BEDFORD, Ind. — Over and over it’s been said: Necessity is the mother of invention. Well, long eyelashes may not be a necessity, but women spend millions to make them thicker and longer.
With her background in chemistry and interest in business, Megan Cox saw an unmet need, but she didn’t originally plan to turn her idea into a business.
“In Boston, it’s a huge trend to get false eyelash extensions applied,” she said.
The extensions aren’t cheap and can take one to two hours to apply at a salon. Cox, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said she got caught up in the trend of eyelash extensions until she got tired of the time and money she was spending. But there was a downside — she missed those long lashes.
“I was left with little, skimpy lashes,” she said. “I tried some (lash grow) products on the market, but I was not that happy with them. So I decided to develop my own.”
Following a lengthy process of research, testing and developing, Cox, a 2010 graduate of Bedford North Lawrence High School, has created Wink, a hormone-free lash-growing serum.
“All others are hormone based. I wanted an all-natural product,” she said. “Latisse is the No. 1 prescription product for eyelash growth. It uses prostaglandin and can have side effects.”
One side effect is a change in eye pigmentation. Users with blue eyes have had their eyes turn brown.
Cox spent about a year developing Wink, and tested the product on herself for four months.
She then tested it on 12 people. That’s when her MIT education and chemistry background paid off.
“I measured the growth of new lashes and existing lashes,” she said. “I expected this to make lashes longer, but in general it grew more lashes on everybody.”
On average, Wink users grew 60 to 80 new lashes, she said.
“I’ve tested it four or five times,” she said. “I could see growth at two weeks, but you get full results at eight to 10 weeks.”
Cox said poor diet, poor hygiene, pulling and age are reasons why eyelashes become thin.
“The most common reason is people don’t take off their makeup at night, or they pull and tug at them,” she said.
Cox won’t say exactly what ingredients are in Wink, but just that they are all-natural and have produced results. Wink also can help with thinning eyebrows, but Cox said she focused her testing on eyelashes.
Because Wink does not contain any regulated substances or hormones, she did not have to put her product through FDA testing.
“You can voluntarily submit to (testing) and I probably will, but you don’t have to,” she said.
Cox didn’t create Wink with the intention of putting it on the market.
“I made the product for myself, but my boyfriend said, ‘You should market this idea,’ so I cashed in all my savings bonds to start a business,” she said.
Once she had her product dialed in, she enlisted the help of a friend with a background in design to design a bottle and web site. She found a company to make the bottle. In July, Cox officially launched the Wink Natural Cosmetics website, where customers can purchase a two-month supply. Wink comes in a small silver tube. Similar to a felt tip pen, users glide it along the lash line.
When she returns to MIT later this month, she plans to visit salons in the Boston area about carrying Wink.
“I’m really excited for what comes next,” she said. “The dream is to have more products, but the next product is contingent on the success of the first.”