Full confession: I rarely wear mascara. It makes my eyelashes stick together and leaves black smudges under my eyes. And false eyelashes hold no appeal—way too much work to put on and way too 1950s. So perhaps I'm not the best person to render judgment on the new drug Latisse, approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration for those with dull or thinning eyelashes. (The drug, made by the manufacturer of Botox, contains the active ingredient of the glaucoma drug Lumigan, which was found to cause thicker eyelashes during treatment.)
This drug is meant for those with a real (and often genetic) health problem called hypotrichosis, in which no hair grows on the eyelid. It may also be useful for those who've suffered permanent eyelash loss because of chemotherapy or other medical treatments.
What concerns me, though, is seeing tabloid headlines like this one in the British Telegraph declaring, "Chemical drug by Botox makers could spell the end of mascara." As with any FDA-approved drug, doctors can use their discretion to prescribe this drug to any woman who complains of thinning lashes.
What's the worry?
Some very real and very icky side effects. Consider what's written in manufacturer Allergan's package insert for the drug.
"Pigmentation of the eyelid and iris may occur. Pigmentation of the iris may be permanent." The insert then goes on to say, "Typically, the brown pigmentation around the pupil spreads concentrically towards the periphery of the iris and the entire iris or parts of the iris become more brownish." (Read the full insert here.)
In a twist on the Crystal Gayle song, don't it make my blue eyes brown.
The manufacturer also warns that 3 to 4 percent of users will have eye itching, irritation, or redness or a darkening of the skin around the eye. And if all that weren't enough, you could experience hair growth around your eyes if you accidentally smear Latisse on areas beyond your eyelashes.
What's more, pregnant and nursing women shouldn't use it since it could pose unknown health risks to fetuses or babies.
Unfortunately, far too many of us will be lining up to try this eyelash-enhancing drug, just as we go for face-lifts before aging sets in and get Botox before going on a job interview. But sometimes we pay the price for beauty, as with this seemingly benign wrinkle treatment.