Beauty trend forecasters say 2018 will be the year of dramatic eyelashes—so don’t be surprised if mascaras get a lot more high tech and faux extensions become the norm in your social group. But when it comes to the most au natural option—formulas that boost the growth of the lashes you were born with—the natural and organic industry hasn’t really been ahead of the curve. In fact, even the purest options we have now aren’t completely green. Still, are they worth taking a look? We break down three popular options for your consideration.
First, know this: there’s just one FDA-approved lash growth treatment available on the market, and that’s Latisse. It contains bimatoprost, the single proven ingredient to physically help grow hair by prolonging the anagen phase of the hair cycle, which is the time when your hair is actively growing. (Other times, it’s resting, shrinking, or shedding.)
Since bimatoprost is available by prescription only, beauty companies rely on other ingredients to help stimulate those coveted Twiggy-like lashes. Here are three products along with a list of the “Suspect Ingredients” they contain (rated higher than 1 by Environmental Working Group Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database).
Touted as “the world's first & only EcoCert natural eyelash enhancer,” LASHFOOD is one of the most well-known eyelash boosters featuring their proprietary Phyto-Medic Complex, a blend of medicinal herb extracts that, according to the company, has been clinically demonstrated to “prevent hair loss and trigger natural regrowth of lashes.”
Free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten, silicone, synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes, mineral oils, phenoxyethanol, PEG, petrochemicals, GMOs, and formaldehyde donors (whew!), this vegan lash growth serum is fueled in part by arginine, an essential amino acid for hair growth, and soy protein to strengthen hairs. The reasoning here makes sense: eyelashes are made up of over 90% protein, so nourishing them with amino acids (building blocks of proteins) and other protein sources help repair damage and reinforce lashes. LASHFOOD’s formula also contains lavender water, which they claim treats hair problems including alopecia, a medical hair-loss condition.
The company’s research results are impressive: “85% of participants reported a visible improvement in eyelash fullness and texture; 100% of participants reported an impressive increase in eyelash length; and 100% of participants reported an attractive increase in eyelash thickness and density.” Plus, nobody experienced any irritation.
Potassium Sorbate: rated 3 (moderate hazard): human skin toxicant or allergen
Sorbic Acid: rated 3 (moderate hazard): human skin toxicant or allergen
Pure Biology appears to sell only on Amazon, but almost 600 four-and-a-half star reviews it was worth a look. Their claim to fame is their 3HC™ Hair Stimulating Complex, which comprises a blend of stem cell-derived active ingredients that supposedly “boost the turnover of the stem cells responsible for regulating hair follicle development.” The company says the formula was clinically shown to up the ratio of follicles in the anagen (growth) phase. In other words, more of your hair follicles are actively growing instead of resting or falling out.
This formula also features biotin peptides. While studies show there is limited evidence demonstrating the effect of biotin on hair growth, the ingredient still remains extremely trendy in all hair-growth products, so perhaps there’s more anecdotal evidence to back it up.
Chlorphenesin: rated 2 (low hazard): restricted in cosmetics in Japan
Ethanol: rated 2 (low hazard): classified as expected to be toxic or harmful on Environment Canada Domestic Substance List
Go on nearly any natural or organic blog or Pinterest board looking for ways to grow your eyelashes and you’ll see some sort of DIY formula with a heavy base of castor oil. But is it legit? Yes and no. Castor oil is “rich in fatty acids and helps coat hair shaft themselves to enhance shine and make the hair itself look thicker. In addition, castor oil has antimicrobial properties. By reducing levels of yeast along the hair follicles, it can help reduce inflammation and subsequently allow hair follicles to function optimally,” dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, tells Instyle.com.
So castor oil may by making the area a bit healthier overall or simply by creating the appearance of longer, thicker lashes, but the claim that it can actually affect the way the follicles grow is still questionable.
Castor Oil: rated 2 (low hazard): limited evidence of reproductive toxicity and human irritant—strong evidence (only for products for use around the eyes, on the skin, or may be aerosolized (airborne))
While we wait for our organic chemists and farmers to find a safe, earth-grown miracle plant that can help our lashes sprout faster and fuller, these are the options you have for now. Just make sure you make an informed choice and test your skin (or better yet, talk to your naturopath) before you make a move. If anything, you can opt for a clean mascara in the meantime!
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