Are Eyelash Growth Serums Legit? The Pros Weigh In

Photographed by Lara Callahan.
We’re typically not ones for having people comment on our appearance, but if there’s one thing we want this year, it’s for everyone — randos and friends alike — to ask us, “Are those things real?” Eyes up, people: We’re talking about our lashes, specifically ones so long and thick and dark that they give the illusion of falsies without ever having to touch eyelash glue (and, if we're pushing it, without swiping on a single coat of mascara either).
It might sound like a pipe dream, but we’re pleased to report that it’s actually a very possible reality — with a little patience, at least. Whether through a prescription lash growth serum or an intensive conditioning routine, you could have your lashes hitting the lenses of your sunglasses by summer.
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But before you go out and buy the first lash product you see on Amazon, there are a few things to keep in mind. We asked a dermatologist and an eye surgeon to break down everything you need to know about lash growth serums — from safety to efficacy and what to expect when you finally wean yourself off the stuff.

Long Lashes, By Prescription Only

For those willing to go all in, there’s Latisse, the first FDA-approved treatment to grow and darken eyelashes (it can also be purchased as a generic drug, Bimatoprost). It takes a bit of work — and coin — to get the stuff, but many are pleased that they did, according to New York-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman M.D. “Latisse is great and really does work, but you will need to get a prescription for it and most insurance companies will not pay for it unless it’s for a medical condition, like glaucoma,” she says of the treatment, which was originally developed to help those with optic nerve damage.
The expenditure isn’t exactly cheap — a 30-day supply typically rings in at about $120 for Latisse or about $60 for the generic Bimatoprost. And those prices quickly multiply, considering most patients don’t see the full effects of the serum for at least two to three months. But the results are very real. “Most people see dramatic results. Some see such good results that they stop wearing mascara,” the derm and author of Skin Rules says. If you're thinking this whole premise has a bit of a Cinderella vibe to it, you’re not too far off. Enter, the pumpkin factor: “Once you stop using the product (or any lash product), your lashes will slowly return to what they looked like before you started,” Dr. Jaliman says.
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Of course, there are the other potential adverse reactions to consider as well, like seeing hair growth in areas where you don’t want it (due to the serum repeatedly touching other parts of the body). But one of the most alarming, albeit less common, side effects has nothing to do with your lashes at all. "The active ingredient in some of these serums is a compound, which in rare cases, can darken the brown pigment of a green or hazel eye, and potentially cause darkening of the skin around the eye," explains Beverly Hills-based cataract, LASIK, and corneal surgeon, Neda Shamie, M.D. "I would suggest self monitoring or getting monitored by your eye doctor for these changes. If at any time a change is noted, stop [using the] serum immediately."
Photographed by Lara Callahan.

Long Lashes, Without the Doctor’s Visit

If you want to max out natural lashes but find the rigamarole of scheduling a doctor’s visit (and ponying up for the Rx itself) dissuading, an over-the-counter eyelash conditioner can certainly help things along. “These products are more of a strengthener and conditioner and not a product that will make your lashes grow,” Dr. Jaliman says. “Although it might seem like they are growing because they will be stronger and there will be less breakage.”
But do they work? Our derm says yes. “RevitaLash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner is an OTC option and it works very well — people usually see fuller lashes, though, to the naked eye people may think they look longer," she says. This formula, and others like it, contain biotin (which is thought to stimulate the growth of lashes), peptides (to create a healthy foundation for growth) and lipids (to condition and moisturize the hairs you do have). They also tend to cost about $100 for a three-month supply — a fraction of their prescription counterpart.
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But there's a more wallet-friendly version still, Dr. Jaliman says. “If you want to avoid using a lash growth serum, you can apply castor oil to your lash line. It might not help to lengthen your lashes, but will help thicken them,” she notes. “It is completely safe and it will help bring nutrients to the lash line, making your lashes healthier.”

Use As Directed, Not Matter How Addictive

Whether you try a prescription lash growth serum or go for an over-the-counter conditioner, know this: There can be too much of a good thing. Dr. Jaliman stresses the importance of following application directions, as using too much can cause you to have an allergic reaction. Dr. Shamie agrees. "The main side effect of using eyelash enhancing serums is an allergic reaction," she says. "If you experience itching in and/or around the eye after using these serums, I would recommend stopping and seeing an eye doctor."
For best results — and to steer clear of any wonky reactions, Dr. Jaliman gives this advice: “It’s not about how much you put on your lashes, but how consistent you are in applying the serums." Looks like our birth control reminder is about to share stage time. As for our mascara? It may just get cut.
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