies have not been done. As you can see from the comments on this forum, many people are experiencing ocular discomfort, and this article is meant to help explain why they could be getting this irritation. My goal is to help lash growth serum users make informed decisions, not to tell them not to use the products at all. I'm hoping that by raising awareness we can see actual studies on these specific products done so that people with dry eye or meibomian gland dysfunction will have specific product data to judge whether any risks outweigh rewards. This is not an attack of lash growth products, but instead a way to raise awareness of the chemical used therein so people can make an informed decision when they choose to use products in or around their eyes.

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  16. I've been using Lash Boost for only 4 days and my eyes are irritated. Have been since the 2nd day.

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  17. My eyes are uncomfortable after using R&F lashboost for several months. But I have just noticed that the tops of both irises, normally hrown, are significantlt paler, like a cream arc at the top 1/4 of each iris. Have there been any other reports of this condition?

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    1. What you are describing sounds like arcus, an age related change to the cornea that causes a creamy color arc. Your doctor will be able to confirm with you if that is the right diagnosis, so best to seek their care. Unfortunately there is no required FDA clinical testing done on OTC cosmetic products, so we don't know if there is this association.

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  18. Having a list of eye serums that we should watchout for is helpful but could you make a list of eye serums that are safe, don't contain prostaglandin ingredients, and potentially cause eyelash growth?

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    1. I agree that would be great, but I honestly don’t know of any totally safe eyelash growth serums. Anything with preservatives or formaldehyde releasing chemicals could cause eye irritation. It’s person to person how your body chemistry will react. If you have dry or sensitive eyes, it’s best to avoid lash growth chemicals all together and just use Argan oil or purely derived coconut oil or a preservative free tea tree oil based lid cleanser to remove makeup every night.

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  19. I recently tried the eye lash serum from alphaeon due to recommendation from a friend. Been using it about a week and every morning I wake up with bloodshot eyes and an extremely uncomfortable dry feeling. I discontinued for a day and treated my eyes with visine. They cleared up so i tried the serum again. I just woke up with the same irritation! I'm going to discontinue use. It's just a bummer It's $110 and non returnable.

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  20. Hello. Do you know if revive7 is a safe lash serum to use? I bought it because it didn't have the active ingredient of latisse. Sadly my eyesight has also been affected by using Latisse and pray it returns back to normal

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