Spend Or Skip? Rodan + Fields Lash Boost (What's Up with this Lawsuit?)
In case you missed the news, a class-action lawsuit was filed last month against Rodan + Fields, contending that Lash Boost, the brand’s $150 lash serum (which I tested for 18 weeks starting here), violated consumer protection laws.
The lawsuit’s assertions: fraudulent and unfair marketing of Lash Boost. Translation: Four women (two in California, two in New York) say they were not adequately warned about the possible side effects of one of Lash Boost’s ingredients, isopropyl cloprostenate, a prostaglandin analog. (An analog is a synthetic version of something found in nature; in this case Lash Boost contains a synthetic of prostaglandin, a fatty acid that occurs naturally in our bodies). These women claim to have suffered from a range of symptoms including a stye, irritation on the eyelid, darkening of eyelid skin, and excessive tearing.
I made mention of Lash Boost’s prostaglandin analog in a post after using the serum for about twelve weeks. I was experiencing dry eyes and was aware that using this ingredient near the eyes might be causing that effect. It should be noted that I knew about prostaglandin analogs because I've researched and written about Latisse and other eyelash serums formulated with them. I would not assume most women would know this. Thus, I do agree with the lawsuit’s assertion that Rodan + Fields (and their consultants) could and should be more forthcoming about the possible side effects of this ingredient.
It should also be noted that my own eye dryness did cease once I dialed down usage of Lash Boost to every other night—and, probably not coincidentally, also as spring morphed into summer, and my seasonal allergies ended.
When I wrote about my dry eyes, several readers reached out to tell me they’d also suffered some eye dryness, while a few others told me that Lash Boost had caused their eyelids to become irritated. They offered their own solutions (usually decreased usage), and a few had decided to stop using Lash Boost altogether. While these women seemed disappointed, they also seemed to accept the fact that sometimes much-heralded products fall short for some of us.
I experienced that disappointment myself recently with cult-favorite Vintner’s Daughter Serum, a treatment beloved by many bloggers and beauty editors—but which irritated my skin and triggered a cystic pimple flareup. Back in the 1990s, Sebastian Shaper Plus Hairspray made my neck breakout, and gel manicures leave my nails dry, dull and very brittle. But it’s never occurred to me to sue anyone over these side effects.
I would hope most of us would also dial down or discontinue using something that irritates your skin, eyes, nails, nose, teeth, whatever. I noticed that one of the women in the lawsuit continued to use Lash Boost for eight weeks, despite her discomfort. Not unlike food sensitivities (e.g. cantaloupe makes my tongue fuzzy), we are all wired differently and can have disparate reactions to the same product. The risk of an adverse reaction is a reality with anything you use, from hair dye to sunscreen to eyelash serum (even if they are "natural/green/clean" formulas), and it’s why most products come with a warning label outlining this possibility. Rodan + Fields is no exception, and on their website and on Lash Boost packaging, they clearly state the following: For external use only. Avoid getting in the eye; in the event of direct contact rinse with cool water. If you develop irritation or swelling, discontinue product usage. If irritation is significant or in the first instance of any swelling, consult your physician. If you’re pregnant or nursing, being treated for any eye-related disorder, undergoing cancer treatment, prone to dry eyes or styes, consult your physician before use. If you notice irregularities in appearance of lashes, discontinue use. Keep out of reach of children.
So why did these four women file a lawsuit? According to what I’ve read, it’s to be financially compensated for their reported side effects.
Now, while I am all for consumer education (and I do believe Rodan + Fields consultants could be more forthcoming with info about isopropyl cloprostenate)—and I’m empathetic to these four women (styes do suck), I wish the plaintiffs were advocating for something more helpful to us all. Like asking harder questions, such as: Should the FDA be taking a stricter stand on cosmetic formulas and their claims? I believe so. There are American beauty brands that have to reformulate their products to be sold abroad because their U.S. formulas contain ingredients banned elsewhere. Or, more specifically, should prostaglandin analogs be categorized as drugs? Maybe; they are in Canada.
But the FDA is not currently involved in this case. The plaintiffs are only seeking money as far as I can tell. And it’s probably no coincidence that they filed their lawsuit not long after it was announced that Rodan + Fields earned $1.5 billion in revenue last year, surpassing Neutrogena and Olay to become the number one skincare brand in the U.S.
So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Personally, I plan to continue using my current tube of Lash Boost. My dry eyes have subsided, I use the serum every other night, and I’m happy with my lash length. I also don’t worry that prostaglandin analogs are dangerous, though I think there is a valid argument for classifying them as a drug, especially when using them around the eyes.
However, if using an over-the-counter prostaglandin analog gives you pause, you have some options: Switch to Latisse, which also contains a prostaglandin analog, but which must be administered (and presumably monitored) by a doctor. One savvy reader named Janet wrote to me recently to let me know that her doctor has been writing her an Rx for the generic version of Latisse, and this had translated into considerable savings for her.
You could also switch to a prostaglandin-free product, such as Talika Lipocils Platinum Eyelash Serum, a French formulation.
Or, I have one offbeat suggestion—that I will be testing myself and reviewing for you all soon: Lashify’s new at-home lash extensions. I know it sounds crazy but I’m told they are surprisingly easy (and quick) to apply, they last for about a week, and they can be easily taken off with waterproof makeup remover so inflict minimal damage to existing lashes (unlike professional extensions, which do weaken your natural lashes). Claire Danes just wore them to the Met Gala in New York earlier this week. Her longtime makeup artist (and my friend) Matin Mauwalizada applied them though, so that was a bit of a cheat. I'll be the judge of how easy they are to DIY.
Have an opinion on Lash Boost, the FDA, ingredients in U.S. cosmetic products, or anything else in this post? I’d love to hear it; please write me at email@example.com —or comment below.