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Longer Lashes with Latisse: Is the Reward Worth the Risk?

In late December 2008, the FDA approved prescription sales of the drug Latisse, a treatment for what its maker, Allergan, calls “inadequate or not enough lashes.” Two years later, with well over one million kits sold—thanks to help from celebrity spokespeople like Brooke Shields and Claire Danes—Latisse is now a household name. At first, that was because of the remarkable way it makes sparse lashes lush in a matter of weeks. But these days, thanks to an FDA warning and a related rumor about Claire Danes’s discolored eyelids, the public seems wary of the prescription drug’s promise—and with good reason, considering Latisse’s disturbing potential side effects. Is the risk really worth the reward, especially when other, seemingly safer alternatives are available?

Lash Food … or Foe?
Allergan’s troubles with Latisse started with a 2009 FDA letter telling the company to change the product’s safety explanations because they “omit and minimize risks.” These risks include eye redness and itchiness (the most common side effect, according to Latisse’s website), hyperpigmentation of the eye area, and the potential for blue, green, and hazel eyes to become noticeably browner. That last one, the website helpfully started pointing out after the FDA stepped in, is “likely to be permanent.” If you don’t apply Latisse carefully, there’s also the chance that errant drops will prompt unwanted hair growth in areas like your cheeks or the middle of your eyelid.

Despite Page Six’s recent post about Latisse spokeswoman Claire Danes having purplish stains around her eyes, the only side effect she’s publicly copped to is redness during the first week. Allergan’s only justification for its more alarming risks is that they go away after usage stops. (Well, except for the change in iris color.) And Latisse commercials assure viewers that their dark eyelid and under-eye splotches “may be reversible.” (“May be”?)

Allergan insists that these side effects are less common, though, and that’s likely true—not everyone who tries Latisse will end up with brownish eyes and hairy cheeks. But when such risks are solely for cosmetic gain (unless all users really are suffering from hypotrichosis, like chemotherapy patients do), are they worth it? Latisse came on the market after doctors noted that a certain glaucoma medication ingredient made patients’ eyelashes grow thicker and longer. As a result, Consumer Reports claimed in a 2009 blog post, the FDA approved Latisse with only one safety and efficacy trial, assuming that it was likely as safe as its glaucoma parent drug, Lumigan. But the FDA has certainly been wrong before. And now, along with the rest of the public, it’s clearly casting a skeptical eye toward Latisse.

Lusciousness Sans Latisse
If you still want long, luscious lashes but don’t want the risks associated with Latisse, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Similar treatments, such as RapidLash, Marini Lash Eyelash Conditioner, and L’Oréal Paris Concentrated Lash Boosting Serum, don’t require a prescription and are free of glaucoma-treating ingredients, like prostaglandin, that cause issues among Latisse users. All three products claim to have no risk of irritation. People wanting a more permanent solution (the enhancing results of treatments like Latisse and RapidLash come to an end when use of the product does) can look into eyelash tinting or dyeing eyelashes darker for a lengthening effect. At-home kits are also available, but having a professional do the procedure at a salon or studio is probably a better idea. A less permanent option is eyelash extensions, which range from natural to ultradramatic lengths and last anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months, falling out during the lash line’s natural growth-and-shed cycle.

For a more temporary and less expensive option, check out false eyelashes. MAKE UP FOR EVER strips and Illamasque False Eyelashes are currently the best-reviewed false eyelashes on Sephora.com. Even better, a quick browse through the reviews didn’t yield one mention of discolored eyelids or red marks, which is more than can be said about some of the Latisse reviews out there. Then again, Claire Danes’s publicist maintains that the hyperpigmentation rumor is completely false. It’s possible no ills will come from using Latisse, but with all the other options out there, there’s also little reason to verify the what ifs. 

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