Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Hudson Hotel, NYC

Words Judith Ecochard

Everyone has something…a school friend who spends 3 hours, every six weeks “stewing” her blonde locks, the dedicated pedicure people…

For many, including those with nearly invisible blonde eyelashes…it is the length, darkness, and/or thickness—really lack thereof--- of those fluttery, flirty wings- that annoy them.

We attended a panel last week, sponsored by Allegan, Inc. the company that launched/owns Latisse, a prescription only application for “Eyelash Hypotrichosis…another name for having inadequate or not enough eyelashes.”

The Brooke Shields adverts (soon to change to spokes gal CLAIRE DANES)…are well known.

                  Claire Danes/Dave M. Bennet/Getty Images


Allegan’s panel provided attendees with a lot of info at this nearly two hour gathering.

What follows is a summary of what was said …and is not an investigative piece of journalism.

The panel participants included Frederick Beddingfield III an MD/PhD, Board Certified in Dermatology and Emergency Medicine…and Chief Medical officer for Allegan, Jessica Wu, a Board Certified Dermatologist practicing in sunny California, Marguerite McDonald MD, a Long Island, New York based Board Certified Ophthalmologist… and two (satisfied) users of Latisse,

First up was an overview of the active ingredients in Latisse, Bimatoprost…that was first synthesized in 1992, as a potential treatment for glaucoma.  It was approved by the FDA in 2001- to “treat elevated intraocular pressure/glaucoma.”

 Allegan’s prescription drug to treat the aforementioned is a medicated eye drop called Lumigan.

Beginning in 2004, there “was a large enough database of efficacy” and a “great safety profile”…AND enough observations of lusher lashes…that a lower amount of bimatoprost ophthalmic solution- 0.03%--- was tested in a double blind study (278 healthy adults got the real drug or a placebo). The study lasted 16 weeks with a four-week follow-up.


There is a four point scale to measure the eyelashes…coined the Physicians Global Eyelash Assessment…

What Allegan’s trial patients got---were “real results.” Half the patients responded on one point of the four point scale by week 8… and 78% of the users, by week 16, experienced an improvement overall…in thickness, longer and/or fuller lashes.

Next up the panel highlighted the several phases of normal hair growth…including Telogen (resting phase-4-9 months), Catogen (normal…15 days) and Anagen (growth phase, normally 1-2 months).

We learned that Latisse may increase the Anagen phase for longer, fuller and/or thicker lashes.

Side effects were mentioned too…and with percentages of users in the test…eye redness (3.6%), itchiness (3.6%), skin hyper pigmentation (2.9%), …and eye irritation, dry eye and/or eyelid redness (2.2%).

“This is a prescription product, studied by the FDA…so there are a lot of inserts” in the packaging. (We bet few people ever read these inserts thoroughly).

There is the same active ingredient as glaucoma in Latisse as Lumigan…but applied in far lower doses and applied differently…

Latiise is dropped (from a bottle)---like one drip from what we could tell… onto a single use applicator and applied like eyeliner on the upper lids’ eyelash base.

The Latisse website has a lot more 411.

One guest noted she got “Brooke Shield results” in five to six weeks…though it was pointed out by Dr. Wu--- that there seems to be a natural maximum length that is genetically determined-similar to how long one can grow their head hair.

Lashes of Latisse users seem to stay at that length and maintain it when using Latisse as instructed.

QUESTIONS---in chronological order:

A question was asked about off label use…and do those men really want “Bambi lashes”…meaning using it on their scalps ---or on eyebrows instead. That has not been studied...so clearly, Allegan doesn’t recommend off label, at all.

We asked about the changes in iris pigmentation…especially a concern for those with light eyes with brown flecks---and if the flecks get bigger with use. It was clarified for us that the iris pigmentation changes were found in users of the full strength glaucoma drug (1-3%)---but that Latisse is 5% of the glaucoma dose. So “there is a potential risk but not a great risk.”


“We now have long term studies” after the 16 weeks that were initially studied …”looking for adverse events,” Beddingfield noted. “We have had a handful of reports (of adverse events) …but that some of the cases don’t seem real.” If correctly applied, i.e. don’t get Latisse in your eyes, there’s no suggestion, as of yet that--- more “safety signals” need to be implemented.

A question was asked as to how Latisse compared to OTC products---
“We don’t know how it compares because no other products have been tested. We don’t know if they work or not, “ Wu said…and then added:

If you are already concerned a bit about side effects---why would you put something on your eyelids--- you don’t know the side effects.”  (DUH)

Another query concerned what happens after one stops using Latisse…to which the answer was that not all of one’s eyelashes are all going to fall out. The panel felt that Latisse might put more lash follicles into the growth cycle, lengthening it…and that “probably” the lashes will shrink back to where they were…in 3-4 months, unlike scalp treatments that lose their effectiveness immediately.

“A long term study is in the works,” to study what happens when use is discontinued.

The panel noted---that Latisse users are all ages of women --- from their 20’s to 70”s---but with the bulk of women in their 30’s-50’s who want to get back the eyelash length they had in their teens/20’s.

One attendee, of Asian ethnicity, recounted how she used Latisse, and applied it lying down… her lashes grew (“loved it!!!!”) but that she experienced a dark pigmentation under her lower lid. We asked her if this looked like eyeliner…and she said, “No---like under eye circles.” Yech.

The change in skin pigmentation went away when she stopped using Latisse. And the panelists noted that Asians have different eyelid anatomy…so application process might be a tad more challenging ---.

And that there isn’t a link between skin pigmentation changes and iris colors changes (we asked cause that was something we read online on some website).

“Generally, Asian or Latino women” are the ones to experience hyper pigmentation, and those ethnic groups do not have light eyes.

It was also noted that Latisee users with blonde eyelashes...tended not see the darkening of their lashes...as much as those with darker lashes to begin with.

Of course, the cost came up. We asked, in fact.

Dr. Wu told us that she sells it out of her practice for $120 for a month’s dose, when used as instructed (doctors not allowed to sell prescriptions in NY-FYI). 

One guess noted she gets coupons from her dermatologist…and that it reduced her monthly costs to $90/month…”so costs became less of an issue when I saw the dramatic results.”

 We also mentioned hearing that some Latisse users maintain their lash length by apply the drug every other day. The panel all responded that they instruct patients to use it every night…(don’t mess with success, the MO here).

Latisse will be sold with new applicator brushes soon...and Allegan does not sell brushes separately…as one attendee noted that a bottle of Latisse can last more than one month. It was reiterated to dispose of the sterile applicator (brush) after one use.