Understanding ingredient claims in the lash world
Understanding ingredient claims in the lash world

The eyelash industry has grown phenomenally in the last 20 years and throughout this time there have been many advances in different types of ingredients that can be incorporated into formulations to enhance the performance of the products and also have benefits for stimulating hair growth or conditioning the hair, whilst having chemical treatments.

Growth serums for eyelashes in the cosmetics industry or should I say “eyelash enhancement serums” have been extremely popular. When producing these serums as a brand you have to be careful with the way you market certain claims, because using the term “makes your eyelashes longer” and “makes lashes longer or thicker because it activates the hair follicle” is a claim that the product is changing the physical structure and function of an eyelash. To make this claim in the United States you need to have FDA approval and the product needs to be classed as an OTC (over the counter) drug. To purchase an OTC product, you need to have a prescription from a general practitioner. If the product is classed as a cosmetic product then it’s not technically allowed to make claims that would cause the function of the lash to change at the hair follicle and increase in growth.

Many products that are deemed as cosmetic products which contain peptides, vitamins, and conditioning agents do have great benefits and can help make the lashes appear more voluminous by coating them with hydrating and conditioning properties. The description of the product should say something along the lines of conditioner or enhancer. There have been vast clinical trials about the effectiveness of certain peptides on lash growth and it’s important that any consumer understands how clinical trials work and how the evaluation has been concluded. Always ask for the method of clinical trial and testing if you have any doubts, this will give you a clearer picture as to how they came to the conclusion, that the product does what it says it does.

The reality of many products that offer eyelash enhancing properties and that contain amino acids or peptides doesn’t always work on everyone. Just because you see peptides in the ingredients this doesn’t guarantee anything as far as hair growth or long-term thickening is concerned. I have personally used Biotynol Tripeptide-1 and Myristoyl Pentapeptide 17 combined in serum with hydrolyzed keratin and vitamins, generously on my lashes every single day for 8 weeks and up to that point it hadn’t worked at all as far as stimulating more density or length in my lashes and you’ll see many other reviews from people saying the same, yet these peptides have been in-vitro tested and clinically tested by the raw material suppliers that have had some results to say the contrary.

Invitro testing is performed in a test tube under specific conditions in a laboratory and this is a completely different environment to what my natural eyelashes are in every day. A clinical trial is conducted by utilizing the products in a real-world environment on a certain number of test subjects or models, these trials are then evaluated by experts and then self-evaluated by the users of the product. These clinical trials are usually conducted by the brand or the material supplier independently. From all the research I’ve seen with these kinds of invitro or clinical trials, there is always a fine print disclaimer in the product data material, saying that the results can’t be guaranteed and that’s because what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another.

Let’s always remember results can vary due to how much was used in the application, how frequent the application, hormonal, genetic, or perhaps even the formula may not be effective. At the end of the day you would need to try for yourself to see if it works for you or your clients and do your research, but be careful about making claims to your clients that might not actually be true.

Using a conditioning product on eyelashes and brows certainly can have benefits in my opinion, especially when performing lash or brow lift services as these treatments do tend to leave the hairs drier after the step 1 process. Similar to when you shampoo your hair, you condition it after and this changes the surface area leaving it hydrated, with more body, and allowing you to style easier.

Once you have had a lash lift or brow lamination service it is generally recommended to continue using serums daily to maximize the continued hydration into the hair, which really helps the styling element. Having an after-care range for your lash and brow clients is a win for you and your clients, there’s some return business for you, but there are real benefits for the client, so it’s something that you can genuinely feel good about offering in your salon. Keep in mind that to get the maximum benefit they must be used regularly, if not daily. If you put a serum on with a peptide once every 4 weeks for a few minutes, then you’re not going to see a real benefit, because putting a serum topically on eyelashes for such a short amount of exposure will dissipate quickly after the initial application. If I put a serum on every day, then there is more of a chance of receiving benefits from the peptide or actives in the formula, and even then applying every day will not guarantee that it will increase growth or volume in lashes, but it will most certainly keep them more hydrated.

Let’s talk about the increasing volume of hair or lashes, if you put a conditioner on your hair or some volumizing powder it may give the surface area more volume because of the added substance, even putting water on my lashes will increase their volume by 15 – 20%! But how long does this volume last? That’s the important question to ask with anything that says increases volume. I can put mascara on my lashes and increase volume by 50 – 100%, but it washes off when I remove the mascara. Anything that is going to have a “long-lasting” effect at increasing length or density of lashes will need to be something that is applied regularly on a daily basis. If I could apply a product once every four weeks that would increase my hair volume by 24% for a long period of time, every single hair restoration brand out there would have a product that did just that, but the science and research show us that to re-grow hair it is a daily routine of getting the actives to increase the size of the hair follicle combined with oral supplements, not just putting a serum topically on the hair itself once every few weeks.

I’ve consulted with many experienced hair restoration companies, scientists, and raw material suppliers on this topic, deciphering the truth behind claims is important, when choosing a product that you can stand behind with confidence.

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Written by Otto Mitter, multi-award-winning beauty educator, cosmetic chemist, keynote speaker, international judge for lash and brow competitions, and global brand owner for Elleebana.