Have you noticed that your regularly fabulous lashes are starting to look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree? Have you ever wondered if Latisse or lash serums really work? To better understand how these lash growth products work, we will discuss how eyelashes grow and what products make them better grow.  We will also give you tips that will enhance your eyes in a very natural manner so you can really say, “I woke up like this.”

Believe it or not, lashes grow very similarly to the hair on our heads. At the root of each eyelash is a hair follicle that operates on a 3 phase system. The appearance of the lash correlates directly with the cycle your hair follicles are operating on. Staggered growth phases ensure the presence of eyelashes on the lash line. The first stage is the Anagen Phase, also known as the “active phase.” This is the stage in which the eyelash hair is the healthiest.  In this phase, the hair is growing for approximately 30 to 45 days. In terms of life cycle, think of this as the young adult phase – the lash is in the prime of its life.  The Catagen Phase comes next, and lasts anywhere from 14 to 21 days. Think of this as the senior phase because the lash is reaching the longest length.  The Telogen phase occurs last and is also referred to as the “resting phase” or what I’d like to call the Rest in Peace phase because the hair has reached the end of its life. At the end of the 100 day Telogen phase, the hair will naturally release from the lash line and eventually start over again at the Anagen phase. If you have been dealing with a pesky gap in your lash line, there is a possibility that a neighborhood of follicles are experiencing the dreaded Telogen phase simultaneously.  If this is happening to you, don’t worry because there are answers!

There are an overwhelming amount of products on the market that promise to enhance lash growth, and choosing the right “lash factor” can be confusing.  LATISSE® (bimatoprost ophthalmic solution) 0.03% is the only FDA approved lash growth prescription on the market.  It was originally introduced to the medical channel as a glaucoma medication.  During this time, patients noticed a significant increase in eyelash growth during this process and the company repackaged the medication for cosmetic use.  The new indications include dropping the solution onto a sterile brush and applying it once a day to the lash line, right where your eyeliner would normally go. The use of the medication results in more blood flow and nourishment to the follicle and the extension of the Catagen Phase.  This means the cycle can extend way beyond the normal 45 days and results in not only an extension of the growth period (which equals longer lashes) but also more follicles in the growth phase at the same time.  If you are worried about all of the looming contraindications of darkening, redness and discoloration of the eye area, please understand you are asking your follicle to run a marathon when the previous routine was just walking the dog around the block.  Given that perspective, expect a little “growing pain” or discomfort for the first 2 weeks, but whatever you do, keep up with your daily application to allow the follicles to acclimate.  You may also want to discontinue any vitamin A based eye creams to avoid exfoliation and irritation of the eye tissue.   Once you start your “eyelash factor” results will show as early as 4 weeks and will start to plateau around 12 weeks. Once you reach your 12 weeks, don’t even think about reducing use of the product because consistency is key!  If you discontinue use, the growth cycles will resume back to a regular rate and the high performance growth of the follicle will resume back to the rate it was growing before use.  Please note, the cycles may have experienced modification from the use, so your lash line may feel naked for a few months until it acclimates back to the normal growth rate.

If the idea of a prescription makes your lashes shutter, you may be the right candidate for a peptide based lash conditioner! Peptides provide maximum nourishment to the follicle resulting in a healthier lash, but will not actually change the length of your lash cycles. Think of a peptide serum similarly to a skin moisturizer- the more hydrated and nourished your skin is, the healthier it becomes which results in improved, more vibrant skin. The same idea can be applied toward nourishing your lashes. Although it does not directly correspond with the length cycles, they now have the ability to grow faster, and also look shinier and appear darker!

In addition to growing your own lashes, there are nice selections of additional enhancements you can call upon for natural looking lashes.  My favorite enhancement service is a lash perm and tint. That’s right- the perm is back!  During this process, the lashes are attached to a tiny perm rod, perm solution is applied to the lashes, and approximately 30 minutes later your lashes will have a beautiful, natural curvature that will last around 4 weeks. Make sure you schedule your 2nd appointment within the 4-5 week window to ensure the curl stays looking its best.  I always recommend a lash tint with your perm to ensure the maximum lash darkness.  Often times (especially in the Summer) the tips of the eyelashes become bleached out from sun exposure, so combining this power-housed duo with or without growth assistance will allow maximum lash potential and eliminate the need for mascara. This also results in reducing the raccoon eye after swimming in the pool!

Another great option for enhancement is lash extensions.  When applied properly, they can provide instant gratification!  A single extension is permanently applied to an adult lash with a resin based adhesive, giving the lash more length, depth and volume.  If this route appeals to you, please note the first installation averages 2 hours of time and maintenance will be required due to the fact that the extension is being placed in the middle of the lash’s life span. On average, you will only be able to enjoy the extended lash for a maximum of 35 days (unless you use your growth product to extend the phase). When looking for a Lashologist, it is important to make sure your technician is applying a 1 to 1 extension ratio and starts the extension at the base of the lash. If done improperly, you could experience infection, ingrown lashes, loss of lash due to weight, or itching and irritation if the adhesive touches the skin on the lid.

If you are on the fence about where to start, think about what fits best in your lifestyle.  Keep in mind that lash growth products need to be applied daily, a lash tint and perm treatment takes approximately 60 minutes every 4-5 weeks, and lash extensions require a 1 hour touch up every 2-4 weeks.  Even though it is possible to use all of these lash tactics together, I recommend choosing between extensions and perming due to the fact that the extension cannot hold up to the perm solution. Regardless of the enhancement method you call up to bat, always know that you can have game changing lashes with just a little more conditioning.