Eyelash mites or Domedox “is a genus of parasitic mites that live in or near hair follicles of mammals” [Wikipedia.org]. There are about 65 different species with only two species known to attack human beings, i.e. the Demodex Brevis and Demodex folliculorum both of which are commonly referred as to face mites. However, eyelash mites only refer to Demodex folliculorum.
The Demodex brevis is normally found in the sebaceous glands while the Demodex folliculorum (follicle mites) is found in hair follicles. Both these two species are commonly found in facial areas near your cheeks, forehead, chin, eyebrows, eyelashes as well as your nose.
However, they can also be found on other body parts i.e. “Demodex has been found in the hairs of the ear canal, nipple, groin, chest, forearm, penis, and butt too” [Discovermagazine.com]
An adult follicle mites are around 0.3–0.4mm long although the Demodex brevis is a little shorter. They have a “semitransparent, elongated body that consists of two fused segments. Eight short, segmented legs are attached to the first body segment” [wikipedia.org].
To be able to attach or anchor themselves to your eyelash hair follicles, their bodies are covered with scales. They often feed on your skin cells and sebum (oils) which often accumulate in your skin pores as well as in hair follicles using their pointed pin-like mouth. Owing their small size don’t be surprised if you have well over 25 mites in one eyelash follicle.
Since they do not like light, they can leave your hair follicle and crawl around your skin at night. The female one is slightly rounder and bigger compared to male and they undergo internal fertilization since they have a genital opening.
Mating happens in the opening of a hair follicle while their eggs are laid on sebaceous glands or in your eyebrow or eyelash hair follicles. It takes 4 days for the eggs to hatch to 6 legged larvae which will grow into an adult mite after 7 days. “A single mite can lay more than two dozen eggs inside one follicle” [Wisegeek.org]. Their lifespan is for several weeks.
2. Their prevalence
According to Wikipedia, ‘older people are much more likely to carry the mites; about a third of children and young adults, half of the adults, and two-thirds of elderly people are estimated to carry the mites.” Since children do not produce much sebum, prevalence rates are lower in this age set. In fact, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “about 80% of people over the age of 60 are affected ”.
If you think hygiene could be the main reason why you have these face mites, you are wrong since scientists have shown no relationship between personal hygiene and their infestation. They have only noted that some hosts are much preferred than others.
However, there seems a connection between these mites and mascara as women who wear a lot of mascara tend to have a higher prevalence. This is the same case for people who wear a lot of eye makeup in general.
Furthermore, people who have oily skins tend to be more vulnerable than those who do not have oily skins. This could be perhaps since they feed on these oils.
Not washing your face before you go to bed or sleeping with your makeup could also be a cause for the increased levels of these parasites. According to Dr. Oz (of The Oprah Show fame), 50% of Americans have eyelash mites as a result of sleeping in eye makeup [Consumerhealthdigest.com]
For individuals with strong immunity, there might be no symptoms while for those who have weakened immunity that might be caused by diseases (such as leukemia, HIV), people with using immunosuppressive drugs or have much stress, they tend to show some signs. This happens as they easily multiply and thus observable symptoms appear. So what are some of their symptoms?
It is normal for doctors to ignore the presence of there unless they can notice some symptoms.
By now, you must be wondering if you too have these worm-like parasites or not. If you suspect to be having them, the next big concern will be how to get rid of them. We are going to discuss the various ways to treat them if you have them on your eyelashes or eyebrows.
1. Proper eyelid cleansing
The first way to get rid of them is to carefully and thoroughly clean your eyelids, including the edges of your eyelids to remove all the oils that they feed on. You can use baby shampoo, tea tree shampoo or any special cleansers to ensure your eyelids are thoroughly cleaned.
Also, you can use “no-tear baby soap to wash your face twice a day” [Consumerhealthdigest.com] as this can ensure you keep human facial mites off your face.
2. Over the counter antibiotic ointments
The second treatment is using antibiotic ointments. However, you need to ensure these ointments are ophthalmologically tested to ensure they do not affect your eyes. A good way is to get a recommendation from an ophthalmologist.
Alternatively, you can try “Tobradex (tobramycin 0.3% and dexamethasone 0.1% sterile ophthalmic suspension and ointment, Alcon)” [Eyeworld.org]. Furthermore, “drop or two of TetraVisc (tetracaine 0.5%, Cynacon/OcuSoft) [healio.com] will be helpful
3. Treatment tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is one simple way to get rid of these parasites. Rub tea tree oil on your eyelashes every night for about six weeks and they will be gone. This is one of the popular treatment options you can try as it was once recommended by Dr. Oz. Tea tree oil is a great way to kill these mites but needs proper use to avoid it getting into your eyes.
Furthermore, when cleaning your face, any product that has tea tree oil will be important in dealing with these parasites especially if you also have the genus that stays in the sebaceous glands.
The use of tea tree oil is further supported by Scheffer C.G. Tseng, M.D., director of the Ocular Surface Center and medical director, Ocular Surface Research & Education Foundation at TissueTech, Miami who notes that “tea tree oil lid scrubs seem to eradicate the mites” [eyeworld.org]. If used well, it can kill the mites on your eyelashes as well as their eggs in your follicles if you can get it there.
Finally, you can “apply 5% tea tree oil cream/ointment daily to cover the skin around the lids to prevent mating and re-infestation from the skin around the eye” [Medscape.com].
4. Use lavender oil
In a similar way you use tea tree oil, you can also use lavender oil. This simple home remedy can work effectively as a Demodex folliculorum treatment. Apply or rub lavender oil on your eyelids every night as you go to sleep.
5. Can you still use mascara and eye makeup?
Stop using your eye makeup until you have fully treated them. When you finally begin using makeup again after they have fully been treated, throw away any makeup you initially had and buy new ones to avoid contamination. Furthermore, ensure you do not share eye makeup.
Besides the above ways to kill Demodex, below are some tips that can ensure you completely deal with this nuisance.
To conclude, you deserve to know that facial mites do help in removing the bad dirt and harmful oils on your face and thus have a symbiotic relationship with human beings. However, when their population is so high, they could cause some of the issues we mentioned earlier.