Want long, lush lashes? While a good mascara does the trick for instant results, you might consider enlisting the help of a eyelash growth serum for an even bigger boost.
Experts point out that the prescription eyelash growth gel Latisse is the only FDA-approved treatment for hypotrichosis (inadequate lashes). "The active ingredient is a prostaglandin called bimatoprost," says William Kwan, MD, a San Francisco-based dermatologist, adding that the formula is safe for all skin types. "It lengthens the growth cycle of eyelashes leading to longer, darker, and fuller lashes."
That said, more and more brands are releasing over-the-counter formulations that claim to help lengthen lashes. Although you might not necessarily see dramatic results from these OTC serums right away, they contain nourishing ingredients that strengthen eyelash hairs over time, so they're stronger and more resilient against breakage.
For best results, Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, recommends looking for a formula that contains biotin, peptides, or lipids. "Biotin is a B vitamin and helps lashes grow longer and thicker and stimulates the growth of additional eyelash follicles," she explains. "Lipids condition and moisturize the lashes, and peptides specifically act on the skin cells of lashes to create a healthier foundation and boost volume."
Important to note: For some people, these formulas may cause sensitivity or an adverse reaction—itchiness along the eyelash line is one common side effect, says Dr. Jaliman. "Some might only be able to use an eyelash growth serum a couple times a week instead of every day."
Understanding the Eyelash Growth Process
As with the hair on your scalp (and the rest of the body), eyelashes have a growth pattern of their own. There are three specific phases:
- Anagen, Active: The first phase lasts approximately 4-10 weeks. It’s the period when the hair attached to the dermal papilla (aka blood supply) nourishes the lash to stimulate growth at a rate of 0.12 to 0.14 millimeters per day. The longer a lash remains in this phase, the longer it will grow.
- Catagen, Transition Phase: This is a crucial phase because eyelashes stop growing because the hair follicle shrinks and disconnects from the dermal papilla. If at any time during this phase an eyelash falls or is plucked out, the follicle will remain empty until the anagen phase begins again. This period lasts for 2-3 weeks.
- Telogen, Resting Phase: In this final phase, new hairs begin to grow within the eyelash follicle, which causes existing lashes (approximately 50% at a time) to shed. This phase lasts around 3-4 months before reentering the anagen period.
What Causes Sparse Eyelashes?
Now that you understand how the growth cycle works, you may be wondering what causes lashes to fall out and appear sparse. Providing you’re not experiencing hair loss elsewhere due to conditions such as alopecia or a thyroid disorder, eyelash loss may indicate:
- Trichotillomania: While you may occasionally pull on an eyelash to remove a clump of mascara, trichotillomania (trich) is a condition when a person has an uncontrollable urge to pull out their eyelashes (or hair from other parts of the body) to ease feelings of anxiety.
- Not Removing Eye Makeup: By now, you likely know that not removing face makeup can clog pores and promote breakouts, dullness, and irritation. However, not removing eye makeup can destroy your eyelashes. The longer mascara remains on the lashes, the dyer it becomes, which makes your lashes more susceptible to breakage. Also, look at it this way: If your lashes aren’t clean, they can’t optimally protect your eyes.
- Eyelash Curlers: Whether the device is heated or non-heated, eyelash curlers can damage lashes and speed up the shedding process.
- Eyelash Extensions: Between the glue, extra weight on the lashes, and the removal process, eyelash extensions are just as damaging as the versions designed to create a healthier and fuller-looking head of hair. The irony is that once removed, eyelashes (and scalp hair) are typically in even worse condition than before they were installed. It’s not uncommon to have short stubby lashes after extensions.
- Blepharitis: A condition that occurs when clogged oil glands near the eyelashes cause inflammation and irritation in the eyelash follicles. Along with lash loss, side effects include itchiness, burning, redness, and swelling.
- Chronological Age: As with the hair on your head, your eyelashes naturally thin as you age.
- Miscellaneous Causes: Chronic stress, certain medications, hormonal shifts, nutritional deficiencies, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and chronic inflammatory diseases such as lupus or psoriasis.
The Reality Behind Eyelash Serums
Are you wondering how to make eyelashes grow back? Here’s the thing: Latisse (the best overall growth serum on our list) is the only FDA-approved prescription eyelash growth treatment on the market that stimulates growth in the hair follicles not currently generating lashes. With that said, you need a prescription to obtain it. Other over-the-counter eyelash serums aren’t FDA-approved, which means their safety and efficiency are not entirely known.
Even so, many have been ophthalmologist-tested, clinical trials have been conducted, and are favored by dermatologists. While these serums won’t necessarily stimulate new growth, per se, they will help strengthen and condition lashes, which leads to less breakage and loss — especially during the delicate catagen phase. If you’re not ready to make a prescription-strength commitment, look for an OTC option with lash loving ingredients such as biotin, castor oil, hyaluronic acid, and peptides, among other active ingredients.
Be patient; it can take 2-3 months to start to see results (even with Latisse), only when used as directed, which is typically 1-2 times each day. Once you stop using the serum, your eyelashes will go back to their original appearance.
Here, the 21 best eyelash growth serums to try for fuller, longer lashes.
The 21 Best Eyelash Growth Serums
Best Eyelid And Eyelash Serum Vichy LiftActiv Anti Aging Serum 10 Eyes & Lashes
With some lash serums, you have to be careful to apply the formula snug to the lash line to limit possible irritation of your delicate eyelid skin. But this multipurpose formula is gentle enough for even sensitive skin, so you’re allowed—nay, encouraged—to apply it all over your lids and under eyes. The formula contains hyaluronic acid and peptides that condition and strengthen lash hairs and hydrate the skin.
Best Eyelash Serum For Damaged Lashes Lancôme Cils Booster Lash Revitalizing Serum
Whether you're dealing with damage from falsies, extensions, or harsh makeup removal, you can expect this eyelash serum to deeply hydrate and strengthen over the course of four weeks. It's all thanks to the formula's amino acid complex, which helps condition even the driest of lashes (score).
Best Eyelash Serum For Thicker Lashes Embryolisse Lashes Booster
If thicker, fluffier eyelashes are your goal (which, uh, duh), you need to try this formula from Embryolisse. It's spiked with botanical ingredients and vitamin B5 to give your lashes a major dose of shine every time you swipe it on. P.S. It's even gentle enough to use on sensitive eyes/skin.
Best Eyelash Serum For Under Mascara CoverGirl Lash Blast Lash & Brow Serum
A combination of bamboo extract, biotin, peptides, and castor oil makes this serum a godsend for conditioning dry, brittle lashes (and brows!). The best thing about this bb? It's easy to layer under your favorite mascara—just swipe on the serum from root to tip, let it dry for two-ish minutes, and then add your mascara. And, I mean, that drugstore price point doesn't hurt either.
Best Multitasking Eyelash Serum Indeed Labs Pepta Clash II Eyelash Serum
Not only does this eyelash serum strengthen and condition your lashes (shout out to the formula's peptides and plant stem cells) but it also helps smooth and hydrate any fine lines around your eyes. Bonus: It's got a super easy-to-use pen applicator too, so no need to worry about messing it up.
Best Lash And Brow Serum Milk Makeup Kush Growhouse Lash + Brow Serum
The coolest thing about this eyelash serum from Milk Makeup is that you can also use it on your eyebrows. Swipe it along your upper and lower lash lines, then draw short, hair-like strokes through your brows and the formula's cannabis seed extract and peptides will help hydrate and condition.
Best Affordable Eyelash Serum Neutrogena Healthy Lashes Lash Enhancer Serum
Something not so fun about eyelash serums: They can be pretty pricey. That's why I love this affordable option from Neutrogena so much. The formula still has all the hydrating and volumizing benefits of an expensive serum (hi, biotin and peptides), but it comes in at a very reasonable $12.
Best Lightweight Eyelash Serum Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty Platinum Long Lash Serum
This eyelash serum is definitely on the expensive side, but there's a whole lotta power in the formula. A blend of vitamin B5, peptides, and clover flower extract all come together to help hydrate and strengthen your lashes. Swipe this formula on the base of your lashes (like you would liquid eyeliner) twice a day, and the lightweight serum dries down and gets to work ASAP.
Best Mascara And Eyelash Serum Hybrid The Lip Bar Lash Flash Strengthening Mascara
This option is technically a mascara (and a super good one, at that) but the strengthening formula means it also moonlights as a lash serum. Thanks to ingredients like conditioning green tea extract and hydrating castor seed oil, you'll love how long and healthy your lashes look with this one.
Best Opthamologist-tested Eyelash Serum Grande Cosmetics GrandeLash-MD Lash Enhancing Serum
Once a day, swipe this eyelash serum along your lash line like you're applying liquid liner, then allow it to dry. The hyaluronic acid in the formula helps to hydrate even the most brittle of lashes. The best part? It's opthamologist-approved, so you don't have to worry about it irritating your eyes.
Best Shine-inducing Eyelash Serum RapidLash Eyelash and Eyebrow Enhancing Serum
Lash serums can really get up there in terms of price, but some reviewers claim this formula works better than serums twice as expensive. How? The soybean oil base gives your lashes a healthy shine, while polypeptides strengthen weak hairs.
Best Brow And Lash-enhancing Serum Peter Thomas Roth Lashes to Die For Turbo Nighttime Eyelash Treatment
Okay, don't get your hopes up here—this serum doesn’t claim to stop hair loss or even grow hair—but it does contain peptides that help enhance the fullness and density of the lashes you already have. Apply it like you would an eyeliner, then brush some through your sparse brows for a slight plumping effect.
Best Conditioning Eyelash Serum RevitaLash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner
Similarly to the hair on your head, your lash hairs are prone to breakage if they become weakened or fragile, due to drying mascaras, not washing your face, or skin irritation. A conditioning serum like this is filled with amino acids and peptides (sensing a theme here?) to strengthen brittle lashes and, dare I say, revitalize them.
Best Vegan Eyelash Serum LashFood Phyto‐Medic Eyelash Enhancer
In addition to noticeably lengthening your lashes, this Ecocert-certified clear gel contains soy protein and lavender water to strengthen and hydrate the tiny hairs. And its thin brush helps you apply it precisely right at the base of your lashes too.
Best Hydrating Lash Serum Shiseido Full Lash and Brow Serum
If layering on loads of mascara over the years has left your lashes brittle, this hydrating formula (which works on your lashes and brows) will help restore them, leaving them looking healthy and oh-so-shiny over time.
Best Moisturizing Lash Serum Lancer Lash Serum Intense
Yes, the price tag is on the more expensive side, but this serum delivers on its promise of voluminous lashes, thanks to its base of strengthening polypeptides and conditioning biotin. It also lightly moisturizes your lashes, leaving them looking glossy in a way that will make everyone ask, “Wait, how?!”
Best Priming Eyelash Serum Diorshow Maximizer 3D Triple Volume Plumping Lash Primer
Although this one's technically called a lash “primer,” it still works like serum in that it adds thickness for majorly amped-up lashes that frame your eyes. The brush applicator and gentle formula mean that you can easily swipe it on in the morning before you put on mascara or at night as a deep conditioner before you get into bed.
Best Strengthening Eyelash Serum NeuLash Lash Enhancing Serum
If you have short, sparse, or thin lashes (or let’s be honest, all of the above), you’ll love the strengthening benefits of this formula, thanks to its classic peptide-and-amino combination, which is essentially the holy grail for all lash conditioners.
Best Tinted Eyelash Serum By Terry Terrybly Growth Booster Mascara
Almost like a mascara, this tinted eyelash serum plumps your lashes by increasing their volume and length while also conditioning the hairs with its nutrient-rich formula. It's got hydrating hyaluronic acid and lash-repairing collagen for a combo that promotes long lashes. Plus, the added tint will make your lashes look so dark and shiny that it might just replace your normal mascara.
Best Drugstore Eyelash Serum No7 Lash Impact Lash Serum
Over a period of eight weeks, this serum will give you seemingly denser lashes that look like a set of falsies. Plus, the drugstore price point is perfect for those looking to try out a serum for the first time but not wanting to drop a lot of cash.