We were recently awed by a colleague's remarkably long eyelashes (we're talking Snuffleupagus proportions). Her secret, she confided, is RevitaLash, a $150 "eyelash conditioner" that she's been brushing along her lashline every night for the past six weeks. Though we'd been hearing buzz about the stuff, this was the first time we'd witnessed the results, and they're undeniably impressive. But how does it work?
RevitaLash—as well as MD Lash Factor, Enormous Lash, and Peter Thomas Roth Lashes to Die For—contains a prostaglandin-like compound (prostaglandins are naturally occurring chemicals in the body). This ingredient is similar to one used in glaucoma drugs. "We've noticed for some time that glaucoma patients using eyedrops like Lumigan grow gorgeous long lashes," says Marguerite McDonald, MD, clinical professor of ophthalmology at NYU School of Medicine.
Dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at the University of Miami, told us that she is using RevitaLash herself after seeing dramatic results (and no problems) in dozens of patients. A potential complication from RevitaLash and similar products is a darkening of light irises, though so far this side effect has been observed only in patients using glaucoma drugs (drops placed directly in the eye). A slight change in pigmentation of the skin along the lashline is also a possibility.
More disconcerting is any danger posed to your sight, but McDonald says it's very minimal. "Swelling of the retina, which can blur vision, has been reported in some patients using glaucoma drops, but cases are extremely rare," says McDonald. "And these are people who already have eye problems." The FDA has received a report of an adverse effect from a cosmetic lash product that uses a prostaglandin, but it won't specify what that effect is or which brand was implicated. (RevitaLash, MD Lash Factor, Enormous Lash, and Peter Thomas Roth say the FDA has not contacted them about any potential risk.) McDonald isn't using any of these products herself, though. "There haven't been independent safety studies," she says. "I'm waiting until there's something FDA approved for cosmetic use." She won't have to hold out much longer. Allergan, which makes Lumigan, has completed clinical trials for a lash-growth product that may be available, by prescription only (it contains a synthetic prostaglandin called bimatoprost, which is considered a drug), as early as next year.