The Lasht Word on Lash Serums
plus, the HNTFUYF world tour ends
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Ask Val answers your urgent questions, Vol. 32
Yes, you with a handful of—are those mascara wands?
Q: I have short, sparse lashes and yearn for thicker, longer ones. A lot of lash serums claim to help with that, but I’m not convinced they really work. If you were to recommend one (preferably a drugstore serum), which would it be?
A: Of course you yearn for thicker, longer lashes; a set of lush eyelashes, doing the necessary job of protecting our eyes from dust and debris, can be a signal of good health and (as it sometimes follows) even a fine choice of reproductive partner, if you’re into that.
It’s times like these I’m glad to be able to rely on professional advice. I tried a lash serum once. The results were…well, you can read about them here. So I turned to HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf, who had some helpful thoughts.
First, a brief explanation of how a lash serum works, because we don’t like to slap stuff on our face—especially around our eyes—without understanding what it’s going to do, do we? To increase lash length, you need to prolong the active (anagen) growth period when the hair follicle isn’t resting or when the hair is falling out. Prostoglandins (a.k.a. fatty acid compounds) do exactly that—and it’s the prostoglandins in the prescription formula Latisse that can lengthen, darken, and thicken lashes when applied to the lash line consistently. (Benefits stop if you discontinue use.)
For some users, Latisse can cause irritation, reddening, or pigmentation of the eyelids, as well as atrophy (reduction) of eyelid fat, most of which is reversible if you stop using it. (But…geez.) Pigmentation—as a brown spot—in the iris of light brown or hazel eyes is also a rare but irreversible complication. A less concerning side-effect—and a weird one to which I can attest—is lashes (or, in my case, eyebrows) that grow in at strange angles or with a different texture (curly instead of straight).
Anyway, Latisse is pricey (upwards of $100 for the name brand) and you asked for a drugstore product recommendation. As you say, there are a lot of serums out there, some of which contain prostoglandin analogues (similar to the compound in Latisse) that make alluring promises. The two Waldorf recommends are Nulastin and Revitalash. Waldorf uses Nulastin—both the lash and eyebrow formulations—with excellent results, she says. Revitalash is less drippy and easier to apply. I’ve tried neither, but I’d go with the Nulastin for a couple of months. If I saw no difference in my lashes, I’d take this aesthetic aspiration off my plate and revert to my favorite mascara.
If you do choose to pump up your lash volume, Waldorf has some rules about how to use any serum:
Don’t apply more product than recommended
Apply only above the upper lash line
Apply once a day before sleep when the product will also benefit lower lashes
After application, blot excess on the surrounding skin and under lashes to avoid any serum getting into your eyes. Blinking on a folded tissue works well.
Are you wondering about the fake lashes you can have a technician apply in a lash salon? Waldorf thinks they’re fine for a big event (your Presidential Inauguration, for example) but doesn’t recommend continuous use. Even if they’re gently applied, she says, their weight on your real lashes can be traumatic and cause traction alopecia (like what can happen when scalp hair is consistently pulled too tight). She also cautions that you do a patch test to be sure you have no allergies to adhesive.
In last week’s post I neglected to mention the various “cryo tools” that might make icing your face a more…professional (and less messy) endeavor. Constant reader ND helpfully offered links (here and here) to a couple of tools she’s sprung for. She calls them “poncy,” a word I intend to use at every opportunity—though I won’t be using the tools, as their ponciness puts them out of my league, beauty-tool-wise.
🇯🇵 🗾 🗻 ❤️
This is my last post from Tokyo; I’m leaving this week for my home in the U.S. And I am full of feelings. Aware that you don’t come to HNTFUYF to read about my feelings (why do you come?), I won’t dwell on them. It’s just that children—as you know if you have children, or if you love children—change your life in a way that involves, as someone has said, wearing your heart on the outside of your body. And when your heart is on the other side of the world half the time, that’s challenging. I’m trying to be present, though my four-year-old granddaughter, M, often unintentionally yanks me away from that intention. Like when she casually said, “Grammie, when I’m a grown-up, you’ll be dead,” a comment I tried weakly to deny and then kind of gave up on. I offered to initiate a discussion about when a girl becomes a grown-up: Twenty-one? 18? 12? No one seemed interested but me.
Finally, two more Tokyo delights. A small recent study in Japan showed that when people are asked to donate money, they’re more likely to do so when they feel they’re being watched. Adding a pair of eyes to a sign requesting donations generated greater compliance. Which is why I wasn’t surprised recently to see the sign below at a playground. It seems a little creepy; on the other hand, if it works, why not?
And among the many fun names of hair salons in Tokyo, this is one of my favorites.
See you back in the States.
Book Club News
I'm happy to share I'm partnering with Chirp to organize an audiobook club of biographies and memoirs called “Unfiltered Women.” Two things: It’s free to subscribe and Chirp offers great deals. Plus, you obviously get to keep the book to listen to at your leisure.
Here’s how it works. Every other month I’ll announce a new book club pick that we’ll listen to together. You’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on the book a few weeks later and hear what other readers thought, too. My second pick is the memoir H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I’ve now listened to this book twice and I’m sure I could listen to it again and still get fresh insights into the author and find new poetry in her language. This is a story about how a woman deals with the sudden death of her beloved father by retreating into herself, keeping only one relationship alive: with Mabel, a goshawk she trains. Goshawks are notoriously difficult and Macdonald struggles to domesticate her. Mealtimes are especially grisly, but Macdonald seems immune to the blood and guts she often holds in her bare hands or stuffs into a pocket. She describes in minute detail the primeval, prehistoric beauty of the bird and her intelligence. The fear of abandonment is strong and Macdonald’s grief seems bottomless till she understands viscerally the healing power of human connection. Like me, you’ve probably never considered becoming a falconer—and you’ll be glad you didn’t when you’ve finished this book! But you’ll get inside the head of someone very different from you, and it’s a fascinating place to be.
To get started, go to chirpbooks.com/val and press FOLLOW to join my club. (Again, it’s free and there is NO commitment.) There, for a limited time, you can buy H Is for Hawk for only $2.99 (normally $19.95), including a 50% discount with code VAL50 if it's your first Chirp purchase.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send your beauty-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.
HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
Readers, a few of you have wondered aloud to me if I get a cut from sales when I mention a beauty product. I do not. I only mention products I’d like to buy myself, and therefore think you might like, too. I share this so you know my recommendations are offered without obligation. All posts and the archive are free; there’s no paywall. I rely on readers for financial support, so please consider becoming a paying subscriber if you can.