There are certain areas where modern science has herbal folk remedies beat. Accelerating eyelash growth is one of them. While looking into natural eyelash growth products, I came across a number of proponents of vitamin E as a treatment for strengthening, thickening, and even lengthening lashes. These people claim that rubbing vitamin E oil into your eyelids and onto your eyelashes at bedtime will help to promote normal lash growth. After researching this method of eyelash enhancement (I didn't want to try it myself for reasons stated below), I came to realize that vitamin E for lashes is decidedly daft.

Science does not support claims that vitamin E can in any way benefit lashes when applied directly. Moreover, there have been reports that topical vitamin E can cause contact dermatitis or other allergic reactions that aggravate the skin. In one study with post-surgery patients, vitamin E did not appear to have any effect on the size, shape, or color of scars. One third of participants experienced complications caused by vitamin E, including dermatitis, irritation, and inflammation at the scar site. An increasing number of cases illustrate that Vitamin E is a potential contact allergen. Considering the sensitivity of the eye area, applying vitamin E oil to the eyelash bed is like playing with fire.

Nonetheless, research verifies that vitamin E shows antioxidant activity and that topical application of E can prevent visible signs of aging by reducing skin inflammation. As the predominant physiologic barrier antioxidant in the stratum corneum, vitamin E protects cell membranes from peroxidation or oxidation reactions. When vitamin E (listed as alpha-tocopheryl acetate) penetrates through the skin's surface to the living cells, a portion is converted to free tocopherol, which is what delivers vital antioxidant effects to the body and restores the defense barrier of the skin. But these same benefits do not translate to the eyelash.

Because of its value as an antioxidant, vitamin E can be useful when taken orally as part of a healthy diet (found in fresh vegetables, vegetable oils, cereals, nuts) or as a supplement. This fat soluble vitamin's benefits include protecting cell membranes from damage, preventing sun damage, increasing vitamin A levels, relieving skin conditions like psoriasis, and nourishing skin and hair. Though it may support the growth of healthy hair, both on the head and the lash line, vitamin E is not a solution for hair loss or stubby lashes. In addition to vitamin E, the other vital nutrients that a person must consume for healthy hair growth include vitamin A, all B vitamins (in particular B-6 and B-12), folic acid, biotin, vitamin C, copper, iron, iodine, zinc, protein, silica, and essential fatty acids.

It would be far more beneficial to get a multi-vitamin supplement containing some of these hair-nourishing ingredients than to waste your time dabbing on potentially irritating vitamin E. I found it near impossible to find qualified testimonials of topical vitamin E users who have succeeded in extending their eyelashes. And don't even get me started on the inanity of people who endorse Vaseline as a treatment for longer lashes. Lacking any trace of nutrients to feed the hair, petroleum jelly simply coats lashes with grease and adds shine. It does not contain a single active component that would result in hair growth. Moreover, it has a high risk of clogging the pores around your eyes, which can cause a sty or lead to hair loss.

On the other hand, there might be hope for those wanting to go the topical route. Marta's experiments with applying prostaglandin-free Folligen to her eyelashes and brows have met with great success. All you need is an old eyeliner brush and a bit of patience to let Folligen's copper peptides do their thing, stimulating the capillaries and triggering the follicles to switch into the hair-growing phase. Alternatively, emu oil (which is packed with essential fatty acids) may be effective on eyelashes as well. A Boston University study reported that emu oil activated 80% of dormant hair follicles into the hair-growing stage. Just make sure to use a sterile applicator and to use precision when spreading these solutions over the lash line so as to avoid not only eye irritation but also unwanted hair, since it is possible for them to stimulate hair growth anywhere they have contact with the skin.