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There’s just something about full, fluttery lashes that instantly awakens the face. My mascara is as instrumental to a productive morning as my daily cups (yes, that’s plural) of coffee. Lashes are the single most important part of my makeup routine, and lash expert Faith Kim agrees. "Big, beautiful lashes will act like a mini eye-lift and widen eyes to make lids look less heavy and more awake," she says.
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But why rely solely on mascara when there are lash treatments that can strengthen and enhance my natural set? I dream of a day when I can confidently forgo my favorite inky black cosmetic. But how do these formulas deliver the results they claim? We spoke to Kim and Dr. Gretchen Frieling to learn more about how lash growth serums really work and shared our favorites below.
What Are Lash Serums?
"Lash serums are growth-enhancing formulas that stimulate lash growth," says Frieling. "When applied regularly, the lash serum extends the telogen phase of growth, lengthening the lash growth cycle. This will keep lashes thicker and stronger."
Lash Growth Serums vs Lash Conditioners
According to Frieling, lash growth serums help grow new lashes, add thickness, length, and density. Lash conditioner, on the other hand, is for people who already have ample lashes and are looking to moisturize them.
You may want to use a lash conditioner with lash growth serum to maintain and condition the new lashes that are growing. Remember to apply these formulas on clean lashes.
How Do Lash Serums Work?
Eyelashes, just like hair, are made up of protein, over 90 percent protein to be exact. This is where amino acids come into play. Not only are amino acids the building blocks of protein (and your eyelashes), but they also nourish and repair damage. This is why they’re the main ingredient in so many lash-enhancement formulas. But keep an eye out: Many brands include amino acids in their formulas that go by a different name: peptides. According to Kim, peptides “nourish, condition, and strengthen frail and brittle lashes.”
Speaking of protein, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. We know all about its skin and hair benefits (it does everything from repair damaged strands to plump sagging skin and wrinkles) and because of this it is also an ingredient in many lash serums so your lashes get those same benefits.
Always remove mascara before going to bed. Sleeping in mascara can cause breakage to your lashes and possible infection.
Are Lash Serums Safe?
If used correctly, lash serums are safe. You should follow the specific instructions of the lash serum you are using, but typically they should be applied two to three times a day on clean lashes. Do not apply lash serum while wearing contacts.
According to Frieling, if you experience any negative side effects, like itchy, red eyes, unwanted hair growth in areas the product repeatedly touches, darkening of the eyelids, reduced eye pressure, or permanently increased iris pigmentation, discontinue use immediately and see a doctor.
Latisse vs. Over-the-Counter Lash Serums: What’s the Difference?
Latisse, unlike over-the-counter lash serums, is the first and only science-based treatment approved by the FDA to enhance eyelash prominence as measured by increases in length, thickness, and darkness of eyelashes.
Latisse is only available with a prescription, while over-the-counter lash serums are available at your local drugstore and make-up counters. You should talk to your doctor about which is the best option for you.
The Best OTC Lash Serums
Kim recommends her brand's eyelash enhancer. It's natural, vegan, and gluten-free, and its powerful herbal extracts will enhance lashes in as little as four weeks. Kim says you can also use this serum if you wear lash extensions.
"This is a very budget-friendly option," says Frieling. Although the price tag is on the lower end, it is full of great ingredients like arginine, acid proteins, and pro-vitamin B5.
Frieling recommends this product because it works for people who wear contact lenses and have eyelash extensions because the formula is gentle. You should see full results after using for 12 weeks.
Lash serum is a more permanent way to make your eyelashes fuller and longer without having to rely on mascara. While Latisse is the only lash serum approved by the FDA and requires a prescription, there are over-the-counter options available.