One of my friends, a flight attendant from the Spanish airline Iberia, has recently asked me the following question:
Do you know something about a drug, commonly used by ophthalmologists, that makes your eyelashes grow beautifully? My American colleagues are currently using it, applying a drop of the product with a cotton swab to the eye rim. I believe the price of this eye drop is 10 times less than the specific eyeliner sold in beauty centers to make your eyelashes grow…
I was astonished and at the same time intrigued by her question. Of course, I knew what she was talking about. But was it really true that her friends, American flight attendants, were actually using glaucoma drugs to make their eyelashes grow? Did they know the risks they were assuming? And on the other hand, was there a specific beauty product designed to make your eyelashes grow? Was it safe? I decided to find out more about this eyeliner…
Regarding her initial question, for me the answer was crystal clear: the use of prostaglandin eye drops (e.g. Xalatan ®, Lumigan ®…), potent medications used for glaucoma patients, applied with a cotton swab to the eye rim, was not safe at all.
Glaucoma, (being primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common type) is a silent disease, that progressively causes visual field loss. It develops slowly over time and there is no pain. Side vision starts to decrease, followed by central vision, resulting in permanent blindness if not treated.
An increase in intraocular pressure is involved in most cases of glaucoma. That’s why the goal of any glaucoma treatment (not only medications but also laser and surgery) is to decrease eye pressure. A number of different classes of glaucoma medication are available, being prostaglandin analogs the most effective ones. But unfortunately, prostaglandins, have some side effects. They may cause changes in iris color and eyelid skin, the growth of eyelashes, stinging, blurred vision, eye redness, itching, and burning.
But, wait a minute wasn’t the growth of eyelashes, what these flight attendants were looking for? Yes, but unfortunately, the growth of the lashes, may not always result exactly in what they were expecting. In some cases, the size, the thickness, and distribution of the lashes may resemble more a mustache than the sensual image, these ladies were dreaming of. Lashes can grow very rigid, disorganized and in the wrong direction, rubbing on the eye.
On the other hand, frequent contact of prostaglandin drops with the surface of the eye can change a blue iris into a brown one and can increase conjunctival and eyelid skin pigmentation, causing dark undereye circles.
These side effects have to be balanced with the desired effect on the eye pressure, that a patient with glaucoma needs, in order to maintain his vision. But is the risk worth taking for to achieve longer lashes? I believe it is not.
And what about that specific product sold as an eyeliner to achieve lashes growth? What is it exactly? Surfing the web, I found a special story:
It all began when a Doctor wanted to give his wife a very special gift…
RevitaLash® was developed by Michael Brinkenhoff, M.D. as a special gift for his wife, Gayle, while she was recovering from metastatic breast cancer treatments. Gayle’s once-beautiful eyelashes had become dull, brittle and lifeless. Dr. Brinkenhoff believed that he could find a way to give Gayle’s eyelashes the look of renewed health, strength and beauty.
So I found out, that prostaglandins, were being used to help patients that had lost their eyelashes and eyebrows after chemotherapy treatments. To help them improve their self – esteem and not only after chemotherapy treatments but also in cases of stress alopecia, eyelid psoriasis, and severe blepharitis.
Even for these cases, and applied to the eye rim, not with a cotton swab, but with a fine eyeliner, prostaglandins can cause the side effects mentioned above. However, it is always a matter of balance between risks and benefits. And from my opinion, the side effects of prostaglandins, when being used in a patient with a potential sight-threatening disease like glaucoma, can be assumed.
In other circumstances, the risks may increase the benefits, and even, patients with severe loss of eyelashes, secondary to chemotherapy for cancer, must always be aware of the potential side effects of topical prostaglandins, applied to the eye rim.
Dr. Luisa M. Sastre, MD, PhD
Consultant Ophthalmologist at Quironsalud Ophthalmological Institute
TIP ! – Glaucoma is a silent disease that can cause permanent blindness if untreated. You should visit your ophthalmologist for an eye check-up, at least once a year or every two years, from 40 years onward, especially if you have a family history of the condition, migraines, high blood pressure, or obesity (which are risk factors for glaucoma).