I was reading some interesting – if somewhat disturbing – stuff, and had to share it with my teens. My 15 year old son and 17 year old daughter got the heebie geebies after I…shall I say – enlightened them.
Now, I’m going to share it with you! (Although you might wish that I hadn’t, so I’ll warn you now, you might get the heebie geebies and a desperate feeling to scrub your face after reading this.)
This is a Demodex, a.k.a. the eyelash mite:
Ewwwwwwwww gross, huh? If you’re thinking there’s no way you have them, think again and keep reading.
What are Demodex?
These parasites are microscopic, at about .15mm to .3mm in length. They live in and near the hair follicles and pores of mammals, including those of humans. Their segmented legs and long tails are used to help to burrow into your hair follicles. While there are 65 species of these hideous fellas, only 2 of those species are found living on humans –
These ugly little suckers eat our skin cells, the sebum in our pores and on our faces, and other dirt and waste materials, which is why they are referred to as parasites. They are nocturnal, as they don’t like light, and like to retreat inside hair follicles during the day. Then, they come out onto our faces at night to reproduce! On our faces! (Ewwww) The females lay eggs in our pores and hair follicles.
While you may be inclined to call these wormy looking mites “bugs” or “insects,” they are actually arachnids, which means they are cousins to our lovely friends, spiders. As I mentioned above, they are also considered parasites, but I will get to that later.
Demodex Are Quite Prevalent in Humans
Shockingly, the majority of older research projected that 50% to 60% of adults have these mites, and about 80% to 90% of the more vulnerable, the elderly population, is expected to have them. Only 1/3 of children have Demodex.
However, the most recent research says that almost everyone has Demodex, we all just have different densities, which means some of us have very few mites, while others have exorbitant populations.
How Do You Get Demodex?
You can get them as easily as rubbing against someone else who has them, so you could say they are sort of contagious. You can also get them from your pets, pillowcases, towels, hair brushes, and the little buggers can live up to 50 something hours off of the host, so they are definitely transferable.
Do You Have Demodex?
At this point, you’re wondering if you have them, right? After all, at least 50% of adults have them, and paranoia is kicking in – your eyes, skin, and scalp are starting to get itchy and irritated as you read this, aren’t they.? (It happened to me and my teens, too. You’re not alone!)
Signs & Symptoms
- Red, inflamed eyelids
- Irritated eyelids
- Itchy eyelid eyelashes
- Dry, itchy, or gritty eyes
I know. That list didn’t make us feel any better, either. In fact, it made paranoia kick in even more, in the form of dry, itchy eyes, desperately crying out for us to scrub at them.
If you have acne, rosacea, sebborhoeic dermatitis, blepharitis, dandruff, hair loss, or hair thinning, it could be due to demodex. Most skin issues are the result of not the mites, but rather their fecal waste, or inflammation which occurs due to the passing of the mites in and out of the pores and hair follicles.
Then again, there may not be any symptoms or signs at all. To me, that’s the scariest part.
The best way to find out if you have face mites is to go to a doctor who knows how to test for them. The doc will essentially scrape your skin and then look at the scrapings under a microscope to see if any mites are present.
A Symbiotic Relationship
These miniscule guys can be harmless, and most people live their day-to-day lives not even knowing they have them. In fact, scientists say that our relationship with these parasites is symbiotic, because they are essentially eating the waste and yucky buildup on our faces that we would prefer to get rid of anyway, and, in turn, we are providing them with homes on our faces, albeit involuntarily.
How the eff do we get rid of these nasty things?
If a person has an exorbitant amount of eyelash mites, but no side effects, some docs will elect to leave the mites alone. If, however, you happened to have a dense amount of mites (which, by the way, is called demodicosis) and you were experiencing irritation, infection, or inflammation, or your eyelashes or hair was falling out, a doctor would more than likely elect to treat your problem.
By the way – if you have demodex, people who live with you probably have them, too. Have your pets checked, too.
There are home remedies you can do yourself to treat eyelash mites:
- Wash your face, and especially your eyelids, with no tear baby soap diluted with 50% water. Do this 2 to 3 times per day for 6 weeks.
- Tea tree products will kill eyelash mites. Wash your face with tea tree soaps or shampoos, or you can rub a couple of drops of tea tree essential oil on your lashes – BEWARE! This can burn your eyes, so be careful not to get the oil in your eyes!
- If you think you have mites, stop using your makeup. Throw out any possibly affected makeup!
- Wash your bedsheets and pillowcases thoroughly. Better yet, buy new ones!
A doctor can perform or prescribe treatment, but understand that most demodex treatments are not approved by the FDA. The FDA has approved Ivermectin 1% cream for treating rosacea. It can be applied to your eyelids and lashes daily for up to 52 weeks, but you should see benefits around the 2 week mark.
Macadamia nut oil and 50% tea tree oil was more commonly used before Claridex (terpinon-4-ol), a natural tea tree oil product, became more popular. Before applying either of these, the eyelashes and roots of lashes were debrided aggressively with scrubs. The eggs are eradicated by applying oil to lash roots and along the lashes. I watched a YouTube video of a doctor doing this and it doesn’t look fun – more like painful. But, the patient honestly didn’t look like he was in pain.
Covering the skin around your eyelids and your eyebrows with 5% tea tree oil or cream has been found to reduce these critters, as well.
Dear Makeup Lovers:
Dr. Oz – you know him, originally he was featured on Oprah. Yeah, he said that 50% of Americans have eyelash mites as a result of sleeping in makeup. Makes you want to wash your face extra special now, eh? Hint – you can’t scrub mites away. You can’t mask them away. They won’t rinse away, either, due to their suction like feet.
You have more than likely heard that mascara is a breeding ground for bacteria, or that you shouldn’t share mascara with others. Or, that you should be vigilant in washing your makeup brushes. Now, you know why!
It is important to mention that hygiene, in general, has not been recognized as an indicator for mites. Demodex do tend to love hosts that offer certain environments, such as people with overactive oil glands.
So, there you have it, demodex in a nutshell. Obviously, there’s a whole lot more to these dudes, and you are welcome to do your own research, but I thought it was pretty important I spent some time telling you about them, because you may be suffering side effects of demodex (rosacea, acne, hair loss), and be clueless that they even exist!
Sorry to totally gross you out! 😋😘