Eyelash growth serums are one of the most popular beauty products on the market as replacements for professional lash lifts and eyelash extensions.
However, there are mixed reviews about whether they actually work at all.
Whether you’ve tried lash serums in the past or you’re looking to try them for the first time, this article will answer all the questions you have about what your lash serum is ACTUALLY doing for your lashes and/or brows.
Why Are Lash Growth Serums Popular?
Lash growth serums are a go-to product for men and women looking to achieve fuller, longer, or darker lashes. Many people feel a lash serum is an integral part of their daily skincare routine.
If your natural lashes are sparse, short, or you experience a lot of breakage, a lash serum can help you feel more confident. Lash serums are also an excellent alternative to the expensive and time-consuming lash extensions that used to be the best method for achieving better looking lashes.
Some lash growth serums can also be used as brow enhancing serums to help darken your brows and make them appear fuller.
Believe it or not, there are also a lot of DIY recipes for eyelash enhancing serums, so you don’t have to shell out money on a brand name formulation if you don’t want to.
How Do Eyelash Serums Work?
While over-the-counter lash serums are not scientifically proven to enhance lash growth, they do still offer a number of benefits that produce very similar results.
Some serums are marketed as growth enhancers, but they share a lot of similarities with lash conditioners with the change up of a few ingredients. The only serum proven to function as a growth enhancer is Latisse.
Latisse was derived from a glaucoma medicine called bimatoprost. People using this medication noticed that their eyelashes grew longer and fuller, so the active ingredient (prostaglandin analogue) was used to create a lash serum.
This is the only brand that is FDA-approved, and it requires a prescription. Other prostaglandin analogues can be used in over-the-counter formulations, but bimatoprost is the only pharmaceutical grade analogue used in lash serums to date.
Prostaglandin analogues work by stimulating the anagen phase of eyelash growth, resulting in longer and thicker lashes with more melanin deposition (darkening your lashes).
These compounds can also increase the number of lashes in a single follicle, helping your lashes look fuller.
Eyelash serums that do not contain prostaglandin analogues are technically lash conditioners, but their ingredients can help mimic the effects of the analogues without the same risk of side effects.
Amino acids (arginine most commonly) and polypeptides are included in almost every lash serum on the market.
Your lashes are made of protein, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein; not only can the addition of amino acids and peptides enhance the quality of hair that is growing, but it can also repair damage that has already been done to mature lashes.
Biotin is another very common addition to lash serums because of its effects on keratin. Strengthening keratin helps keep lashes healthy and improve their lifespan and appearance.
Hydrating agents like panthenol and ceramides help add moisture to the lashes and reduce the frequency of breakage. People with brittle lashes will benefit from these compounds the most.
Various oils are often used in lash serums to make hair follicles healthier and further hydrate the lashes. Castor oil is the most commonly used, but there are many other types of oils that are beneficial as well.
DIY lash serums employ a carrier oil like castor oil or olive oil, and combine them with various essential oils like lavender or rosemary.
If you have sensitive skin in general or just sensitive eyes, a formulation composed mostly of essential oils will be the best choice. Chemical-free formulations (such as paraben-free) is also a good choice for the best likelihood of success.
Other ingredients you may find in lash serums include seed extracts (pumpkin seed extract is a popular one) and various chemical additions such as parabens that act as preservatives.
While most of the ingredients do not actively affect the growth cycle of the lash, they still produce longer lashes thanks to their ability to hydrate, nourish, and reduce breakage.
How Do You Apply Lash Serum Effectively?
The way you apply eyelash serums can affect how effect they are. All lash serums will require application at least once a day, but some brands may recommend two or even three applications per day.
Lash serums can have two types of application method: a mascara type brush or an eyeliner type brush. Both have their pros and cons, but no matter what, it is important that you only apply serum to the upper lash line.
The serum will naturally be distributed to the lower lash line as you blink.
Mascara type serums are very effective at moisturizing lashes since the serum is directly applied to each lash, but they don’t have as great an effect on the hair follicle itself.
Since eyeliner type serums are applied directly to the hair root and follicles, they are more effective at enhancing new growth. With this kind of applicator brush, you start at the inner corner of the eye and move the applicator outwards.
It is important that you clean up and excess serum to prevent hair growth from occurring in unwanted areas or risking the serum dripping into the eye and causing irritation.
Each serum on the market will have instructions on the bottle for application, and it is important that you follow these instructions to the letter.
Not only does it help ensure the serum is effective, but it also keeps you safer and lowers the risk of side effects.
Are Amazon/Retailer Brands as Good as Prescription?
In short, the answer is no. Since the prescription brand on the market is the only one that contains a pharmaceutical agent and it is the only one actually proven to affect the growth phase of the lashes, it is the most powerful and effective serum on the market.
This is not to say that brands from Amazon, Sephora, or other retailers are not effective, though. They contain a lot of different ingredients that Latisse does not use, and in general they are great products that are safe for everyone.
If you are worried about side effects or the moral stance of a company, you can find serums that are cruelty-free, chemical-free, vegan-friendly, and more. In these ways, over-the-counter brands may in fact be better than a prescription serum.
What Risks Are Involved?
Unlike falsies, lash serums will be applying various substances directly on the skin and hair around your eye.
Since your eye, and the skin around it, is one of the most sensitive areas on your body, it makes sense that there are risks involved whenever you start putting a new product on that area.
Even though eyelash enhancers are dermatologist/ophthalmologist approved, there are still side effects that you need to be aware of.
Due to the complex formulations that lash serum companies use, there is always the risk of allergic reactions occurring, whether it is to a protein, oil, chemical, or other ingredient.
It is always a good idea to do a patch test when you get a new serum. Putting a small amount on your arm or leg is a great way to test for allergy in a less sensitive area.
Irritation in the eye presenting as dry eyes, watery eyes, red eyes, or itchy eyes is also a possibility. Swelling of the eyelid may also occur.
If any of these symptoms persist for more than two days, it is highly recommended that you discontinue use of the serum and look for a different formulation with some different ingredients.
One of the more concerning side effects is an increase in pigmentation on the eyelid. This will not be permanent and is more common with Latisse than over-the-counter brands because of its influence on melanin, it is still something to watch for no matter what serum you are using.
This pigmentation can also appear on your iris, changing the colour of your eye. This is the only side effect that has the potential to be permanent.
Since lash serums containing a prostaglandin analogue have the effect of producing fuller lashes, there is the risk that excess serum can initiate hair growth in unwanted areas.
If you want to avoid this risk entirely, choose a serum that does not contain prostaglandin.
What Brands Are the Most Trustworthy?
There are countless brands on the market selling lash serums, and each brand is likely to have a number of different formulations to offer. If you aren’t sure what direction to go, have a look at our most popular and trustworthy brands in the list below.
GrandeLASH has a number of lash serums available for purchase. Their formulations are cruelty-free, but they also contain quite a complex mix of ingredients.
This increases the risk of side effects since there are more things for your body to react negatively to, and at least some of their serums will not be safe for pregnant/nursing women due to potential effects on the baby.
Their MD lash enhancing serum is their most popular product, and you’ll see results in just 4-6 weeks.
RevitaLash is an incredibly brand for people wanting tested products that are non-irritating. this is not to say that everyone will have a perfect experience with this product, but it will be pretty close.
This company uses vegan-friendly and cruelty-free formulations for their lash serums. Their Advanced Eyelash Conditioner is one of their most popular products, and its greatest claim is the flexibility you’ll see when you use a curler.
SmartFX is one of the best lash serum providers for people on a budget. Their serums are incredibly affordable, and the results are comparable to products six times their value.
Their serums aren‘t quite as powerful as some other brands, so it is recommended that you use them twice a day. If this doesn’t bother you, we are quite certain you’ll be happy with the results.
RapidLash is another fairly affordable retailer of lash serums. They are the ideal choice for folks with busier daily routines, as their serums only need to be applied once per day.
They are designed for short and brittle lashes, so if that describes your struggle with your lashes, this is a fantastic brand to choose.
Their unique Hexatein 1 Complex is one of the best additions there is to a lash serum. It’s ability to nourish and fortify lashes against breakage is undeniable.
Lashfood’s most popular serum is their phyto-medic eyelash enhancing serum. It is quite unique in its versatility.
It is effective as a serum for enhancing the appearance and quality of your natural lashes, but it can also be used with extensions to improve the bond and extend the life of the extensions.
It requires only one application per day and is a very gentle formula, ideal for people with sensitivities.
If a full lash is what you’re after, the Vichy LiftActiv line of products is for you. The Serum 10 Eyes and Lashes is the best for lash fortification, but it doubles as an anti-wrinkle serum as well.
All of the serums in this line, whether designed for lashes or not, is incredibly gentle on all skin types and they actually perform the function they are advertised for.