Prescription vs. Natural Eyelash Growth Treatments: Which Is Better?

long eyelashes
  • Thinning eyelashes affect millions of women around the world.
  • Neglect, aging and health conditions are three of the most common causes of sparse lashes.
  • There are many temporary solutions, but increasingly people are exploring eyelash growth treatments that aim to address the underlying issue.
  • Latisse is the only FDA-approved option that has been proven to promote eyelash growth.

Long, luscious eyelashes have come to be synonymous with beauty and can dramatically enhance the shape and color of your eyes and other facial features. With this in mind, perhaps it isn’t surprising that millions of women around the world routinely seek to enhance their eyelashes with temporary lash-lengthening products that are widely available in beauty stores and pharmacies.

However, while mascara and false eyelashes are effective at creating the illusion of thicker, longer lashes, they are ultimately temporary solutions that do little to address the underlying issue. In light of this, a number of natural treatments have emerged in recent years that claim to promote eyelash growth.

Do these solutions really work? Are they safe to use? And how effective are prescription treatments in comparison? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

But before we delve into the efficacy of natural eyelash growth serums, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what causes lashes to thin out. The exact triggers can vary between people, but generally speaking there are three main causes.

1. Inadequate Care

The vast majority of people understand the importance of maintaining the hair on top of their heads, but relatively few are familiar with how to take care of their lashes. Forgetting to remove mascara and other makeup products at the end of the day can dry out the skin around your eyes and may cause your eyelashes to fall out. In addition, vigorously rubbing your eyes or eyelashes can lead to inadvertently pulling out these fine hairs.

2. Aging

It’s no secret that your hair gets thinner as you grow older, but what you may not know is that this phenomenon affects your eyelashes, too. As you age, your lashes gradually start to lose their thickness and pigment, which can become particularly noticeable once you reach your 40s, when a woman’s estrogen levels naturally start to decline.

3. Health Conditions

A variety of health issues can also contribute to sparse eyelashes, due to the condition itself or as a side effect of medication. A comprehensive review published in the International Journal of Trichology found that health conditions such as AIDS, hyperthyroidism and leprosy, among others, can all result in the loss of eyelashes. Furthermore, a number of drug types including miotics, anticoagulants, anti-cholesterol drugs, antithyroid drugs, propranolol, valproic acid, boric acid, and bromocriptine also increase the risk of eyelash loss.

How Effective Are Commercial Serums and Home Remedies?

Regardless of the reason behind lash loss, the fact remains that many women are interested in finding the most effective way of growing thicker, longer and more luscious eyelashes. Visit your local pharmacy or search the web and you’ll find an extensive selection of commercial serums that purportedly promote lash growth. You may also run into a variety of home remedies that rely on readily available goods that you probably have lying around the house. Of course, not all of these options are equally effective.

Commercial Serums

As noted, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a commercial eyelash serum. However, while many of these over-the-counter products can improve the general health of your eyelashes (which may reduce the risk of them falling out), very few actively encourage the actual growth of your lashes.

“There are many eyelash serums on the market but only a few have been shown to produce significant growth,” explains Dr. Angie Sadeghi at PRP Injection MD.

“Most serums on the market simply condition eyelashes so they are healthier, and therefore fall out less often and potentially grow longer. However, only the active ingredient bimatoprost has been scientifically proven to cause additional growth.”

With this in mind, it is critical that you pay special attention to the ingredients of any prospective eyelash serum to ensure that it contains the active compounds necessary to stimulate growth.

Castor Oil

From treating acne to relieving constipation and everything in between, castor oil has a reputation for offering a multitude of health benefits – including stimulating eyelash growth. As our hair growth expert explained, this is due to the known hydrating effect of castor oil.

Follow these steps to stimulate eyelash growth with castor oil:

  1. Ensure your eyelashes are clean and free of makeup.
  2. Dip a cotton swab into the castor oil.
  3. Gently brush the swab along your top lash line and then the bottom lash line. Avoid getting castor oil in your eyes as it can be quite irritating.
  4. For best results, leave the oil in overnight.
  5. Clean the oil off the following morning.

“Castor oil can help in improving the health of skin and hair due to its hydrating effect so it can certainly have a positive effect on eyelashes themselves as well as the skin surrounding them,” says Dr. Sadeghiour. “However, you do have to consider if the effect will be enough to go to the trouble of applying it on a regular basis.”

As it stands, there are no scientific studies showing the effects of castor oil on eyelashes, but its conditioning properties may help support general lash health.


Readily available in stores around the world, Vaseline is another product that many women swear by when it comes to growing long lashes. It’s similar to castor oil in that its hydrating attributes may improve the overall health of your eyelashes but there is no hard evidence to suggest it actually promotes eyelash growth.

Perhaps the bigger issue, however, is that applying Vaseline to your eyelashes is not an easy (or comfortable) process, and is probably not something you want to be doing on an ongoing basis.

Follow these steps to apply Vaseline to your eyelashes:

  1. Thoroughly clean a mascara wand with warm water, isopropyl alcohol and a paper towel.
  2. Use a clean finger to mix the Vaseline.
  3. Dip the wand in the Vaseline, ensuring it spreads evenly around the brush.
  4. Apply the Vaseline to your upper lashes and then your lower lashes, being careful to avoid getting it in your eyes.
  5. Leave the Vaseline on overnight.
  6. Wash it off the next morning using warm water or a gentle face cleanser if necessary.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a very common ingredient in many health and beauty products and is celebrated for its ability to condition hair and skin. Indeed, research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found that coconut oil can effectively reduce the loss of protein in hair.

But can it be used to actually grow eyelashes? Not according to Dr. Sadeghiour.

“As with castor oil and Vaseline, coconut oil can improve the health of eyelashes but it has never been clinically shown to increase eyelash growth. Of course, by reducing breaking and allowing eyelashes to ‘live longer,’ coconut oil can potentially cause an increase in the volume and length of lashes.”

While some of these home remedies may help keep your eyelashes healthy, there is no clinical evidence to suggest that they actively stimulate lash growth. Additionally, the process of applying these serums is undeniably messy and can be a source of irritation if you happen to get the solution in your eyes.

If you’re still keen on giving it a try, follow these steps to apply coconut oil to your lashes:

  1. Dip a clean cotton swab in coconut oil. You can add a drop of lavender and lemon essential oils to the solution if you wish.
  2. Use the cotton swab to apply the serum to your eyelashes, being careful to avoid getting it in your eyes.
  3. Leave the coconut oil on overnight.
  4. Wash it off the next morning.

Is Latisse the Best Eyelash Growth Serum?

Currently, Latisse is the only FDA-approved eyelash serum on the market, and there is ample evidence to show it is very effective at stimulating lash growth.

Latisse’s ability to grow healthy, long lashes is due to its active ingredient, bimatoprost, which was originally used in eye drops designed to treat the effects of glaucoma. Patients quickly realized that one side effect of this drug was that their eyelashes grew thicker and longer.

In 2008, bimatoprost was approved by the FDA for use in eyelash growth treatment, and has continued to gain the support of doctors, cosmetic experts and A-list celebrities alike.

How does Latisse work? Well, just like the hair on your head, eyelashes go through a three-part cycle comprised of:

  • Anagen: Growth phase lasting 30-45 days.
  • Catagen: Transition phase lasting 14-21 days.
  • Telogen: Resting phase lasting around 100 days, after which the eyelash falls out.

It’s believed that Latisse works by extending the growth phase of your eyelashes. The benefit of this is twofold. Firstly, it gives the eyelash additional time to grow, which can result in longer lashes; secondly, it delays the point at which the eyelash falls out, which can help with the thickness of your lashes. Simply put, Latisse may be the best option for women who want to achieve the long, luscious lashes of their dreams.

Latisse requires a prescription, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you think it might be right for you.

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