I couldn’t pay attention to anything my friend across the brunch table was saying. I was too distracted by the long, enviable, Bambi-like eyelashes fluttering before me. “I hope this is OK to ask, but your eyelashes… are they… ” Before I could finish, she whispered it like a secret, “Latisse.” Since its FDA approval in 2008, the Allergan product has been the gold standard for women wondering: how to grow eyelashes. (Seriously, those Brook Shields commercials are cemented in my mind.)
“Latisse’s active ingredient is bimatoprost, a prostaglandin analog, which has been shown in clinical studies to make eyelashes grow longer, thicker, and darker,” shares board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. “It works by lengthening the time the follicle stays in the growth phase.”
But even 15 years later, Latisse is still only available with a prescription. So for anyone looking for alternatives—and answers on how to make eyelashes grow—we tapped Dr. King. In return, she answered with all the tips, secrets, products, serums, treatments, and natural remedies to boost eyelash growth.
The Best Lash Growth Serums
Hands down, the best option is Latisse. But if you’re looking to try something over-the-counter, eyelash serums from brands like GrandeLASH and Dr. Lara Devgan regularly earn rave reviews.
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Another Over-the-Counter Lash Growth Option
Though Dr. King generally warns against over-the-counter cosmetics advertised as increasing the length and fullness of eyebrows and lashes (their efficacy has not been critically evaluated), if you are using a product, be sure to apply them to a completely cleansed lash line with an equally clean brush.
“Latisse provides disposable single-use applicator brushes because this is the safest way to ensure minimum risk of bacterial or fungal contamination and infection,” Dr. King notes.
The dermatologist does point out another promising option when it comes to what makes eyelashes grow. However, the potential side effects may outweigh the gains.
Based on a 2012 Journal of Dermatology study, “Rogaine appears to modestly increase eyebrow growth and is comparable to Latisse,” says Dr. King, who notes that a subsequent study concluded that Rogaine can be a safe and effective treatment for brows.
“However, Rogaine often causes irritation when applied to the scalp, and the eyelid skin area is generally more sensitive, so this is also possible when used for the eyelashes,” she adds. “Side effects from applying Rogaine to the eyebrow area include burning, dryness, itchiness, redness, and scaling.”
Go the All-Natural Route
Looking to avoid chemicals and the Sephora fuss altogether? A potential eyelash growth aid can likely be found somewhere in your home. Vitamin-dense products like aloe vera gels, olive oil, and green tea can reportedly support strong, long eyelash growth while moisturizing agents like shea butter and coconut oil nourish strands and prevent breakage.
But the most prominent home remedy for stimulating eyelash growth is castor oil. And while no studies have been able to prove castor oil causes hair growth, it certainly can’t hurt.
“Castor oil is not damaging to the hair and can provide some conditioning that improves the flexibility of the hair fiber. Castor oil has also been shown in a study to increase hair luster,” shares Dr. King.
Consider a Lash Lift or Perm
The trendy treatment has all the permanence of eyelash extensions without damaging adhesives. Plus, it cuts down on the use of potentially damaging curling devices. (Even Camille is a lash lift regular.)
Protect Your Eyelashes
It doesn’t matter how much attention and care (or money) you put into your lashes if you aren’t taking preventative measures to keep them healthy. Because really, when it comes to what makes eyelashes grow, what don’t do can be just as crucial as the healthy steps you take to promote eyelash growth.
- Remove mascara before bed so lashes don’t break off onto your pillow.
- Speaking of pillows, consider a silk pillowcase for less lash-compromising friction.
- Limit the use of false eyelashes or eyelash extensions since adhesives may weaken lashes and cause breakage.
- Regularly brush out your eyelashes to distribute natural oils.
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of protein, iron, and biotin.
- Try a solid hair growth supplement (that extends to brows and eyelashes). Nutrifol is nutritionist-approved.