Prescription for beautiful eyelashes

April 17, 2009 10:56:41 AM PDT
A drug to grow eyelashes has just been approved by the FDA, and it was discovered by ophthalmologists while they were treating patients with glaucoma. They noticed patients were growing long lashes as a side effect of the medication. And now it's now available for everyone. If the eyes are a window to the soul, eyelashes are the frame. And if you don't like your frame, now you may be able to grow a new one.

"A woman I had never seen before said, 'My goodness, you've got the pretties eyelashes I've ever seen," said glaucoma patient Aaron Ray.

Aaron says it happens all the time.

"Guys don't pay any attention to that stuff," he said. "It's only women that have ever said anything to me about my eyelashes."

His lashes are so long that they hit his glasses.

"I can slide them down a little bit, so that helps," said Aaron.

The secret is his glaucoma medicine. Lumigan has a side effect that causes lashes to grow, grow, grow. And he's not the only one. There are many more happy eyelash growers. And some, like Aaron, have happy spouses.

"The glaucoma medicine grew eyelashes," he said. "My wife, she kinda likes it. She says your eyelashes curl up on the end."

Ophthalmologist Linda Pope treated so many long lashed glaucoma patients that she tried it herself.

"I would put it on my lashes every night, go to sleep and they grew," she said.

Romy Guajardo even stopped using the glaucoma medicine because...

"My eyelashes were long enough," she said.

Now she uses Lumigan on her head.

"I also put a couple of drops on my hair because after I had my daughter, I was losing hair and it's started to grow a little bit more," she said.

"You could grow hair around your hairline," said Dr. Pope. "I've done that, too. It worked."

What about men who fighting baldness?

"The drug companies are looking at being able to do that," said Dr. Pope. "The beauty of this drug -- and it is a drug -- is that it has no systemic side effects."

Now meet Latisse, the hair growing ingredient from that glaucoma medicine, in a brand new prescription drug just for eyelashes.

Dr. Etai Funk, a St. Lukes Episcopal Hospital plastic surgeon says it actually prolongs the eyelash growth cycle - a 25% increase in length and 105% increase in thickness. And lashes were 20% darker. This was after four months. A prescription costs about $120 a month.

Dr. Funk says to remove your contacts before application. Remove your makeup and your eyeliner and just apply it at night.

But there's a big downside that they noticed among glaucoma patients.

"A hazel-colored eye can turn dark brown. And it has to do with a change in the melanacytes in the iris," said Dr. Pope.

Dr. Pope added that there's no way to prevent the eye color change and it's not reversible.

Now Latisse is applied differently from the glaucoma drugs and because of that, you're less likely to have some of the side effects such as a change in eye color. That's rare, and so is the other side effect -- eyelid skin next to the lashes can get darker. So they recommend using it only on the upper lashes.

"They found that the medication itself will diffuse, especially because you're applying it at night, to the lower lashes," said Dr. Funk.

And if it gets on your face, wipe it off. One woman accidentally grew hair on her cheek.

Most of the experienced eye lash growers right now are glaucoma patients. It's so new that few people even know it's available. You can buy it in Houston drug stores, but you'll have to have a doctor's prescription to get it.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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