A taste of the lash

A new "cosmetic medical" product promises to transform your eyes for $150 a month -- if you don't mind all the side effects.

Published February 6, 2009 2:46PM (EST)

It's been a good news/bad news week for Allergan, the "multi-specialty health care company" behind Botox and certain brands of "dermal fillers" and breast implants. The bad news: Despite a recent increase in ad spending and offers of coupons and rebates, Allergan's latest earnings report reveals that sales of anti-wrinkle injectables are down. The good news is, thanks to one of those other specialties (eye care pharmaceuticals), Allergan's turned up a brand-new cosmetic treatment nobody needs, at a more recession-friendly price point!

Debuting on the market this week is Latisse, a new eyelash growth serum that costs about $150 a month. As Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town notes, Latisse is glaucoma drug Lumigan (bimatoprost) under a new name. And of course, this being the "cosmetic medical market," Latisse doesn't just have aesthetic applications -- it's also "treatment" for the heartbreak of pathologically skimpy lashes. Sighs Lauredhel, "I set out to write a long post, but ended up throwing up my hands wondering what the fucking point is. If you think you have a disease called 'breast ptosis', you probably also think you have a disease called 'hypotrichosis of the eyelashes'."

According to the Boston Herald, Latisse "gives women (or men) the same out-to-there lash bliss commonly found on sweet-faced 2-year-olds." Yikes. As if it weren't bad enough that women are encouraged to spend our entire adult lives fighting to look like teenagers, now we have to compete with toddlers, too? If we took our fashion cues from kids any younger, we'd have to declare Winston Churchill the new beauty ideal. But hey, I do wear mascara -- even if I've never connected that with wanting to emulate someone still in diapers -- so I don't have much room to talk. Since the FDA unanimously approved Latisse, where's the harm in stepping it up a notch from the old pink and green tube?

Well, Boston plastic surgeon Leonard Miller, whose practice offers Latisse, "cautions that overuse could irritate the eye and even change iris color, and isn't sure what will happen when someone stops using the serum." It could change your iris color, and a purveyor of this treatment doesn't know what happens when you stop. That's plenty of scary for me, but if you want more, Lauredhel offers a longer list: "Side effects include itching, reddening of the eyes, growth of hair in other places the brush has touched, skin darkening, irreversible brown pigmentation of the irises, edema of the macula (central part of the retina), cataracts, armpit homunculus, autonomous nipple, and involuntary Narnia adventures. With apologies to Stephen Colbert." Armpit homunculus, people! OK, not really, but everything before that, which is bad enough.

And that brings us to the most chilling line from the Herald article: "[W]omen love beauty potions that deliver, and likely won't mind that the Latisse brochure admits: 'The exact way it works is unknown.'" I want to dismiss that as an offensive, stereotypical load of bunk -- because it is -- but that ignores the fact that there is (or was, anyway) a market for Botox, and there are apparently women who believe that their breasts' response to gravity constitutes a disease requiring surgery. I resent the implication that all or even a majority of women fall into that category, but my heart still breaks for the minority that do. How much do you have to hate your body to shell out $150 a month for a mysterious product that might ruin your eyes? Especially when there's already a "beauty potion" on the market that delivers similar results, for about five bucks a tube.

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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