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Drug-induced Beauty: Cosmeceutical Mascara May Damage the Eyes

Drug-induced Beauty: Cosmeceutical Mascara May Damage the Eyes


Ladies looking for a way to have longer, fuller eyelashes should take a close look at the list of ingredients before buying lash-lengthening cosmetics. Some lash-lengthening products, although marketed as purely cosmetic, contain an ingredient found in glaucoma medications.

Cosmeceutical Companies?

The FDA classifies drugs and cosmetics separately, distinguishing the former by their influence on the functioning of the body and the latter by their purely aesthetic effect. However, several American companies have blurred this distinction, creating a hybrid pharmaceutical and cosmetic “mascara.” The FDA has recently seized products by one cosmetic company, San Jose’s Jan Marini Skin Research, Inc., and dermatologists have sounded the whistle against companies such as Athena Cosmetics. These companies’ products – Age Intervention® Eyelash and RevitaLash®, respectively – were advertised as ways to enhance the appearance of the eyelashes. However, their effect was more than aesthetic since they actually altered the functioning of the eye.

Misbranded Drug

Bimatoprost, the active ingredient in these products, reduces intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eye by improving its drainage ability; some glaucoma patients who use the product also experience increased lash length as a side effect of the medication. While an appropriate ingredient for eye-pressure medications, the drug is inappropriate, and illegal, when used in cosmetic products. Therefore, FDA officials have declared Age Intervention® Eyelash an unapproved, misbranded drug, dismantling its manufacturers’ claims that it is a cosmetic product. The recall has raised issues of truth-in-advertising and drawn attention to loopholes in how products in the growing cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries are regulated.

Hidden Dangers

Individuals who use RevitaLash® and Age Intervention® Eyelash may experience retinal swelling and eye inflammation. For those who are already taking prescription medications for IOP, the lash-lengthening product may reduce the effects of their medication, increasing the risk of optic nerve damage, vision loss, and even blindness.

What is the best way to avoid these symptoms and prevent eye damage? Read the labels and look out for disclaimers. When in doubt, stick to traditional mascara.

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