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Mascara and Eyelash Mites: How to Avoid and Treat Them

Can you get eyelash mites from mascara? Here's how to avoid them. Keep your eyes clean and healthy with our mascara-using and removing tips.

Can Mascara Cause Eyelash Mites?

What nightmarish creature has a scaly, worm-like body with eight short front legs tipped with spiny hairs, sharper, spiky hairs protruding from its eye-like orifices, and an armor-plated head with a mouth that includes a sharp pair of pincers? It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? This creepy creature is known as Demodex Folliculitis, and much as I hate to tell you this, there is an 80 percent chance that you have some of these creatures living in your eyelashes. And that chance is even greater if you wear eye makeup, such as mascara and eyeliner, to make your lashes look longer and eyes more alluring.

Arachnids in the Eyelashes

Human eyelashes are an ideal environment to harbor these microscopic eight-legged arachnids. They survive by eating dead skin cells and the oils produced by the sebaceous glands in our eyelash follicles where they attach themselves. Eyelash mites don’t like the light, so they are active only at night. While you are sleeping, these tiny mites crawl out of the follicles onto your eyelashes to mate. After mating, a female can lay as many as two dozen eggs inside an eyelash follicle. Considering the number of eyelashes we have … that’s a lot of eggs.

As chilling and disgusting as this sounds, it isn’t all the stuff of horror films. According to optometrists, for the most part not only are eyelash mites generally harmless in small numbers, they actually have a symbiotic relationship with their hosts — us. Eyelash mites help to clean the excess oils and dead skin cells from around our lash lines. However, when they grow in numbers beyond the norm and begin an infestation, they can cause many problems.

Unfortunately, the most common cause of eyelash mites becoming problematic stems from the use of eye makeup such as mascara.

Mascara and Mites: Can Eye Makeup Spread Infestations?

Eyelash mites are spread by casual contact, which means that sharing mascara can invite infestation by these pests. According to optometrists, the greatest numbers of patients being treated for Demodex blepharitis, redness and inflammation caused by eyelash mites, are women between ages 25 and 50. The important thing these women have in common is mascara and eyeliner use, and the admission of sometimes sleeping without removing eye makeup, or by incompletely washing it off with soap and water. Because soap is irritating to the eyes, this means that many women who remove eye makeup with soap, don’t thoroughly scrub their eyes, allowing more mites to remain on the lashes than advisable, and giving them more oily eye gunk to feast upon.

What Problems can be Caused by Eyelash Mites?

Here’s where it gets even more disgusting, if that’s possible. Eyelash mites don’t defecate during their lifetime. Instead, they store their feces in cells inside their bodies. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, consider this: When a mite dies, its body disintegrates inside your eyelashes and all the stored waste gets released into your eyes, along with the decaying scales and claws of the mite.

If you have an overgrowth of eyelash mites living in your lashes, you may find that you have itching at the root of your eyelashes, and sometimes red, puffy eyelids, especially in the mornings. You might feel like something is caught in your eye, but you can’t see anything visible in there when you look in the mirror. If your infestation is really serious, you may see white, clear, or yellowish cylindrical crusts at your eyelash roots, or have unexplained eyelash loss.

Some more serious problems related to eyelash mites include chronic dry, itchy eyes, tiny bumps on the eyelids, and infections such as Demodex blepharitis. Some studies have shown a connection between eyelash mites and rosacea and eczema.

how to prevent Eyelash Mites

To prevent an overabundance of eyelash mites, wash your eyelashes gently but thoroughly each night with an oil-based eye makeup remover, or baby shampoo. Never share eye makeup, especially mascara and eyeliner. Liquid eyeliner is especially problematic because it clogs the follicles at the base of your eyelashes.

Washing sheets and pillowcases frequently in hot water can help keep eyelash mites from transferring between bed partners.

While having these microscopic creatures living in your eyelashes are normal and usually harmless, it’s important to keep their numbers in check by thoroughly removing all eye makeup before bed, never sharing eye makeup products, and throwing out mascara that is more than three months old.

If you suspect that you have an infestation of eyelash mites, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Resources— Healthline, BeautyGARDE, Cliradex, Futurism, WeLoveEyes