Since eyelash growth serums are applied very close to the eyes with the equivalent of a mascara or eyeliner applicator, the risk factors are going to be a concern for everybody.
Even dermatologist-recommended serums have their risks. However, if you are done with lash extensions/falsies, and you want to try growth serums instead, this article has all the information you need to stay safe while using one of the most popular beauty products on the market for longer lashes and/or fuller lashes.
Difference Between Latisse and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Serums
If you aren’t familiar with Latisse, it is the first and only prescription-strength eyelash growth serum on the market. The active ingredient in it, prostaglandin analog, was used in a drug called bimatoprost to treat people suffering from glaucoma.
The people taking it noticed that their eyelashes were growing as a surprising side effect, so the ingredient was used to create Latisse.
It is an FDA-approved eyelash growth serum and is the most effective, but also the riskiest, serum available, which is why you need a prescription to be able to use it.
Over-the-counter serums don’t use that pharmaceutical ingredient, so they are technically lash conditioners rather than true growth serums.
However, they are still effective for this purpose, they are safer (especially for sensitive skin), and can be purchased from standard retailers like Amazon, Ulta Beauty, and Sephora. Both Latisse and non-prescription brands can usually be used for hair growth on your lash line and as a brow serum, but it is a good idea to check first.
If you’re interested in an over-the-counter brand, the most popular choice are grandelash-md lash enhancing serum, lashfood phyto-medic serum, liftactiv serum, revitalash serum, and rapidlash eyelash serum.
Keep in mind that every over-the-counter serum will have a different ingredient list and formulation, so even if you have a negative reaction to one brand, you don’t have to rule out lash serums entirely.
Just look for a different brand that has some different, and potentially safer, ingredients.
Ingredients in Lash Serums
Before we discuss the potential side effects that lash growth serums can produce, it is important to know what ingredients actually make up the eyelash enhancing serum.
Some ingredients will target hair follicles to affect the growth cycle, and other ingredients will take on the role of hydrating and moisturizing longer lashes that are in the telogen (rest) phase to help prevent breakage.
Some “serums” may be composed entirely of castor oil since it is a natural eyelash enhancer all on its own, but most serums will include other ingredients as well.
Lash serums can contain a wide range of ingredients that can boost the look of your natural lashes.
Amino acids like arginine, various types of proteins (peptides and polypeptides), parabens, panthenol/vitamin B5, pumpkin seed extract and others, various essential oils, and biotin are all common ingredients you’ll find in various recipes. Individuals can have poor reactions to one or many of these ingredients; let’s explore what this will mean for you.
Potential Side Effects of Lash Growth Serum
It is widely recognised by family doctors and specialist doctors alike that lash growth serums are generally safe. Proper use is the biggest factor affecting whether or not you will have a positive or negative experience with a serum.
Almost all side effects that you experience will fade when you discontinue the use of an irritating serum, but there is one condition that is permanent. This condition is the appearance of brown pigment in the iris of one or both eyes.
Latisse will have more side effects as a prescription strength brand, and the list includes:
- Darkening of the eyelid skin
- Pigment accumulation in the iris
- Changes in eye pressure
- Hair growing beyond the lash line
- Red or swollen eyelids
- Dry, itchy, or red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Allergic reactions
Over-the-counter brands will have fewer risks associated with use, but there are still some things to watch for during the first few days of use:
- Itchy, red, or dry eyes
- Clogged pores
- Eyelid swelling/irritation
- Allergic reactions
It isn’t very common for people to experience these side effects, so you shouldn’t be too concerned before your first time trying a new eyelash growth serum.
Certain oils that are used in formulations are not absorbed as easily by the skin, so they will have a higher risk of clogging pores than oils that are absorbed more quickly.
None of the included ingredients in a serum are common allergens, but there is always the potential that your skin will react in a negative way.
Various oils, proteins, vitamins, and other components can all initiate allergic reactions unexpectedly. People with sensitive skin will be more prone to experiencing allergic reactions or other side effects, but discontinuing use will resolve them fairly quickly.
If you are ever concerned about a side effect, even if it is minor, your doctor is a great resource for consultation and peace of mind.
How to Make This Addition to Your Skincare Routine As Safe As Possible
- Always follow the instructions on the specific serum bottle as closely as possible.
- Do not overuse a prescription strength lash growth serum.
- Only apply the serum to clean, dry lashes.
- Do not apply a serum while wearing contact lenses, and wait at least 15 minutes to put contacts in after applying serum. The contact lens can absorb it.
- Ensure that neither the bottle tip nor applicator comes into contact with any surfaces, as it can pick up irritants.
- Discuss your options with a doctor (preferably your ophthalmologist) before using a lash serum if you suffer from glaucoma, as your medications may alter/enhance the effects of the serum.
- If you have any pre-existing eye conditions, such as uveitis, conjunctivitis, or macular edema, do not ever use any type of lash serum.
- Before applying a new serum to your lash line, conduct a spot test on another spot of skin to check for an allergic reaction safely.