Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Latisse and Breast Cancer

Brooke Shields and I could be identical twins, except for the unfortunate fact that she has one more breast than I do.

I didn't mean to make her jealous.

For a while there, her eyelashes were longer than mine too, in that she had some and I didn't. But, those days are over. I now have the same luxurious, fluttery lashes that Brookie does. (Only her closest friends are allowed to call her Brookie.)

Since Brookie has already shared our secret, I suppose that it's okay for me to discuss it. The product we use to get these gorgeous lashes is called Latisse.

Now, here's a secret: before I got cancer, I was rather vain. Hmmmm..... vain isn't the right word, because I never thought I was pretty. I think a better phrase for what I felt was, "fear of aging." I didn't feel old, why should I look it?

I got started on botox because it helps migraines. I kept up with botox because I liked the smooth results. After that, it was easy to graduate to restaylane to fill in some lines, and I also used the forerunner to Latisse, called Revitalash, to lengthen my lashes.

Did you know that Latisse was originally made to help breast cancer patients?

The old formulation of Revitalash contained bimataprost, the same thing that is in Latisse. Bimataprost is prescribed for people with glaucoma. The fable begins with an eye doctor who noticed that his patients who used the glaucoma drug also had very long eyelashes. When his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and her eyelashes fell out, he came up with this brush-on formulation to help her grow them back. Revitalash was born.

Unfortunately for him, Allergan owns the bimataprost molecule so a patent fight ensued. Allergan won, created Latisse, and last I checked Revitalash is just a very expensive conditioning product.

I knew Latisse would work, and so I asked for a prescription. But, I didn't start it until after chemotherapy was over. While it's highly unlikely there would be any interaction with my chemo drugs, I checked, and nobody knew for sure. Latisse is supposed to grow cells and I was trying to kill cells, so I figured I'd just wait.

My last chemo was March 31st. April 5th, I applied my first dose of Latisse in the empty spaces where my lashes should have been. Today, July 21st, not only are all my lashes grown in, but many of them are longer than they ever have been. They are not all evenly lush yet - I have a few in the middle that are approaching 3/4 of an inch long, while at the corners they are normal lashes - but they'll get there.

Here is why women with breast cancer like Latisse: many women who had chemo are distressed to discover that their lashes grow in and then fall out again at the same time. This happens because your lashes are on the same growth cycle, not a staggered one like before. It can take up to a year for their old cycles to restart. Latisse will help you keep you lashes in.

There are some tips for using the product that I have gained from when it was Revitalash. Since I know many women who have finished chemo are interested in this product, I will share them with you. However, you need to take your own advice, not mine. One tip I am going to share contradicts what is on the packaging materials, so you are on your own there.

Latisse comes with individual sterile brushes. They are thick, clumsy, and use a lot of the product. Some people have reported side effects with Latisse, such as redness and soreness. I think - and this is purely my opinion - that the brush is way too thick, and you get too much product on it and that may cause some of the symptoms.

Instead, I have my own brush, a very thin eyeliner brush. I put one drop of Latisse in the cap, and dip the brush in the cap and precisely line my eyes that way. Then I clean the brush. Also, because you are using less of the product, your Latisse will last longer. Latisse costs $120.00 for a month's supply - if you use their brushes. Mine lasted almost three months before I needed to refill it. (Photos of the two brushes are below)

A cynical person might think they included those large brushes so you would use the product up faster and spend more money. Of course, I'm not cynical, and I know they did it for your health and you should totally use their brushes and not your own.

There have been stories of Latisse turning light colored eyes to brown. That is true - but only when used as a glaucoma drug and used as eye-drops. In all the studies done on this medication as an eyelash enhancer, there hasn't been one case of eyes turning color.

Now, it can darken your lash line. It hasn't done that to me, and I'm not sure it'd be a bad thing anyway. What darkened my lash line, and in fact, my entire eye area, was chemo. I have dark circles now that I never had before.

Another thing you need to know, is that Latisse is not fast-acting. And, you also have to be faithful with it. It can take two months to see growth, and that is for women who started with normal lashes. You have to use it every night. If you stop using it, it stops working. But, if you are faithful, you will see results.

Now that I have been through the dangers of cancer, you might be saying, "Surely she doesn't care if she looks old any more?" And, the fact is, I have come to accept it a bit more. Obviously, the point of all I've been through the past year was so I could get old. So, no, I don't have any fear of aging any longer. There is a big demarcation in my life, cut right in half by cancer. I accept my gray hair, and I'm trying to accept what tamoxifen has done to my skin. (I'm looking a bit like an snakeskin purse these days.)

Instead of thinking in terms of looking young, I now think in terms of looking healthy.

But you know what? I still don't like that line between my eyes on my forehead. People think I'm angry when I'm not.

So, as Brookie might say, I'll probably still do a little freshening up.

The one on the left is the brush that comes with Latisse. The one on the right is my own brush.


  1. I lost all of my hair,eyelashes,eyebrows,fingernails and toenails from chemo for breast cancer. A year after treatment, I still didn't have eyelashes or brows. I think that bothered me more than losing my hair. I decided to try Latisse. I had normal looking lashes and brows in no time. My eye lids did turn red and sometimes burned a little. When I ran out, my eyelashes came out again. I decided to try it again but now I use it every other day. That seems to work good for me. I will also try it with a different brush.I hope that at some point, I can have eyelashes with out using this. It does last a lot longer by using every other day. Thanks for the info. I wondered if other cancer patients use it.

  2. I actually think they are doing clinical trials on it now, but I was too lazy to check. :) I know it's worked great for me.

    I'm sorry it's taking so long for you to return to normal. My nails were the last to go - but they have regained their strength. I put a gel overlay on them just yesterday - felt they were strong enough to take it.

  3. I lost all my hair, eyelashes, brows, fingernails, toenails and entire body hair from chemo. It's been a year now and my eyelashes grew in very little then fell out again. They are just growing back again. Unfortunately, Latisse is not available in Canada so I can't use it. Losing my eyelashes did upset me way more than my hair. Hair you can wear a hat, or wig or anything but with the eyelashes not much you can do other than false ones (tried it once but they looked ridiculous on me). Wish Canada would get it together and allow Latisse here.

  4. How long did it take before you to noticed the Latisse actually saw eyebrows and lashes? I finished Taxotere on June 9 and started Latisse June 23. I know to be patient and it's only been a couple weeks but kinda afraid it won't work. Just curious how long before the first signs of growth appear. Thank you for you're blog!

  5. It takes a full two months to work. Don't give up!

  6. This is a good write up and I agree with using a smaller brush than Allergan supply.

    However, the story of Revitalash is not complete. The product was originally made with bimatoprost, as you correctly say, and it was removed because the American FDA banned it.

    Having a drug in a product, and not listing it as an ingredient of the product, is dangerous.

    How would you feel if you took a "natural" head ache cure and found out, after the FDA banned its sale, that it contained aspirin and did not list it on the packaging? Imagine if you were allergic to aspirin, taking it already or on another blood thinning medication.


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