Sick of eyelash extensions? Want to add oomph to your mascara game? The best eyelash serum can help. These formulas, which bridge the gap between makeup and skin care, are designed to boost your natural lashes, leaving them thicker, stronger, fuller, and even darker.

And even if you’re not interested in the aesthetics of it all, they can also be a game changer for when you’re experiencing hair loss or even brittle lashes, which is more common than some might think. “As we age, our lashes undergo a decrease in density and fullness,” says Melanie Palm, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego. “However, a more sudden change resulting in broken or brittle eyelashes can be caused by a variety of factors, including skin conditions like eczema and contact dermatitis, hormonal changes, deficiencies in your diet, autoimmune disorders like alopecia areata, thyroid issues, or chemotherapy.”

However, while many of these factors are beyond your control, the ball is still in your court to some extent—since you could inadvertently be self-sabotaging your efforts for long, healthy lashes. “Mascara, eye-makeup removers, glue from lash extensions and adhesives, chemicals in lash lifts and perms, and chemicals in dyes can be drying and cause brittleness and lash breakage, especially when coupled with mechanical damage from eyelash curlers,” says board-certified ophthalmologist Diane Hilal-Campo, MD, who’s also the founder of Twenty/Twenty Beauty. “The result is short, stumpy, sparse, brittle, and broken lashes.”

The good news is that the best eyelash serums can help offset some of this damage; if, for instance, you can’t quit your falsies, using a lash-conditioning serum as a supplement can help minimize at least some of the damage. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about getting—and maintaining—stronger, longer lashes.

How do eyelash growth serums work?

It largely depends on the type of lash serum you’re working with. In some cases, says Dr. Hilal-Campo, “lash growth serums work by extending the eyelash-growth phase of the eyelash-growth cycle, allowing them to grow longer than they typically would before shedding.” Others work by moisturizing the lashes or fortifying their structure.

What ingredients are in eyelash serums?

They vary depending on whether you’re using a prescription formula or over-the-counter lash serum. “Bimatoprost, a prescription-strength prostaglandin in Latisse, can promote lash growth by extending the hair-growth cycle and can be prescribed by a dermatologist,” says Dr. Palm. Instead of treating the lashes themselves, this targets the hair follicles, effectively starting at the source of lash health—which is why it makes for the best lash serums.

“It was actually originally used as an eye drop to help lower eye pressure in glaucoma patients, and a side effect of this medication was longer and thicker lashes,” says Ashley Brissette, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and founder of eye-care brand Daily Practice. “Now there are a number of lash serums that also contain prostaglandin or prostaglandin analogues that are found over-the-counter.”

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