Lipstick? Who cares about lipstick! It’s all about the eyes now that face coverings have become a part of everyday life. Larger-than-life lashes could be the biggest, boldest beauty trend of 2020, and there are now more lash enhancers than ever. We’ve got products that we can apply to our lashes: mascara, tints, gels, serums, conditioners, primers, amplifiers, and magnetic and stick-on falsies. We’ve got treatments to enhance lashes: lash curling, lash tints, lash extensions, lash lifts (which are like a perm for your lashes), and even lash transplantation surgery. And there are products that can actually stimulate lashes to grow longer, thicker, and darker, such as prescription Latisse solution (bimatoprost).
With the staggering number of choices, it can be hard to know which is the best -- and safest -- option. Here are a few questions that can help you choose the route that’s best for you:
Do you have thin lashes? Madarosis -- that’s the medical term for sparse or no lashes -- can be caused by medical or autoimmune conditions (such as alopecia areata), repeated plucking or manipulating the lashes, medications, eyelid inflammation, infection, enlarged glands, or skin growths along the lash line. If your lashes seem thin or fragile, it’s a good idea to put any treatments aside and consult a board-certified dermatologist or ophthalmologist.
Do you have sensitive skin or dry eyes? The eyelids are the thinnest, most delicate skin on the human body. That means they are often the first place to develop irritation if exposed to harsh products or treatments. If you have eczema, rosacea, ocular rosacea, dry eyes, seasonal allergies, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis (a flaky, pink rash that can affect the lids), or skin sensitivity, be wary of products and treatments containing chemicals, glues, dyes, or false lashes. They could cause sensitive skin or eyes to react with dryness, itching, or redness. Product lines for sensitive types include Almay, Clinique, La Roche-Posay Respectissime, and Bare Minerals.
Are you prone to allergies? Skin allergies are far less common than skin irritation. But for those with a history of contact allergies, it makes sense to take caution with glues used to apply false lashes, chemicals used for lash tints or lash lifts, and prescription Latisse, because they all have the potential to cause a reaction. If you become allergic to a product or treatment, your lids will become itchy, pink, swollen, and irritated within a few days.
Are you willing to wash your face and lids at least once a day? For those who wear mascara or dabble in lash treatments, nightly eyelid cleansing is a good idea to remove product, dirt, debris, oil, or bacteria. Skip this step, and you may be more susceptible to irritation or an infection. Dermatologists and ophthalmologists recommend gently splashing or blotting the eyes with a mild facial cleanser, micellar water solution, a gentle lid cloth, such as Ocusoft, or even a no-tears baby shampoo. It’s not a good idea to rub and scrub harshly over the delicate eyelid skin, since that can contribute to irritation, redness, lash loss, and fine lines.
Do you want to try false lashes? Lightweight or single false lashes are less likely to break your real lashes or injure the delicate eyelid skin, compared to thicker, heavier options. Lashes that use magnets are often gentler than the glue-on kind, since adhesive is a potential cause of irritation and allergies. Also, many people tend to tug on and traumatize the lids when it’s time to remove add-on lashes. If adhesive ever gets stuck on your skin after you remove false lashes or extensions, massage the area with an oil-based makeup remover to help loosen the glue without traumatizing your lids or breaking your real lashes. And if fussing to place and remove false lashes isn’t your thing, you could have a professional apply lash extensions, which often last a month or two.
Do you want your lashes to grow longer and thicker? Prescription Latisse solution has been FDA-approved since 2008, and has been shown to help promote longer, fuller lashes within 8 weeks if applied daily to the upper lash line. It is generally considered safe, but you should discuss it with your board-certified dermatologist or ophthalmologist, since this medicine isn’t for everyone. It may cause irritation or allergies, it doesn’t work in everyone, and with prolonged use, it may contribute to the appearance of undereye circles. Certain over-the-counter products -- including neuLash Lash Enhancing Serum, LashFood Phyto-Medic Eyelash Enhancer, and Grande Cosmetics GrandeLash-MD Lash Enhancing Serum -- are marketed for strengthening the lashes to help them appear thicker. Lash transplantation is undoubtedly a major step (It’s eyelid surgery!) but can lead to permanently fuller lashes.
Do you like to go big or go home? There’s no doubt that full, fluttery, ramped-up lashes can look gorgeous. If falsies, heat and chemical treatments, and lash products don’t seem to bother your eyes or skin, they are probably safe. Just be sure to gently cleanse your lids regularly and give your skin and eyes healthy breaks between treatments. Persistent strain (from false lashes or procedures that tug or pull at the lashes) or repeated chemical exposures could predispose you to breakage, hair loss, or irritation.
Do you like to play it safe? Mascara is well-tolerated by most people. Handheld lash curlers that don’t involve heat or chemicals have some potential to tug at the lashes, but are unlikely to break or damage them. Most people do just fine with wearing lightweight false lashes for the occasional night out. And of course, there’s always the risk-free alternative: You could leave your lashes free, healthy, and naturally fluttery -- no enhancements required.