In December of 2008, the FDA approved Latisse, the first drug on the U.S. market designed to stimulate eyelash growth. This drug was created from the active ingredient of a medicated eye drop used to treat glaucoma, an eye disease that can cause vision loss from a buildup of pressure within the eye that impacts the optic nerve. Doctors noticed an unexpected side effect in patients who were using the eye drops, longer, fuller eyelashes.
The active ingredient in Latisse, called bimatoprost, targets prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that helps control muscle contraction and relaxation, blood vessel dilation and constriction, and inflammation.
It is not entirely clear why Latisse works, but some researchers believe that the medication seeks out and binds to receptors in the eyelid that stimulate the growth of hair follicles. As a result, there is an increase in the number of hairs in the active growth phase, and the growth phase for each eyelash lasts longer, before it falls out.
Latisse is applied to the lash line along the upper eyelids like an eyeliner. The drug comes with ready-to- use, sterile, single-use applicators. Within 8 to 16 weeks of daily use (once each evening), the majority of users experience longer, thicker lashes.
In the FDA’s clinical research trial, approximately 78% of patients treated with Latisse experienced significant eyelash growth and thickness. Some women also noticed a darkening of the lashes; however, many people still rely on mascara to fully define their fuller thicker eyelashes.
Because this is a prescription medication, there are potential side effects of using Latisse that users should be aware of. Some people may experience a darkening of the eyelid that is possibly reversible if the medication is stopped. A permanent increase in brown tones in the colored part of the eye (the iris) is also possible, particularly if the iris is light or light brown.
Latisse may also cause hair growth in other skin areas, so users must blot off any medication that drips off the eyelid. Other common side effects include eye redness and itching.