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The Real Risk in Having Longer Lashes

Last updated: February 2010

Grow longer. Grow fuller. Grow darker. Eyelashes, that is. So promises a TV ad for Latisse (bimatoprost), the first drug treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration to lengthen and darken eyelashes. Latisse originated in 2001 as Lumigan, an FDA-approved drug to treat glaucoma. After researchers conducting clinical trials on Lumigan noticed that the drops created longer and darker eyelashes, the manufacturer, Allergan, repackaged the drug and named it Latisse. (The company continues to sell Lumigan, too.) We caught the ad, featuring Brooke Shields, in early 2009.

The cost of beauty

But there's a lot more to the Latisse story than the TV ad lets on. The drug can cost up to $120 for a one-month supply and, as the ad states, it can take several months to achieve "full results." What's more, the only way to sustain the results is to keep using the drug, which can cost more than $1,000 a year. Insurance probably won't cover Latisse unless you have a medical condition that affects your eyelashes.

But that's just the financial cost. Possible side effects include darkening of the eyelids or even the eyes; turning blue, green, or hazel eyes brown, or making brown eyes appear to be a deeper brown.

Latisse can cause unwanted hair on other parts of the face if the medicine drips or spreads after you apply it. It can also cause eye redness and itching. And because it reduces eye pressure, it could mask glaucoma.

Bottom line. People who have lost their eyelashes from, say, chemotherapy might find Latisse's benefits worth its risks. Otherwise, use mascara, which is just as convenient, far less risky, and much cheaper.


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