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Eyelash Enhancement

February 11, 2011
By Debbie Baratz

In a four-part series by The Hair Foundation, we look at eyelash loss and remedies for improving the look of eyelashes. Side effects and costs are also discussed.

Part I: Missing your beautiful eyelashes?

Many people are unhappy with the appearance of their eyelashes due to eyelash loss and the aging process. We are left with fewer eyelashes as we age but a greater amount could signal a health issue.

Women and men with sparse lashes have tried countless ways to improve the length and fullness of their remaining eyelashes--everything from eyelash weaves and transplantation, mascara and semi-permanent dyes, and false lashes to topical cosmetic products. A number of prescription and other alternatives entered the market in 2009 for eyelashes but trying a few things at home first and looking your current health should be done before going to a medical professional for help.

What can you do at home? It's as simple as throwing out old mascara or eye shadow. If a change doesn't take place after one or two weeks, or you've noticed this condition for a while, it may be time to then visit a doctor to rule out potential issues such as allergies or serious health problems including cancer or hypothyroidism; both can contribute to hair and eyelash loss. Once eyelash loss has been determined to not be a medical problem, one alternative is to grow your own lashes. This is where the prescriptions and doctor visits will come in.

Enter glaucoma treatments.

Early products such as Jan Marini's Marini Lash and Revitalash formerly contained a generic a solution used for the treatment of ocular hypertension and open-angle glaucoma. Patients found that by using glaucoma drugs, known as ophthalmic prostaglandin analogs, they learned an interesting discovery: patients experienced significant darkening, thickening and lengthening of their eyelashes. The makers of these products using the generic version of the drug have recently reformulated their ingredients and a new pharmaceutical option from the makers of Lumigan®, Allergan, enables an at-home remedy with its topical product LATISSE®.

Part II - LATISSE®

LATISSE®is the first and only FDA-approved prescription treatment that enables lashes to grow longer, fuller and darker for those with either inadequate or not enough lashes (eyelash hypotrichosis).

When is it time to use LATISSE®?

"At any point, people can use LATISSE®. If you're still unhappy with your sparse lashes after using over-the-counter treatments, then you may want to try LATISSE®," said Dr. Matt L. Leavitt*, DO, and president of The Hair Foundation. "By using LATISSE® the user will see longer, darker and thicker eyelashes."

LATISSE® requires a prescription and consultation with a doctor to ensure the patient is an appropriate candidate for treatment, aware of the potential benefits and its side effects as well as proper use of the product.

Users have seen lash improvements at weeks eight, 12, and 16; however, when the applications were discontinued, the results gradually disappeared and eyelashes went back to their previous state.

"You'll continue to see the benefits of LATISSE® if you keep using it every day," explained Leavitt. "If you do stop for a period of time, you can go back to it and you'll again see benefits. Get in the habit of applying LATISSE® as you do when brushing your teeth before bedtime."

For eyelash growth, LATISSE® uses a once-a-day treatment applied to the base of the upper eyelid margin. The specially-designed applicator brush limits the amount of product delivered; it is approximately five percent of the regular dose amount in volume when applied topically versus dropped in the eye as a treatment for elevated intraocular pressure in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension.

Two changes from LATISSE® are believed to take place from the application: it increases the duration of the lash growth cycle and the number of hairs in the eyelash growth cycle. You'll see longer eyelash length and thicker, fuller lashes.

Part III: Side effects and cost of using LATISSE®

While LATISSE® has produced positive results for those looking to improve their eyelashes, there are side effects. The most common reported in the clinical study include an itching sensation in the eyes and/or eye redness; less common side effects include skin darkening, or hyper pigmentation along the lash line, eye irritation, dryness of the eyes, redness of the eyelids, and the possibility of hair growth to occur on other parts of your skin that LATISSE® repeatedly touches.

These conditions may clear up once you discontinue using the product.

According to Dr. Matt Leavitt, "While LATISSE® has no major side effects in clinical studies, there is the potential for darkening in the pigment around the eyes if the user gets the product in their eyes for treatment of glaucoma. This happens less than three percent of the time but it may be permanent."

Proper application of LATISSE® is vital. One way to avoid the potentially permanent change in pigment to brown is to apply LATISSE® properly at the tip of the top eyelashes, not in the eye as you do to treat glaucoma.

After you decide to go the LATISSE® route, costs will vary depending on a physician's practice and pharmacy costs but on average, the prescription may cost $120 per month ($1440 per year). Discounts are available if patients join the LashPerks program or participate in other additional offers such as buying more than one month's supply at a time. "LATISSE® is only available by prescription," added Leavitt.

Part IV: Eyelash Transplant

Not sure LATISSE® is for you? Another option is an eyelash transplant.

This is a medical procedure where a doctor takes about 28-40 hair follicles from your scalp and implants them into your eyelid. The number of hairs depends upon the patient's particular situation and costs can run close to $1500 per year.

A transplant session takes anywhere from one to three hours and may require two to three sessions. Recovery takes seven to 14 days and during that time, the patient may need to sleep in goggles to prevent scratching and dislodging the new eyelashes.

Transplanted hairs will begin to grow soon after the procedure with some growing outward and away from the eye just like natural eyelashes, while others will need to be "trained" to behave as eyelashes. This includes coating the new hairs with lash oil and using an eyelash curler to encourage proper curl.

Patients in good health rarely reject the transplanted eyelashes and report very little side effects or swelling from the surgery. The "new lashes" must also be trimmed regularly to maintain proper length. The cost for this is around $5,000 to $10,000. The options for having lush lashes are becoming more affordable and easier to achieve. Soon the phrase "batting your eyelashes" may have a whole new meaning.

For more information, see http://www.ishrs.org/articles/eyelash-transplantation.htm

*Leavitt is an Allergan consultant. His views expressed in this series are independent from his role with Allergan.