How Eyelash Growth Serums Can Cause Sunken Eyes

By: Lauren Wurth | Published: Feb 25, 2024

If you’re lucky enough to have been blessed with long, full, and dark eyelashes, you should be grateful. Many people will do anything to achieve this look — including using false lashes, eyelash extensions, mascara, and new rave of the moment far — OTC eyelash growth serums.

Over-the-counter eyelash growth serums are cosmetic products that are known to make eyelashes longer and fuller in a few weeks. But they’re not without pitfalls, as you will soon find.

Why Are Eyelash Growth Serums So Popular?

The global market for eyelash growth serums has boomed so much that it’s expected to skyrocket from $752 million in 2020 to $1.3 billion by 2031, per Business Wire. As of now, there are at least 1.5 billion TikTok views for searches relating to “the best lash serum.”

Many women apply eyelash growth serum to make their eyelashes appear thicker, darker, and longer

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

We believe that people are wild about this product because of how easy it is to apply. They only need to apply a few swipes of the serum every day to achieve the desired effect.

What Do Eyelash Growth Serums Contain?

Eyelash growth serums yield positive results because they’re packed full of Vitamins E and C, growth peptides, and biotin. According to board-certified dermatologist Quynh-Giao Sartor, these ingredients help the lashes look healthier by providing them with nourishment (via Verywell Health).

The before and after effects of applying eyelash growth serums

Source: beautyflash/X

No matter the type of eyelash growth serum you purchase in the market, most of them have one aim — to keep the eyelash hairs as lengthy and thick as possible.

Here Comes the Risks

If you thought that eyelash growth serums were magical products with zero tolerance for side effects, we’re sorry to burst your bubble. Like every other quick fix, these serums have their own fair share of risks.

A lady applying eyelash growth serum; while these serums may be effective, they also come with unpleasant side effects

Source: browgamecosmetics/Instagram

Dermatologist and dermatopathologist Brendan Camp told Verywell Health, “Eyelash growth serums of any type have the potential to cause skin irritation in the form of redness, swelling, itching, and scaling.” That’s especially true when they aren’t used as directed.

It Can Get Worse

Unfortunately, that’s not all there is to the risks associated with using eyelash growth serums. Some serums contain prostaglandin analogs (PGAs) that may cause more significant damage.

A lady with sunken eyes

Source: Pinterest

According to Sartor, this ingredient may melt the fat around your eyes, a phenomenon called “periorbital volume loss” in the medical world. It can increase pigmentation in the affected area and make your iris and eyelid skin darker than normal, leading to sunken eyes.

What Are PGAs?

Prostaglandin analogs are compounds that were formulated to treat glaucoma. It was later discovered that many glaucoma patients who used these compounds had significantly longer eyelashes than before. After more research was conducted and with approval from the FDA, PGAs started featuring in many eyelash growth serums because of their amazing ability to stimulate eyelash growth and make them look more appealing.

Prostaglandin analogs (PGAs) were once used to treat glaucoma before it was adapted for eyelash growth therapy

Source: PharmacyPodcast/x

Sadly, PGAs have been said to increase the risk of “prostaglandin-associated periorbitopathy,” a condition that makes the eyelids and orbital region wrinkled, darker, and thinner, according to a study from Aesthetic Surgery Journal.


How Do You Detect PGAs in Eyelash Growth Serums?

Many over-the-counter and prescription eyelash growth serums contain PGAs, which can be verified from their ingredient listings. Popular ones include Rodan and Fields R+F Lash Boost, Babe Lash Essential Serum, Revitalash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner, UKLASH Eyelash Serum, GrandeLASH-MD Lash Enhancing Serum, and NeuLASH Lash Enhancing Serum.

Revitalash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner, one of the eyelash growth serums known to contain Prostaglandin analogs (PGAs)

Source: pro_cosmetix/Instagram

Note that even eyelash serums without PGAs still carry potential health risks due to fragrances, preservatives, wax, oils, silicone, etc.


The Verdict: To Use or Not to Use?

Now that you know that eyelash growth serums have their own fair share of risks, are you to ditch them altogether? The decision is all yours to make, as long as you’re making them from an informed place and have considered your skin sensitivities.

People are advised to only use eyelash growth serums after being informed of their risks

Source: alifeadjacent/X

Generally, these products are considered safe to use, but as Camp told Verywell Health, “The use of any skin care product carries the risk of irritant or allergic contact dermatitis.” Camp added, “Eyelash serums without PGAs may not have risks like hyperpigmentation of fat atrophy.”


Your Qualified Medical Personnel Are Your Ultimate Guides

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to use eyelash growth serums. For example, you have to think about your risk factors including your natural eye color and anatomy.

A dermatologist attending to a patient; individuals who are confused as to whether to use eyelash growth serums are advised to seek a dermatologist's opinion

Source: Antoni Shkraba/Pexels

Generally, the lighter your iris, the more prone they are to darkening. However, we advise that you seek professional guidance from your dermatologist, ophthalmologist/oculoplastics, or plastic surgeon. They’re in the best position to give you personalized advice.


How Else Can You Grow Your Eyelashes?

If you have decided that the risks associated with eyelash growth serums aren’t worth it, there are many alternatives to explore. For example, oral supplements like Nutrafol and Viviscal, which are formulated to enhance hair and nail health, can also benefit your eyelashes.

Nutrafol is one of the hair and nail health supplements some dermatologists say may also serve as a great alternative to eyelash growth serums

Source: Nutrafol.marisa/Instagram

Best practices like using mild makeup removers, easily removable eye products, and being gentle around your eyelashes can also help to maintain the length and overall health of your eyelashes.


Are There Natural Remedies for Growing Eyelashes?

Luck is on your side if you’re one of those with a knack for natural remedies. There are lots of natural products that can help to stimulate your eyelash growth. A good example is green tea.

Green tea is one of the proposed natural alternatives to eyelash growth serums

Source: shoppingannuity/Instagram

Camp told Verywell Health that green tea contains antioxidants in good measure, which is amazing because it can keep your lash hairs safe from free oxygen radicals that cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can impede hair growth.


Summary: Be Aware of the Potential Side Effects

In summary, eyelash growth serums make for an effective, fast, and convenient way to grow your eyelashes. However, you should also be aware of the potential side effects especially when using serums containing prostaglandin analogs.

Lorna Tolentino advertising her eyelash growth serum

Source: LornaTolentinoF /X

Although the side effects of PGAs are reversible after discontinuing the product, the discomfort they bring can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, the ball is in your court to decide whether you can handle the risks.