It can be a bit unsettling the first time you hear about lash mites. Having little bugs on your face consuming dead skin can be very unnerving.
The good (and creepy) thing to know that these mites are common and everyone has them and they are completely harmless.
The bad thing about these critters is that in very rare instances, you could get too many of them. In the article below, we’ll go over the signs that may indicate you have too many and what you can do about it!
What are lash mites?
So what exactly are lash mites? The medical term for lash mites (or eyelash mites, if you prefer) is Dremodex folliculorum. They are tiny 8-legged mites that live in the pores and hair follicles on our faces, specifically our eyelids. Thankfully the microscopic parasites are invisible to the naked eye.
Most people have some mites, but they are typically harmless. They consume the oil and dead skin cells, keep lashes clean, and generally go unnoticed.
Before you start to freak out about the possibility of an overpopulation of tiny mites on your lashes, know they are treatable and preventable. The thing to keep in mind is that the number one cause of lash mite overgrowth is poor lash hygiene. They can also be spread through skin contact and/or shared cosmetics.
How do you know if you have them?
In the previous section, I mention that lash loss is a symptom of too many lash mites. Lash loss isn’t the first sign of infestation; most of the time, more minor symptoms occur first.
The infestation of lash mites — officially called demodicosis — has many potential symptoms.
Some of the uncomfortable signs include:
- Itchy or burning eyes
- Crusty lash lines
- Swollen eyelids
- Red, irritated eyes
- Watery eyes
- Disturbed vision (blurry or decreased sight; light sensitivity)
- Exacerbated pre-existing skin conditions around the eyes or on the face
The above symptoms tend to be classified into stages of infestation severity. They range from mild to severe.
Mild Stage of Lash Mites:
There are very few noticeable symptoms if any. At this stage, most people wouldn’t even know they have lash mites.
Medium Stage of Lash Mites:
During the medium stage, symptoms begin to be noticeable enough for people to question their symptoms. It typically starts with itchy eyes, redness, irritation, and/or swelling. Crusty lash lines and yellowish discharge on lashes (especially in the morning) can also be a symptom.
Advanced Stage of Lash Mite:
An advanced case of lash mite infestation goes beyond uncomfortable and has more intense symptoms. It can include scaly, rough patches of skin around your eyes or exacerbated pre-existing skin conditions like rosacea. It also can start impacting your vision. It can cause burning, watery eyes, blurry vision, decreased sight, and light sensitivity. This is also the stage where lash loss typically occurs.
Severe Stage of Lash Mite:
It should be noted that if a lash mite infestation continues to go untreated, it can lead to severe cases. The biggest concern is the chance of permanent damage to your sight. The overpopulation of lash mites can lead to an inflammation of the eyelids (called blepharitis), and that can lead to the inflammation of the cornea, which can cause blindness.
All this to say if you have symptoms seek out a diagnosis and start treatment earlier rather than later.
Do eyelash extensions cause mites?
The short answer is no. Eyelash extensions do not cause lash mites.
However, this topic should still be addressed. This is a common myth and a worry for those getting lash extensions. The fear is real, but the logic isn’t there. It is like asking if getting your nails done gives you nail fungus. It isn’t about the eyelash extensions themselves. It is more about personal hygiene and/or the level of cleanliness of the location you use.
The first thing you should consider is the cleanliness of the location you are getting extensions from; make sure they adhere to proper sanitation standards. It’ll reduce the chance of getting lash mites from improperly cleaned tools.
The second thing to consider is your ability to maintain proper lash hygiene after receiving lash extensions. More specifically, know the adhesive your lash professional plans to use and if you’ll be able to wash and/or clean the extensions. The issue arises when you aren’t allowed to clean the extensions. This leads to poor hygiene, a build-up of oil and bacteria, and the perfect environment for a lash mite infestation.
Not sure how to care for your extensions? Later in the article, I’ll talk about how to prevent lash mites and the important role of lash care in your efforts.
Do lash mites go away on their own?
An overpopulation of lash mites will require treatment. They won’t just go away on their own. That said, you likely can’t get rid of the mites completely. We all have mites naturally. The issue is when there are too many of them; overpopulation causes unpleasant symptoms.
Once you develop symptoms, it is incredibly important to seek treatment as soon as possible. The infestation of lash mites will continue to grow if left untreated, and your symptoms will increase in severity.
Now that we agree that treatment is needed, let’s talk about how to get rid of them.
What can you do to get rid of them?
Let’s start by setting some realistic expectations. The treatment of lash mites is readily available, but it can take some time. To be more specific, it can take up to three months to get a lash mite infestation under control.
The most recommended practice is regularly cleaning your eyes. Twice a day, clean your lashes with warm water and either baby shampoo or a scrub solution.
Eye doctors also recommend cleaning your infected lashes with tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is known for its anti-parasitic qualities and is safe enough to be used on your lashes. They may also prescribe anti-parasitic medicines for certain cases.
Another treatment method is specific to eyelid inflammation (also known as blepharitis). One common recommendation is wiping the eyelid with Cliradex wipes twice a day for up to 10 days. There is a caveat that if the symptoms don’t clear up after those first 10 days, you can use them once a day for the next 10 days (days 11-20). I should mention that Cliradex is considered safe for daily use and works as an eye-makeup remover.
While these are a few common treatment options, they shouldn’t take the place of a doctor’s recommendation. I recommend seeking out an eye care professional for treatment advice specific to your condition.
How do you prevent them?
Now that we’ve discussed what lash mites are and how to treat them, let’s focus on how to avoid lash mites in the first place.
The leading cause of lash mites is poor hygiene; so naturally, the best way to prevent lash mites is good lash care. The best tip to follow: wash your face at night before bed.
Of course, there are some additional considerations to take into consideration if you have eyelash extensions. For extensions, you need to be careful about which products you use to clean your eyes. Your everyday cleansers might cause the adhesive to deteriorate. To be on the safe side, you should clean them regularly with lash shampoo, cleansing wipes, or another product specifically designed for eyelash extensions.
The key is to work with your lash professional to determine the best hygiene routine that keeps your lashes clean while making sure not to harm the adhesive.
If your eyelash extensions can’t tolerate being cleaned, it drastically increases your risk of lash mites. Poor lash cleanliness means extra oil and bacteria build-up — the perfect environment for an infestation.
Ask your stylist if they offer a rubber-toughened adhesive, which is a more flexible glue and one that allows for cleaning. If they don’t offer an adhesive that can be cleaned regularly, consider changing stylists.
Maintaining proper hygiene is necessary to prevent lash mites. This is true regardless of if you rock lash extensions or have natural lashes. The most effective way to prevent lash mites is with regular cleaning.
Now you know what lash mites are, the causes and symptoms of an overpopulation, as well as how to prevent and treat an infestation.
Please let us know your questions in the comments or tell us if you’ve had an experience with lash mites. We would love to hear from you.