Lush, Long Eyelashes — the Safe Way

Pros and cons of extensions and medications

Beauty Operations - Placing Artificial Eyelashes

Flip through any women’s magazine and you are greeted with doe-eyed, thick-lashed models and movie stars.

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As we grow older, we may not be fortunate enough to have those voluminous eyelashes – naturally that is. Experts say our lashes generally stop growing and become more sparse as we age. This is as true for us as for any celebrity, so what’s their “beauty secret”? Today, there are more options than ever for natural-looking long lashes.

We asked Cleveland Clinic aesthetician Bonnie Thomas to weigh in on the efficacy and safety of three of the latest lash-enhancing methods: medications, lash extensions and false eyelashes.

She said not only does each option offer unique benefits and drawbacks, but each person may react differently to each method.

“Finding what works well for each person may take some trial and error,” says Ms.Thomas. “As we see how a person responds, we can tailor the approach for the best results and least side effects.”

Options today include:

Lash-enhancing medications

“These medications work with healthy hair follicles to stimulate length, thickness and darkness,” says Ms. Thomas. “They don’t create new follicles.”

Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are available. The prescription variety is a medication originally developed to treat glaucoma and is applied to the edge of the upper eyelid nightly. “Use it right above the lashline, very sparingly,” Ms. Thomas says. 


The lashes appear darker in color, fuller and longer.  The stimulators are easy to use, The treatment works within 16 weeks though most patients see results in as little as two weeks.


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The side effects of this medication can include:

  • Itchy, red eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Darkened eyelids
  • Darkened brown pigmentation in the colored part of the eye (iris)
  • Hair growth around the eyes if the medication regularly runs or drips off the eyelids

To help minimize skin darkening, it’s important not to use more than the recommended dose daily.

Also, these medications aren’t permanent, and they can be costly — about $115 for a three-month supply.

“You’ll see the effects,” she says, “but when you stop using it, your lashes will gradually return to their previous state.”

Lash extensions

It’s a painstaking process of connecting a synthetic lash to each natural lash with a special adhesive, hair by hair.


“Lash extensions look very natural and it’s a quick fix,” Ms. Thomas says. It’s also a procedure normally conducted in a hair salon, which can make it convenient.  
“Each lash extension is added one at a time to existing lashes, making it a luxury service,” Ms. Thomas says.


It can be expensive — usually about $300 for the first application and $90 for each touch-up, Ms. Thomas estimates.

Also, Ms. Thomas says to be sure to have a professional remove them. “People who try to remove them themselves have lost a lot of lashes,” she says.

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False eyelashes

The “falsies” that can be found in just about any drugstore.


False eyelashes can be an inexpensive, easy and temporary way to enhance your eyelashes. They’re becoming more popular as an easy way to get great lashes.

They’re also generally safe, Ms. Thomas says, as long as you choose the right ones, and you remove them right away if you feel any irritation.

“Look for false eyelashes that use surgical adhesive,” she says. “If you don’t use the right adhesive, you can actually be pulling out your own lashes when you take them off.”


It’s possible that some adhesives, as well as the solvents used to remove the lashes, can cause allergic reactions, including eye irritation, inflammation and infection.

No matter what eyelash enhancement you choose, be sure to visit your doctor if you feel any irritation or discomfort in your eyes.

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