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The advertising machine for “Latisse,” a prescription eyelash treatment which claims to “grow longer, grow fuller and darker lashes,” has been grinding for quite some time now. On its Web site, Latisse presents itself as a treatment for hypotrichosis, a condition which causes abnormal hair growth. In television commercials, however, that actual medical condition is discarded in favor of selling an absurd standard of beauty to the masses. Latisse is being marketed to any woman who feels she has “inadequate or not-enough lashes.”
Who does Latisse hire to demonstrate the condition of having “not-enough” hair? Brooke Shields, an actress with a flowing mane, famously ample eyebrows, and perfectly fucking sufficient eyelash growth.
Of course, Latisse is not the first product to attempt to sell women on the idea that their average eyelashes are somehow “not-enough.” Mascara products routinely tell women that their lashes require lengthening, darkening, thickening, and defining. Given the aggressive marketing of mascara to women, it’s not unlikely that women would believe that their natural eyelash growth is, at a base level, “inadequate.” But even the cosmetic industry’s true believers have to admit that Brooke Shields’ pre-Latisse eyelashes hardly qualify as the face of hypotrichosis:
What does the Latisse user give up for the gift of finally having “adequate” eyelashes? Her time, for one thing—-Latisse takes daily applications for 12-16 weeks to achieve “full results.” It also takes money—-about $120 a month, which amounts to $480 bucks for the full treatment cycle. And if you want to keep your eyelashes looking flush, you’ve got to keep buying—-after a few weeks, results will fade without use.
But Latisse carries risks beyond wasting your time and money. According to the commercial, Latisse “may cause eyelid skin darkening, which may be reversible, and there is potential for increased brown iris pigmentation, which is likely permanent.” So, Latisse might dye your skin, maybe permanently, and it also might dye your eyeballs, which will never go away. Consumer Reports explains that Latisse’s active ingredient,bimatoprost, “has been known to darken even blue and green eyes to a permanent dark brown.” Latisse may also cause eye itching and redness.
Before eyelashes were aggressively marketed by the cosmetics industry, those fine hairs extending out of our eyelids were also meant to protect us. Now, instead of using eyelashes to keep debris out of our eyes, we’re encouraged to cram a bunch of gunk into the space directly over our eyeballs—-and brush on a prescription eyelash grower that could make it harder for us to see, and potentially force us to change the eye-color specs on our driver’s licenses.
Latisse insists that it’s not a replacement for mascara, but its marketing campaign—-from the celebrity spokesperson to the brassy music to the glamour eyelash shots—-screams that this product is for beauty, not medicine. The rise of Latisse coincides with a larger modern beauty trend, which Amanda Marcotte has noted before: “all these older beauty standards have been turned into newer, more oppressive ones that require you to take all the artifice of old and make it your actual body.” Instead of wearing corsets and bras, we can get lipo and breast implants. And instead of coating our eyelashes in mascara, we have to actually grow the longer, thicker lashes ourselves. It’s not enough to just spend time and money on our eyelashes anymore—-now we have to throw down $120 a month and secure a doctor’s prescription in the hopes that no one will know that we spent time and money on our eyelashes.
Latisse does more than promote this absurd standard of faux-“natural” beauty—-it implies that women who weren’t born with Brooke Sheids’ “week 12” level of lush eyelash growth may actually be suffering from a medical condition and in need of a prescription drug treatment. Here’s to hoping that Latisse’s aggressive marketing campaign proves not-enough.