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The secret to long lashes: An O.D. takes a microscopic look at mascara


Dr. Susan Resnick, an Upper East Side optometrist, does 20-25 eye health exams a day and has seen it all: women with eyeliner tattooed on lids, waterproof mascara that gets trapped under the lids and dyes the eye tissue, and, now, the indomitable desire for longer lashes. Well+Good recently sat down with Dr. Resnick, who, by the way, wears smudge-proof, not waterproof, mascara to discuss lash lust and the millions of microscopic reasons why we’re supposed to buy new eye make-up every three months.

LONG LASHES SEEM TO BE A BEAUTY OBSESSION WITH SERIOUS STAYING POWER. ANY IDEA WHY?
Right now I believe it’s largely a result of the advertising for Latisse [a prescription eyelash-grower by Allergan]. When pharmaceutical companies advertise directly to consumers it’s a very powerful thing. Women have always coveted long lashes, but now that there’s this new avenue to obtain them, there’s greater focus. No pun intended.

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WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON PRESCRIPTION LASH GROWERS?
Latisse is actually a glaucoma medication with a side effect of growing lashes. If applied according to the package directions, none of the solution should actually get into the eye. You use it along the lash line. There’s a slight chance of hyper-pigmentation or darkening of the skin around the eyes, however.

WHICH IS HEALTHIER AND SAFER—USING LASH EXTENSIONS OR USING A DRUG LIKE LATISSE?
First, let me say I have not seen many patients with lash extensions. That said, I certainly can’t help but to advise against them. It’s not a great idea to have a cosmetician working that close to the eye! I’d be concerned about an abrasion or an infection. Latisse, however, is very safe. The real issues are cost [about $120 per tube] and the fact that it has to be used continuously to be effective.

IS THERE A SAFE, NATURAL, NO-DRUG WAY TO EXTEND LASHES?
Keep the eyelids clean and free of debris. That helps the lash grow to its fullest during its life cycle of three months. Other than that, use mascara! I recommend water-resistant (not waterproof) mascara for easier removal. If you’re losing a lot of lashes on the other hand, get checked for blepharitis. Other conditions such as thyroid problems or hormonal imbalances can lead to abnormal lash loss, too.

MANY EXPERTS RECOMMEND TOSSING MASCARA AFTER 3-6 MONTHS, WHICH SEEMS A LITTLE WASTEFUL AND EXPENSIVE. IS THERE ACTUAL SCIENCE BEHIND THIS TIME LIMIT?
While there are preservatives in mascara to prevent the overgrowth of bacteria, the potential for contamination increases with use. Each time the applicator is pushed back into the tube, we’re essentially introducing a dose of potentially harmful bacteria or contaminants into it. There are millions of live organisms on our lids and lashes. If our resistance is down or there’s an overgrowth of normally harmless bacteria, this could lead to sties or pink eye.

SO IS THERE ANY WAY TO EXTEND THE LIFE OF MAKEUP?
I don’t condone keeping makeup past the six-month mark. To keep track, I write the date I opened the makeup on a piece of masking tape that I stick on it. It’s also important to keep the openings of product tubes clean as well as eye-makeup applicators. (If you’re a contact lens wearer, keep tap water away; it may contain a harmful protozoan called Acanthamoeba.) It’s probably best to buy new makeup.

Dr. Susan Resnick, O.D., 30 E. 60th St., btwn. Madison and Park Aves., Upper East Side, 212-355-5145, www.vision-eyewise.com

Do you suffer from lash lust? Have you tried the lash conditioners or growers? Tell us, here!