Lashing Out: Hair Growth Makers Stir Controversy

Mally Roncal looked bright eyed, and enviably polished during a recent early-morning event at Henri Bendel, where she was updating editors on her cosmetics line, Mally Beauty.

A selection of products that promote eyelash growth

A selection of products that promote eyelash growth.


Mally Roncal — celebrity makeup artist, beauty entrepreneur and mother of young twins—— looked bright eyed, and enviably polished during a recent early-morning event at Henri Bendel, where she was updating editors on her cosmetics line, Mally Beauty. Her secret for hiding fatigue? "False eyelashes," she proclaimed. "They make me look awake and lifted."

Roncal's self-proclaimed eyelash obsession is beginning to be shared with a growing legion of consumers, who, after having perfected their pouts, are now turning attention to their eyes.

Last year, prestige mascara sales reached $294 million, surpassing lipstick sales — which totaled $286 million — for the first time, said Karen Grant, senior beauty industry analyst at The NPD Group. Mascara's growth spurt makes it the third leading prestige makeup category, behind foundation and eye shadow.

"The lip is out, and there is nowhere else to go," said beauty futurologist Jeanine Recckio, owner of the Mirror Mirror Imagination Group. "We are sick of lip plumpers, and we're Botoxed to oblivion," she added, explaining consumers' interest in Bambi-like lashes.

Women's renewed focus on the peepers have revived an old category, false eyelashes, and carved out a new, controversial one, eyelash growth products.

The controversy began in November when Allergan Inc., the maker of Botox, filed a patent infringement lawsuit against seven companies alleging that the firms were marketing and selling eyelash growth products with a prostaglandin (a category of compounds) called bimatoprost — the active ingredient in Allergan's glaucoma drug Lumigan.

The current defendants in the suit include Cayman Chemical Co.; Jan Marini Skin Research Inc., which makes Age Intervention Eyelash Conditioner; Athena Cosmetics Corp., which sells RevitaLash; Intuit Beauty Inc., the manufacturer of MassiveLash, and PhotoMedex Inc., which sells MD Lash Factor. Civic Center Pharmacy, which markets Luxette, settled with Allergan, and DermaQuest Inc., the maker of DermaLash, was dismissed from the suit in December.

Sam Dhatt, founder of DermaQuest, said, "We were the only ones included in the lawsuit whose product did not contain pharmaceutical ingredients," adding that Cayman Chemical, a supplier of biochemicals, provided the other beauty firms with the chemical in question, prostaglandin. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration combed through DermaQuest files earlier this month, and cleared the firm of the charge that it used drugs in its $90 DermaLash product.
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