In Defense of Latisse

by Jasmine Moy

For years I’d said that if I could get any part of my body replaced that it would be my eyelashes, to which some people would respond, “You can get eyelash transplants?” (I used to make fun of those people but, OMG, you can actually get transplants! Gross.) I’m half-Chinese and I have (rather, I had) what I not-so-affectionately called, “stubby Asian lashes,” these short things that could barely be curled and required at least three coats of mascara to be seen at all. In short, if I’d known before now that eyelash transplants existed and if they weren’t totally creepy I’d have bought in. Though I’d never consider Botox, I’m not above spending money on aesthetic improvement. I bought myself braces when I got out of grad school and I also sprung for Lasik a few years back.

When eyelash extensions were all the rage, I tried them. I sat through an hour of some woman gluing longer lashes to my own. The fumes from the glue painfully burning my eyeballs while also, as it turns out, making your lashes so stiff that so much as lightly rubbing your eye will make you feel like needles are being poked into your eyelids. Also, they fall out extremely unevenly (they stay on your lash until the lash itself falls or the glue comes undone, either of which will happen in a couple weeks) so you’re left with crazy face after you lose half and are waiting for the rest to shed. When only a few remained on each eye, I pulled them off myself which is pretty much the worst thing someone who longs for longer lashes could do. The crazy face was THAT BAD.

So when Latisse came out, I wanted it. Nay, needed it. Not an early adapter, I wanted to wait until I’d met someone else who had tried it and approved first. I was in search of a guinea pig, but everyone I mentioned it to said the same thing, “It changes the color of your eyes! And turns your eyelids red!” or “How can you be SURE you won’t grow some kind of horrible deformed eyelash baby or other biological/physiological monstrosity that the scientists just haven’t figured out yet because it’s all so new???”* There was also that pesky detail of Latisse being prescription only which I assumed meant some kind of doctor visit and, inevitably, a sturdy fee.

Some light research yielded several revelations. First, about a thousand cosmetic surgery offices offer Latisse with just $100 and a signed fax saying that you’re aware of the side effects and that you don’t have any random medicine allergies. Second, those side effects? Not likely. As a lawyer, I’m familiar with the black box warning. In “Torts 101” you learn that because of lawyers/lawsuits most prospective side effects, no matter how small or uncommon, must be stated on labels and mentioned in speed-read postscripts to commercials. Lumigan, the medicine from which Latisse was derived, was an eye drop used for glaucoma. Side effects of Lumigan included a darkening of the iris. In Latisse trials this didn’t actually occur, but because some people are morons and will actually put this stuff in their eye instead of applying it like eyeliner, you’ve got to put the warning on the box.

I sent my fax and had my Latisse in hand in a week. Within a month people started noticing. “This is going to sound crazy, but I think I can already see it working,” my co-worker said. After two months my lashes were so long that they were nearly unmanageable. I had to comb them or they’d tangle, but they looked pretty, not crazy like this. I’d use a little clear mascara on the base just to keep them from getting unruly. At least once a week someone comments on how beautiful my eyelashes are. I thought the girl who cuts my hair was leaning in to see if my bangs were even. Instead she said, “You’re using Latisse, aren’t you? That stuff is amazing.” Occasionally one grows so long that I have to pull the rogue lash (trimming would leave a funny-looking blunt edge).

My hazel eyes are the same as always, but as for that other side-effect, the one with the darkening skin, I confess it has happened to me. The edge of my upper eyelid has a mauve-ish tint that goes away when I stop using the Latisse for a couple weeks (I don’t bring it when I travel and sometimes I just forget). Currently, I only use it a few times a week and the discoloration is something I can live with for a few reasons: I barely have an eyelid to speak of (and no real eye-crease) because of that Asian thing, when I use eyeshadow I use a darker shade that covers it up anyhow, and I have an olive tone to my skin and it’s not nearly as noticeable on me as it would be on someone with fairer skin. In short, it is a small price to pay.

As a good Virgo would, I’ve found a better and more effective way to use the Latisse than comes via the instructions.** They send these huge clumsy plastic cheap brushes that you’re supposed to use once and toss. It may be sterile, but they suck. I bought a small eyeliner brush and just make sure to wash it regularly. I use half the amount of medicine than recommended (and with great results). Instead of one drop per disposable applicator, I use one drop total that I put in the bottle’s lid, then dab at for both eyes. For those tough at math, that means that my bottle lasts twice as long. I got something like 6 months worth out of my first bottle.

But this is a commitment. If I ever stop using it, my Asian stubs will grow right back in as the long, luxurious ones fall out. There are those who might disapprove, something about how women should love the bodies they were born with blah blah blah, but my new lashes? I love them. They make me happy. And for that Latisse is worth every single penny. I rarely wear mascara anymore and have no need for eye makeup remover which are things I tell myself when I start doing the math to figure out how much it will cost to continue using it over the course of the rest of my life. Money: they say it can’t buy you love or happiness but I’m living proof that it can, at least, buy you longer lashes.

*Actual question from your editor, Edith Zimmerman.
**Um, legal disclaimer! I’m not responsible if something bad happens to you by following my example, etc.

Related: Who Are You, Latisse?

Jasmine Moy is a New York-based writer and occasional lawyer. She’s really good for restaurant recommendations, if you ever need them.