Using Latisse for Chemotherapy-Induced Eyelash Loss

For those who have lost their eyelashes to chemotherapy, a drug called Latisse, the trade name for bimatoprost, maybe a solution for lash regrowth. The prescription drug is the first to be approved by the FDA for eyelash growth and darkening. While Latisse is not marketed specifically for people with cancer, it may be a possible treatment for eyelash loss or shortening caused by chemotherapy.

Cancer patient laying in her bed
Jonathan Kirn / Getty Images

It is also important to note that Latisse has not been fully evaluated in those with chemotherapy-induced eyelash loss. Side effects concerning people undergoing treatment are unknown. Ask your oncologist if Latisse is right for you, or if you have finished treatment, make sure the prescribing healthcare provider is aware of your prior treatment.

How Do You Use Latisse?

Latisse is a topical treatment that is applied to the base of the eyelashes each evening. Before applying it, you must first remove all makeup and contact lenses. Latisse is packed as a kit with a small bottle of solution and applicators that look like small paintbrushes. Squeeze one drop of solution onto the applicator brush tip and apply it to the base of lashes. Blot excess solution with tissue and dispose of the applicator. To prevent cross-contamination of bacteria, you should always use a new applicator for each eye.

How Long Before You See Eyelash Growth With Latisse

Most people begin to see initial results at 8 weeks after the first application. Full results can be expected at 12 to 16 weeks. Latisse was successful in clinical trials, with 78% of participants experiencing significant lash growth, thickening, and darkening.

Side Effects of Latisse

Eye redness and itchiness are the most common side effect of using Latisse. Properly applying the product can decrease the side effects. During clinical trials, these side effects did subside with use.

Latisse may also cause hyperpigmentation of the skin. Hyperpigmentation is a condition where an increased amount of melanin is present in the skin, producing brown freckle-like spots. It is harmless and in most cases, temporary. Again, the following application directions will greatly reduce the risk of hyperpigmentation. Once Latisse is discontinued, the hyperpigmentation usually goes away. However, your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe a topical steroid if needed.

Because ingredients in Latisse are also used in treatments for glaucoma, there is a rare risk that the iris of the eyes may develop a permanent brown pigmentation. (This side effect was not seen in any clinical trials, but maybe a rare possibility.)

Will My Insurance Cover Latisse?

Insurance companies see Latisse as a cosmetic treatment, not a medical treatment. Your insurance company may or may not cover it if you have lost your eyelashes to chemotherapy. It may take a detailed letter from your healthcare provider explaining why this Latisse is medically necessary. This situation is similar to insurance companies covering the cost of hairpieces and wigs for cancer patients. It may take a lot of letters and phone calls to get your provider to pay for Latisse.

If you choose to go the out-of-pocket route, Latisse costs about $4 a day. That equals to $450 for the 16-week course of treatment. To maintain lash growth, you must use Latisse about twice a week. Once discontinued, lashes return to their normal state.

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  • American Cancer Society. What Are the Possible Side Effects of Chemotherapy? August 8, 2008.

  • Allergan. Lattise: What to Expect
  • Carrie L Morris, SS Stinnett, and JA Woodward. "The Role of Bimatoprost Eyelash Gel in Chemotherapy-induced Madarosis: An Analysis of Efficacy and Safety," Int J Trichology. 2011 Jul-Dec; 3(2): 84–91. doi: 10.4103/0974-7753.90809.

By Lisa Fayed
Lisa Fayed is a freelance medical writer, cancer educator and patient advocate.