Creating Longer, Thicker Lashes

By Dr. Christopher Tortora
Interviewed by Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - August 12, 2009
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Medical director of Hawaiian Eye Center

Where did you receive your schooling and training?

I went to medical school and served my residency in the specialty of ophthalmology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Subsequently, I completed subspecialty training in the field of glaucoma at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, which is a branch of Harvard University.

Can you discuss the new natural eyelash-growth treatment Latisse?

Latisse is the first medication for increased length and thickness of the eyelashes to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approval means it underwent a rigorous series of clinical trials in which effectiveness was demonstrated and safety was demonstrated.

Latisse is a prescription medication, which means it must be prescribed by a doctor. It is not available in drug stores or in beauty salons unless you have a prescription from a doctor.

Dr. Tortora overlooks Julie Campbell applying Latissa

Latisse contains the same active ingredient as a drug which has been used for the past eight to 10 years for the treatment of glaucoma. Thus, it has a track record for safety. The side effect of thicker, longer lashes was observed with the use of this drug, so the manufacturer, Allergan Pharmaceuticals, engaged in clinical trials for the medicine to be used to treat “hypotrichiasis,” or too few eyelashes. It is currently considered a cosmetic treatment and as such is not covered by insurance drug plans.

How does it work?

No one knows for sure how Latisse works, but it is thought to stimulate the lash follicles to create a new longer, thicker lash. The lash follicles are somehow modified to produce a different quality of eyelash.

What does the process in applying the treatment involve?

Latisse must be prescribed by a doctor. Once the patient is examined and approved for treatment, medication can be bought at doctors’offices and drug stores.

Latisse is applied to the upper eyelashes once daily. It is applied using a sterile applicator supplied with the medication. It is important to use it as prescribed (one fresh applicator per eye) to reduce the chance of infection. A drop from the bottle is placed on the applicator brush, and placed on the lashes. The excess is then blotted to remove excess moisture.

How soon do people start seeing results?

Most people see results within a month or so. We recommend waiting at least six to eight weeks before judging whether it is working for you. The earliest changes will be noting some lashes falling out, and some new lash growth. It takes several weeks for this process to occur.

Are there side effects?

All medication has potential side effects. Fortunately, they are rare with Latisse. The major side effects are: 1) It may not work effectively. 2) It can cause darkening of the skin around the lashes where the medication is applied. This effect is usually reversed when the medication is stopped. 3) In people with light-colored eyes, it can cause darkening of the color of the eyes. This is most common in green and hazel eyes (this is an extremely unusual side effect when the medication is used as directed). 4) A small percentage of people are allergic to the medication and can develop a reaction, most commonly redness and itching of the lids. This resolves with stopping the medication.

Why is it when treatment is stopped that the eyelashes will gradually return to the condition they were prior to treatment?

The effect on the lash follicles appears to be temporary. When the medication is stopped, the lash follicles return to normal, creating the “normal” lashes you’ve always had. This process can take four to six months to completely revert back to previous eyelash length and thickness.

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