What are Eyelash Mites?
Also called demodex, eyelash mites are a group of parasitic mites living near or in mammals’ hair follicles, including humans. Demodex mites have roughly 65 species, but only two have been proven to be a threat to humans. Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis are the only two types that attack humans. They are also called face mites. Eyelash mites are always members of the species Demodex folliculorum.
Follicle mites, the Demodex folliculorum are found generally on hair follicles. The sebaceous glands are home to Demodex brevis. These two species frequent facial areas of the skin. They are most commonly found near your nose, eyebrows, chin, forehead and cheeks, as well as your eyelashes.
According to Discover magazine, demodex mites have also been found on the forearm, chest, groin, nipples, ear canal hair, buttocks and penis.
Facts about Face Mites or Eyelash Mites
Adult eyelash mites are about 0.3 to 0.4mm in length. Demodex brevis mites are a bit shorter. They have elongated, semi-transparent bodies that consist of two segments fused together. They have eight legs, all attached to the front segment of their body.
Eyelash mites’ bodies have a scaly covering, which allows them to attach themselves to the follicles of the eyelashes. Eyelash and face mites feed on sebum and skin cells, too. They may accumulate on the pores of your skin, as well as in your hair follicles, by use of a pin-like, pointed mouth. They are so small that you could have more than 20 mites on ONE single eyelash follicle.
Demodex mites don’t like light. They can leave the hair follicles and crawl on the skin during nighttime hours. Female mites are a bit larger and rounder when compared to the males, and they experience internal fertilization since they do have genital openings.
Mites mate on eyelashes, at the hair follicle openings. They lay their eggs on your eyelash or eyebrow follicles, or in your sebaceous glands. The eggs hatch within four days into six-legged larvae. They grow into adults in just a week! One mite can lay over 24 eggs in just one follicle. Their lifespan is only a few weeks.
Prevalence of Eyelash Mites
Older adults have a greater chance of carrying mites. 1/3 of children and young adults have mites, about 1/2 of adults and roughly 2/3 of the elderly carry these mites. Children have fewer mites because their glands don’t produce as much sebum. It is estimated that roughly 80% of people over 60 years of age have eyelash mites, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Causes of Facial Mites
It would seem that poor hygiene would lead to the prevalence of facial mites. However, scientific studies have shown that there isn’t any relationship between hygiene and mite infestation. It was noted that some hosts are more preferred than others by face mites.
There is a seeming connection between women who use mascara and eyelash mites, however. The same is true of people who generally wear more eye makeup.
In addition, if you have oily skin, you are likely more vulnerable to eyelash mites. This is thought to be due to the fact that the mites feed on sebum.
If you don’t wash your face before going to bed, or sleep with makeup on, you may have an increase chance for face mites, according to Dr. Oz of TV fame. In fact, Consumer Health Digest reports that 50% of Americans with eyelash mites have them as a result of sleeping without removing their eye makeup.
Eyelash Mites (Demodex) Photos
To show you what eyelash mites look like, we’re including two photos here. These pictures were taken with microscopes, since mites are so small.
Symptoms of Eyelash Mites
If your overall immunity is strong, you may not experience symptoms even if you have mites in your eyelashes. People with weakened immune systems (caused by diseases like HIV or leukemia), those who use immunosuppressive drugs or people who experience a lot of stress tend to show more signs of mite infestations. This occurs because they multiply quickly, causing the appearance of observable symptoms.
What are some common eyelash mite symptoms?
If you have eyelash mites, you will experience demodex mite bites that result in itchiness if inflammation of the skin. You will likely feel more itchiness and inflammation in the early morning. This is due to the fact that the mites crawl out of your eyelashes at night, then mate and lay eggs, before crawling back into the follicles at the end of the night.
If you have mites, you may also have rosacea. This is because mites cause inflammatory diseases of the skin, one of which is rosacea, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
As reported in Discover Magazine, the rosacea may be caused by the bacteria in the mites’ feces, rather than just by the mites.
You may also experience blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the eyelids. Common symptoms of this problem include itchy, burning, redden, swollen or crusty eyelids.
People with eyelash mites may also have acne. Eyelashes may fall out due to excess infestation.
Severe face mite infestation can cause skin and eye infection. Many physicians will not initially treat eyelash mites, unless they see some definitive symptoms.
Demodex Mites/Eyelash Mites Treatment
Just from reading this, you may be scratching your eyes, feeling itchy. This is largely psychosomatic, but some people who read this do have these mites. If you think you might have them, your next concern is obviously getting rid of them. Below, we’ll discuss the varied methods used in treating demodex mites in your eyebrows or eyelashes.
- Over the Counter (OTC) Antibiotic Ointment
You can treat eyelash mites with antibiotic ointments. Make sure any product you would like to use has been tested ophthalmologically, so you know it won’t harm your eyes. You can get product recommendations from your physician or ophthalmologist.
You might also try Tobradex tobramycin 0.1% sterile ophthalmic ointment 0.3% dexamethasone. Another useful product is TetraVisc 0.5% tetracaine, just a drop or two.
- Proper Cleansing of your Eyelids
Another effective way of getting rid of eyelash mites is thoroughly and carefully cleaning the eyelids. This includes your eyelid edges, in order that you’re removing the oils, on which the mites feed. You can use tea tree shampoo, baby shampoo or cleansers that ensure thoroughly cleansed eyelids.
You may also use baby soap on your face to wash it two times a day. This helps in keeping human face mites off your facial skin, according to Consumer Health Digest.
- Eyelash Mites Treatment with Lavender Oil
Lavender is an easy DIY remedy that is nearly as effective as OTC demodex treatments. Gently rub or apply the oil to your eyelids, before you go to bed at night.
- Eyelash Mites Treatment with Tea Tree Oil
Another way to kill off mites in your eyelashes is by using tea tree oil. Rub it gently on your eyelashes each night for six weeks to eliminate the mites. This course of DIY treatment was recommended by Dr. Oz. Just be careful that you don’t get any of the oil in your eyes.
When you clean your face, any type of product that contains tea tree oil is helpful in dealing with demodex mites, particularly if you have the type that live in your sebaceous glands.
The Ocular Surface Research & Education Foundation director Scheffer C.G. Tseng, M.D. further supports using tea tree oil to eliminate mite infestations. This medical professional reports that lid scrubs made with tea tree oil help in the eradication of face mites. When used properly, they will kill mites in your lashes, along with the eggs found in your follicles.
Finally, 5% tea tree oil ointment or cream can be applied every day. Cover your skin with it around the eyelid area. This helps in the prevention of mating, along with preventing re-infestation from the areas around the eye.
Eyelash Mites & Mascara – STOP using Eye Makeup
Until the mites in your eyelashes have been killed, don’t use eye makeup. After the mites have been gone for several weeks, dispose of any old makeup and buy new eye makeup, so that you won’t re-contaminate your lashes. Don’t share your eye makeup with anyone else, either.
More Tips: Getting Rid of Eyelash Mites
In addition to the ways we have listed above, to kill off demodex mites in your eyelashes or on your face, we’re including some tips that will help in ensuring that you have completely dealt with the eyelash mite nuisance.
- Be sure that you have your pets checked, since they can get mites, too. Although the ones that attack dogs are a different genus, eyelash mites from humans can be hosted by your pets.
- If you’re married or have someone staying with you, have the other person closely checked for face and eyelash mites. They can move from one person to the next due to their scaly bodies that attach easily to hair strands. They can also be spread through casual contact.
- Try lotions and other products on the market that are specially made for face mites, like Demodex Lotion Eyes n Mites.
- Purchase new bed sheets and pillows, since your mites may hide in them. If you don’t take this step, you can get rid of your eyelash mites only to become re-infected by mites from your sheets.
- Gently rub your eyelids using products like Ocusoft Plus Lid Scrub pads. Allow the product to stay on your eyelids overnight. This has shown positive results by helping to eliminate mites after three to four weeks.
In conclusion, you should know that face mites help to remove harmful oils and dirt from your face. They thus have a somewhat symbiotic relationship with humans. However when they have a high population, they do cause some eyelash mite symptoms we talked about.