Saturday, August 29, 2009

Prescription meds for eyelashes -- what next?

Have you heard of Latisse? I first saw an ad for this prescription medication last night, and I couldn't believe it. It's marketed as "the first and only FDA-approved prescription treatment for inadequate or not enough eyelashes, growing them longer, fuller and darker."

Let me start by saying I completely understand there are cases of actual medical needs for this drug -- and in fact, the ad and Web site both mention hypotrichosis (though the TV ad does not mention it verbally, just in print). But the TV ad and Web site feature Brooke Shields, who does not have (to my knowledge) hypotrichosis. The site features "before and after" pictures of her eyelashes, and she definitely has plenty of eyelashes to start with. She herself never mentions any medical need for the drug, in the TV ads or the videos on Latisse's site. Instead she just talks in vague generalizations about "ripping off her false eyelashes" after an appearance and about how her eyes now "pop" after she's used this medication, and that "everyone has noticed." So this isn't advertised as something you need medically; it's advertised as a cosmetic need.

Really? This is where we are now? Prescription medication to for your "inadequate" eyelashes? Because women don't feel enough guilt in this appearance-driven world already, now we're to consider the adequacy of our eyelashes? Yeah, I know, some women already do that -- we use mascara, eyeliner, fake eyelashes, etc. to try to make our eyes "pop." And that's fine. I certainly love my mascara. But it's never even occurred to me that my eyelashes, which are very short, are "inadequate." Then again, I can't even be bothered to do things like pluck my eyebrows, or wear makeup on a daily basis, so I'm probably not the woman they are targeting with this medication.

Most appearance-related routines we go through seem to fall into three categories: 1. being hygienic or "clean" enough to meet the basic societal standards of being seen in public (brush your hair, put on clean-ish clothes); 2. impress women; 3. impress men. Eyelashes have nothing to do with No. 1, so that leaves us with the latter two in this case. And I can't recall ever hearing a woman or a man talk about a woman's "inadequate" eyelashes. "She'd be so pretty if only she had longer eyelashes." "I'd date her, if she'd just grow longer eyelashes." I mean seriously, have those words ever crossed anyone's lips? No. And the ad features Brooke Shields! She would be gorgeous without hair, let alone without eyelashes -- except she already has eyelashes!

But okay, let's say you're really paranoid about your "inadequate" eyelashes and are considering this medication. Side effects listed, as per the Web site:

"If you are using prescription products for lowering eye pressure or have a history of eye pressure problems, only use LATISSE® under close doctor supervision. May cause eyelid skin darkening which may be reversible, and there is potential for increased brown iris pigmentation which is likely to be permanent. There is a potential for hair growth to occur in areas where LATISSE® solution comes in repeated contact with skin surfaces. If you develop or experience any eye problems or have eye surgery, consult your doctor immediately about continued use of LATISSE®. The most common side effects after using LATISSE® solution are an itching sensation in the eyes and/or eye redness."
Permanent "increased brown iris pigmentation"? So my green eyes could turn brown, permanently? Eyelid skin darkening? No thanks. Not to mention, the site says "If you stop using LATISSE®, your eyelashes are expected to return to their previous appearance over several weeks to months." If you want to keep your now-adequate eyelashes, you'll have to use this drug forever. And this drug, by the way, apparently costs about $120 a month.

One last note: This drug is made by the company Allergan ... the makers of Botox.



UDPATE (9/22): Must-read Consumerist post on this medication. Turns out
the FDA has issued a warning letter to the manufacturer.

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