Eyelash extensions have been popular over the past few years, with celebrities and social media fueling the trend. If you use eyelash extensions and have noticed some eye irritation, it could be a buildup of microscopic organisms eating away your skin.
Yes, you read that right: eating away your skin.
Because the tiny organisms can live in eyelash or eyebrow hairs as well as on the scalp, doctors are encouraging those who use eyelash extensions to be careful of the makeup and other chemicals put on or around your eyes, as well as how long they are allowed to be left on.
The organisms should not be confused with head lice — they’re actually hair follicle mites (Demodex), according to Dr. Craig See, an ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute. Lice are parasitic insects that suck blood and are usually the size of a poppy seed. Mites, on the other hand, are microscopic organisms that live on all mammals and feed on dead skin cells.
Washing is an important, and often neglected part of hygiene for people who wear false eyelashes. Optometrist Dr. Sairah Malik says by not cleaning one’s lashes, the bacteria will continue to build up, causing infection and even attracting head lice. Symptoms that would follow include itchiness, redness, and inflammation.
To avoid contracting a Demodex infestation, Dr. Malik recommends “any cleanser that has a diluted form of tea tree oil. And it is a good idea to use it on a daily basis.”
According to a 2015 case study, a patient with eyelash mites was successfully treated with the following three-day procedure:
1. Petroleum jelly was applied thickly to lid twice daily.
2. About two hours after the petroleum jelly application, a 1-percent permethrin shampoo was applied to the eyelid.
3. About 10 minutes after the shampoo was applied, the eyelid was thoroughly washed.
Your doctor can write a prescription for an ophthalmic-grade petrolatum ointment if they feel that this treatment route is the best for you.
Those who use eyelash extensions are encouraged to establish a daily routine of washing around the eyes with warm, soapy water. Dr. Malik adds that it’s also a good idea to give eyelids a break from extensions every now and then.
Before following any suggested treatment, ask your doctor’s advice. Commercial chemicals and shampoos can cause irritation or damage to the eye if not properly administered.