If you’ve been skipping those regular eyelash extension appointments (and hair appointments, and everything else appointments), or have gone au naturel on your makeup while at home, you may be jonesing for lush lashes.
There are lots of DIY methods in the underbelly of the internet, but what does science have to say — what actually works?
If you’re dealing with sparse eyelashes (hypotrichosis) or just looking to ditch the fake eyelashes and eyelash extensions, there are several methods to make eyelashes grow.
Spoiler alert: Sometimes it’s more about making your lashes look longer than actually compelling them to grow.
Latisse lash serum is a popular, FDA-approved prescribed solution to help you grow longer eyelashes in about 2 months. It only works while you’re taking it, so it’s a commitment. You may not be a candidate for it if you have certain eye conditions, but it has been proven to work.
Keep in mind that studies have shown that it can cause irritation to the eye for certain people. The FDA warns that in addition to eye irritation, Latisse can also cause skin discoloration and even potentially change your eye color permanently. Yep.
Unfortunately, other over-the-counter (OTC) products that promise eyelash growth aren’t much better.
“Grande Lash, Neulash, and others have a similar active ingredient called isopropyl cloprostenate,” says Anna Guanche, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Bella Skin Institute.
“It works in the same way as Latisse but possibly with more variable results and potency — OTC products are not as highly regulated as actual FDA-approved drugs.”
This means that using an OTC eyelash serum could cause some of the same issues as Latisse, and it’s not well-regulated by the FDA. Still, Latisse is FDA-approved, while many of the lash serums on the market aren’t, which is why dermatologists still recommend it to their clients — as long as you understand the risks.
Instead of gambling with potential side effects, many people are turning to DIY eyelash growth remedies to help get long eyelashes without, you know, risking changing something as personal as your eye color.
And while they may not be quite as effective as an FDA-approved eyelash growth serum like Latisse, some of them do actually work.
While castor oil has been used in everything from laxatives to skin care, there isn’t much research that supports the claim that castor oil can spark hair or eyelash growth, but preliminary studies are promising.
One study suggests that one of the chemical compounds that makes up castor oil might have potential as a treatment to reverse hair loss, but further research is needed.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, castor oil remains a popular DIY remedy for eyelash growth — even among dermatologists.
“Castor oil has been shown to induce brow and lash hair growth,” Guanche says. “However, it is oily — some people break out from it, and there are also some people who are allergic to it. But generally, it works.”
Michele Green, MD, of RealSelf is also a fan of castor oil for eyelashes. She suggests creating your own DIY eyelash growth serum recipe by mixing aloe vera with castor oil and applying it to lashes at night.
“This combination stimulates hair growth and makes the lashes dense, which makes them appear thicker,” Green says.
Another popular solution for a DIY lash growth serum is Vitamin E oil, but research is limited on whether or not it actually works to give you longer and thicker eyelashes.
There are a number of studies that suggest vitamin E oil can help boost hair growth in individuals with hair loss, but researchers believe it’s related to Vitamin E’s ability to reduce oxidative stress on the scalp rather than stimulate hair follicles.
In fact, another study suggests that consuming too much Vitamin E can actually have an adverse effect on hair growth.
“Vitamin E oil alone doesn’t really induce hair growth,” Guanche says, “but castor oil is rich in vitamin E, hence the confusion.”
Lovers of coconut oil and almond oil claim they help with longer eyelashes, but — like many other home remedies — there isn’t much science to back it up.
However, that doesn’t mean coconut oil isn’t beneficial for your lashes. One older study suggests that coconut oil helps prevent protein loss in hair. This means that while we don’t know if coconut oil helps stimulate hair growth, it does help keep hair healthy, which could in turn help with appearance.
Some claim that using sweet almond oil helps moisturize the hair follicles and prevents them from falling out, but — much like coconut oil — there simply hasn’t been enough research regarding almond oil and eyelash growth.
Other DIY lash boosting methods have gained popularity, but none have been proven to be effective by science just yet. These include:
- petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline)
- aloe vera
- biotin supplements (ask your doc before taking any new supplements)
- lemon juice (we do not recommend using this near your precious eyes!)
These options may make your eyelashes look a bit more dense, but there’s no proof they do much more than that. Use with caution.
So what WILL make my lashes grow?
According to science, these are your best options:
Latisse prescription eye serum
OTC lash serums
Castor oil (naturally contains vitamin E)
Other oils like sweet almond or coconut oil
The first step to applying any DIY eyelash serum is to make sure you’re using a quality product and that you’re not allergic to it — which means that it’s best to do a patch test before you start.
Rub a few drops onto your inner arm or inner elbow. No reaction in 48 hours? You should be good to go, though it’s not a guarantee.
“You want to be careful when applying anything close to the eye area,” Green says. “You should use a clean, disposable applicator with each use.”
Make sure your skin is free of any dirt or makeup before you apply. Then carefully use an applicator, like a clean cotton swab, to lightly coat your lashline. Be sure not to get any oil in your eye and always wash your face in the morning before applying any makeup.
Remember, eyelashes are actually meant to fall out. Just like hair follicles, the eyelash growth cycle has three main phases. It’s normal for eyelashes to shed, especially at the end of the growth cycle, to allow for new, healthier eyelashes to come in.
If your eyelashes aren’t quite as thick as normal, it might be worthwhile to find the root cause of your eyelash loss.
Sometimes eyelash loss can be caused by a disease or underlying condition, but other times it can be related to your diet, drug side effects, allergies, skin inflammations, or even the makeup you’re wearing.
If this is the case, you’ll want to address any potential causes — otherwise, the problem might continue despite any DIY treatments.
Jandra Sutton is an author, historian, and public speaker. She lives in Nashville with her husband and their two dogs, and Pluto is still a planet in her heart. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.