If you use eyelash extensions and suffer from eye irritation, a buildup of microscopic organisms may be eating your skin.
media reports have labeled these creatures eyelash lice, but doctors tell USA TODAY that they’re actually mites. And while mites live on all animals, eyelash extensions create risk for an irritating buildup of the tiny creatures.
Preventing the itching, redness and other symptoms associated with a mite buildup is simple: Establish a daily routine of washing around the eyes with warm, soapy water.
Washing is an important — often neglected — part of hygiene for people who wear false eyelashes. But the reports of a rise of eyelash lice are incorrect, doctors say.
Eyelash lice vs. mites
Dr. Gregory J. Nixon, Associate Dean for Clinical Services at the Ohio State University College of Optometry, say people are confusing the medical term demodex for lice, when they’re actually mites.
He adds that the confusion between the two organisms is problematic because it’s a very important distinction.
Lice are a parasites that suck blood and are usually the size of a poppy seed, according to Dr. Craig See, an ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute. They can usually be seen by the naked eye, he said.
Mites, on the other hand, are microscopic organisms that that live on all mammals, See said. They don’t suck blood, but instead eat dead skin cells.
Lice can be transferred from one person to another, but Nixon doubts that they can be transmitted through fake eyelashes or eyelash extensions.
“Eyelash extensions are synthetic, it’s not natural,” he said. “The extensions are not transmitting anything or serving as a vector for people to get infected.”
See says that if lice were somehow transferred to the eyelashes, one would be able to see them. Lice cause irritation and require immediate treatment.
Nixon says mites don’t normally cause any issues. However, problems can arise if a buildup of mites is concentrated around the eye.
What can I do to prevent a buildup?
Nixon says this is a common issue among people who practice poor hygiene and don’t wash around their eyes. A buildup of mites can cause itching, irritation, redness, scaling and flaking.