Monthly Archives: January 2014

Latisse Eyelash Solution

With her wedding date set, Dana Gaiser wanted to look her best. Like many brides, she dieted, worked out and whitened her teeth. But there was one last tiny tweak she was desperate to make.

“I wished I had fuller eyebrows,” said Gaiser, a 27-year-old publicist in Ridley Park, Pa.

Lamenting the overzealous plucking of her teenage years, Gaiser flipped longingly through fashion magazines showing the season’s strong-browed models. That’s where she saw an ad for Latisse — a prescription drug originally developed as a glaucoma treatment that had the desirable side effect of making eyelashes fuller and longer.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Latisse only for use on top lashes, some dermatologists have cautiously prescribed it for hair and eyebrow loss that has resisted conventional treatments.

“If a patient asks for it, and they aren’t getting the benefit they want from what they already use, then I’ll prescribe it. But it’s not the first line at all,” said Dr. Jerry Shapiro, a dermatologist and adjunct professor at New York University Langone Medical Center. “I’d rather use something that’s been proven to work.”

The two drugs that have been proved to work, Rogaine (a lotion) and Propecia (a pill), are FDA-approved as hair-loss treatments. But because Latisse is approved as an eyelash enhancer, doctors are free to prescribe it at their discretion.

Gaiser said her doctor was reluctant at first and urged her to consider the possible side effects — one of which is hyperpigmentism that could color her skin and turn her green eyes brown.

“They kind of warned against it, but I did some research and decided to just go for it,” Gaiser said.

Within six weeks of starting the treatment in January, Gaiser noticed new hairs around her thin brows.

“I had had this one spot on my right eyebrow that would never grow,” she said. “But I put Latisse there and now it’s back.”

She also used it on her eyelashes, which she said beefed up to false lash proportions.

Latisse manufacturer Allergan is set to start testing the safety and effectiveness of Latisse for hair loss on the scalp and the brow in June, according to Caroline Van Hove, a spokeswoman for the company.

“If successful, we may be looking at an approval by 2013,” Van Hove said.

Shapiro said some dermatologists have been prescribing Latisse off-label for scalp and brows for more than two years. But others are waiting for safety data.

“This would mean potentially more systemic absorption than currently occurs with eyelid usage,” said Dr. Michel McDonald, director of cosmetic dermatologic surgery at Vanderbilt University. “I would like to see the results of the trials before beginning to use it in patients on a larger surface area.”

The larger surface area also means buying more of an already expensive product. Gaiser spent $100 on her supply, which was intended for a 16-week treatment of eyelashes only.

Nevertheless, McDonald and Shapiro agree that a third option for hair loss would be welcome.

“There are two things that make people cry in a dermatologist’s office: If they have a serious skin cancer, or if they’re losing their hair,” Shapiro said.

With her wedding now two weeks away, Gaiser said she’s thrilled with the results.

“People say eyebrows frame a face, and I really believe that now,” she said. “To be able to actually shape them and make them look the way I want, it’s a huge deal.”

Baldness Cures

By the age of 35, two-thirds of American men experience some degree of measurable hair loss, and by the age of 50, approximately 85 percent have significantly thinning hair, according to the American Hair Loss Association.

Given those numbers, finding a cure for baldness has become the holy grail among scientists everywhere.

There are a few hair restoration treatments currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but none have exactly hit home runs. Here’s a rundown of four follicular breakthroughs that show some promise.

3-D Spheroids

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and University of Durham in England recently announced an experiment they said could inch humanity one step closer to a cure for the receding hairline.

Coaxing new hair growth in humans can be tricky. Methods that work in animal studies often produce barren patches of skin when tried on people. Lead researcher Dr. Angela Christiano said her team plucked a few hairs from the heads of seven subjects, cultured them in a dish, then turned them over so they would clump together in “3-D spheroids” to “maintain their hair identity.” The team then grafted the clumps of hair onto mice.

In five of the cases, the clumps kick-started the cell’s ability to grow hair. Christiano said this was the first time scientists had been able to cultivate hair entirely from human cells.

If the method makes it to clinical trials, Christiano said she believes it could transform hair-loss treatments. But the study was small, and researchers haven’t yet perfected the crucial step of repatriating hair back onto the human scalp.

Stress-Buster Compounds

In 2011, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles stumbled upon a promising cure for baldness while studying the gut function of mice that had lost their hair due to an increase of the stress hormone corticotropin-releasing factor, or CRF. When they injected a compound that blocked CRF, the mice grew thick, luxurious coats in five days.

The drug seemed to awaken dormant follicles and initiate a growth phase. It restored pigment too, which means it could also reverse graying.

While the accidental treatment was effective for growing fur in mice, that’s no guarantee it will work on human locks. Drugs that cure animal baldness are often a bust for humans. Clinical trials are still a long way off.


The cure for baldness might be right before our eyes.

The active ingredient in Latisse — bimatoprost — was originally used to treat glaucoma when researchers noticed that those who used Latisse grew thick, luxurious eyelashes. The FDA soon approved it for that purpose.

Last year British researchers set up three experiments to see if bimatoprost might also work for repopulating pates.

One test cultured hair follicles from organ cells in a dish while another cultured cells taken directly from a human scalp. In the third experiment, bimatoprost was applied directly to balding mice. In all three cases, the drug caused human hair to regrow.

While the development was viewed as promising, the drug will have to jump through quite a few more hoops for the FDA to expand its use beyond lashes.

Fat Cells

In a recent study, Yale University researchers may have unlocked one of the mysteries as to how locks grow and shed.

The researchers observed that when hair dies, a layer of fat in the scalp that comprises most of the skin’s thickness shrinks. But in the absence of these fat cells hair refuses to grow. This could be because the fat layer produces molecules called PDGF — platelet derived growth factors — which are necessary for hair growth.

Though this discovery seems to be good news for balding rodents, it doesn’t mean much for hair-challenged humans just yet. Once again, the usefulness of these results will become more apparent as research progresses. Even if the information proves promising, it won’t address hair loss caused by the shifts in hormones associated with male-pattern baldness.

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Latisse for Bald Guys

Women know Latisse as the prescription-only potion that brings lush new growth to limp eyelashes. Now men are getting to know it, too: FDA testing is underway to see if the drug can help fight baldness.

How does it work?

First of all, don’t expect that rubbing in a few drops daily will repopulate a cue-ball scalp. Latisse has a lot in common with anti-baldness stalwarts Rogaine (minoxidil), which is sold over-the-counter, and Propecia (finasteride), a prescription pill, in that it acts on existing hair follicles beset by what doctors call miniaturization—but it cannot create new hair follicles. So at best, you’d be looking at some additional youthful color and thickness.

James Marotta, a Long Island hair-transplant surgeon, usually recommends patients first try a combination of Rogaine and Propecia; if they experience intolerable side effects from the Rogaine (which can cause inflammation and itchiness), he’ll have them swap it for an off-label prescription of Latisse. “Latisse is not at the point where it’s a stand-alone therapy,” he says. It’s also expensive, he adds—$150 for two ounces versus $25 for minoxidil. “I have not seen any efficacy better than Rogaine, and since Rogaine is FDA approved, I will favor that,” Marotta says. Meanwhile, formal clinical trials of Latisse are in phase two, with results expected later this year.