Eyelash extensions could be crawling with lice, doctor warns

Eyelash extensions may provide the perfect “home” for lice, an optometrist has warned.

Dr Sairah Malik, from Texas, claims more and more women are coming to her with “demodex”.

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This is the medical term for tiny mites that live in the hair follicles. Different from head lice, demodex can be found on the eyelashes, ear canals and even forehead.

A fear of dislodging their extensions means may do not clean their eyes, allowing “lash lice” to flourish, Dr Malik warns.

"Lash lice" may multiply if extensions put people off cleaning their eyes. [Photo: abc7]
"Lash lice" may multiply if extensions put people off cleaning their eyes. [Photo: abc7]

While the thought may make you squirm, most of us have microscopic mites living in our hair follicles.

Healthy people often coexist with these critters, none the wiser they are even there.

Lash lice tend to only become an issue if they are allowed to multiply into large numbers.

READ MORE: Mascara hacks to make your eyelashes look amazing

Most of us subconsciously keep this in check by cleaning our faces morning and night.

Those with lash extensions, however, may be reluctant to touch their eyes out of fear it will “knock” their “falsies”.

“When it comes to eyelash extensions, people are afraid to touch or wash them because they’re afraid the eyelashes will fall out,” Dr Malik told abc7.

What are lash lice?

Demodex feed on either skin or gland cells, depending on the species, DermNet NZ reported.

Invisible to the naked eye, the parasites can only be seen under a microscope.

The mites can trigger symptoms if they reach large numbers or affect someone with a pre-existing skin condition.

According to the National Rosacea Society, mite symptoms are up to 18 times more common in those with the disorder.

People with weak immune systems, like HIV patients or those on chemotherapy, may also suffer.

Symptoms tend to be vague, including redness, sensitive skin and itching.

Some also complain of eczema and pigmentation, as well as lid thickening, loss of lashes and even reduced vision.

READ MORE: The do's and don'ts of eyelash extensions

Left unchecked, the parasites can easily spread from person-to-person via close contact.

“It’s an organism that lives on the hair follicle,” Dr Malik said.

“It’s like heaving head lice, it can be transferred to anyone.”

Large infestations can usually be prevented and treated at home, according to Mayo Clinic.

Like Dr Malik, the Mayo Clinic recommends using a tea tree shampoo on your eyelids every day to keep mite numbers low.

Scientists from the Ocular Surface Center in Miami found an active ingredient in tea tree oil kills lash mites.

DermNet NZ also advises avoiding oil-based cleansers and greasy make-up, as well as exfoliating regularly to remove dead skin cells.

If severe, treatment with the gentle pesticide drugs acaricides may be required.

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