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What are eyelash mites and how to get rid of eyelash bugs

It’s estimated that by age 60, 84% of the population will have an overgrowth of eyelash mites.2

Eyelash Mites

Why is there bugs on your eyelashes? – Eyelash mites are microscopic parasites, organisms which thrive off a host. In mammals, they eat skin cells, dirt and oils.1

Are eyelash mites real? Believe it or not, we all have some of these eyelash creatures living in our eyelashes. The eyelash mite, also known as Demodex, is a parasite that can be found living in or around the follicles of the eyelash. For most people, these eyelash mites will be unnoticeable. For others, too many eyelash mites will be the cause of a condition called demodicosis.1

Can you see eyelash mites? Eyelash parasites are too tiny to be seen by the naked eye. In the adult stage, the eyelash parasite is only 0.3 to 0.4 mm in length and requires a skin scraping or biopsy to be accurately diagnosed. When an eyelash mite infestation occurs, the follicles will become blocked, leading to an allergic reaction or inflammation.1

Does Everyone Have Eyelash Mites?

Even healthy individuals will have lash mites, however for some people these mites may multiply in number. When this happens, excess eyelash parasites may cause a variety of symptoms that require treatment. With Demodex mites, eyelashes are just one of the hair follicles that can be affected. These parasites can spread to other skin areas such as the forehead, cheeks, chin, and brows.1,2

The number of eyelash mites in humans increases as we age, with 84% of the population having an overabundance of the parasite at the age of 60. While eyelash mites are not present when we’re born, these mites will pass to newborns through physical contact with parents and other family members.1,2

Too Many Eye Mites: Demodicosis

How do you get eyelash mites? As mentioned previously, we all have eyelash mites. While they generally do not cause symptoms, these parasites can become problematic when an infestation occurs. As well, people with an immune deficiency or a hypersensitivity to the parasite can also develop acute symptoms that require treatment.1

Demodicosis is diagnosed by sampling the eyelashes and counting the number of eyelash mites on each.  A normal count of eyelash mites is below 5 mites per eye. Numbers over 5 mites may be are labeled as a case of demodicosis.3

There are a number of factors that can lead to having too many eyelash mites, which can cause mild to severe symptoms. One of the leading causes of demodicosis is the use of makeup, particularly mascara, that is old and filled with bacteria. Using this dirty makeup allows eyelash mites to spread.1,4

Inadequate daily cleansing of the eye area is another cause of high counts of eyelash mites. Going to bed at night without thoroughly washing off all makeup and buildup of oils may also be a cause of lash parasites.2

Having a dog may increase your risk of getting demodicosis, as animals are also vulnerable to eyelash parasites. A veterinarian can help determine if your pet should be treated for eyelash mites.1

Eyelash Mites Symptoms

For those wondering how to know if you have eyelash mites, symptoms can manifest in the eyelashes as well as around the root of the lashes. Some of the most common eyelash infestation symptoms include itching and eye irritation. It’s also common for affected eyelashes to fall out, the eye lid to become inflamed or users feel as if something is in the eye.5

If left untreated, eyelash mites can spread and manifest as other skin inflammations, such as acne and rosacea.6

A more serious symptom of eyelash mites in infection. Some people may have a tear deficiency if the tear glands become blocked. Other symptoms include a stinging sensation as well as evidence of dandruff around the base of the eyelash. Some people may experience blurred vision. People who have these symptoms are recommended to talk to their health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan.5

How to Get Rid of Eyelash Mites

When kept under control, the eyelash bug can go unnoticed without any obvious symptoms. Eyelash mites’ treatment becomes necessary when symptoms occur that cause discomfort or that interfere with the normal function of the eye.

While there has been increasing research on how to kill eyelash mites, one of the best methods of eyelash mite treatment is tea tree essential oil. Distilled from the leaf of the Melaleuca alternifolia, tea tree essential oil has is effective in reducing and killing the bugs in your eyelashes.7,8 Not only does tea tree essential oil kill the eyelash mite at the root level, it also stimulates the parasite to leave the area.4

Instructions on how to use tea tree oil for eyelash mites are fairly straightforward. Apply 3-4 drops of tea tree oil with a 5% concentration to 1 Tsp. of carrier oil. Use a cotton swab to apply the mixture to the margin of the eye lids, including the roots of the eyelashes. Be sure to avoid getting the oil in your eyes. Close your eyes and gently massage the eyes for three to five minutes. Repeat three times each day, for up to two weeks or until the symptoms of demodicosis have disappeared.8

Other treatments used for getting rid of eyelash mites include: 4,6,9

  1. Use a combined treatment of prescribed antibiotic cream and diluted camphor essential oil.
  2. Apply diluted salvia oil to the eye lids. Salvia oil is extracted from the chia plant.
  3. Apply a diluted concentrate of peppermint essential oil to the eye lids.
  4. Apply a diluted concentrate of sage essential oil to the eye lids.
  5. Wash twice daily with baby shampoo, being sure to wash carefully on the eye lids.
  6. Avoid using mascara and eye makeup until all symptoms disappear.

Preventing Eyelash Bugs

For people who have had eyelash mites, there is a high risk of re-infestation. However, there are some preventive measures users can take to avoid the spread of eyelash mites: 1,4,6

  • Wash the face twice daily with a mild, non-soap cleanser.
  • Apply face cream that contains 5% tea tree oil to the skin around the eyes.
  • Do not use cleansers that are oil-based. Cleansers that contain tea tree oil are a good option.
  • Avoid using oily and greasy makeup.
  • Discard old mascara and other facial makeup, and replace with new.
  • Wash makeup brushes and replace frequently.
  • Exfoliate the face periodically to get rid of dead skin cells.
  • Wash bedding and pillow cases in hot water

Preventative measures should become a diligent part of any skin care routine to reduce the risk of a new infestation of eyelash mites.1,4

Infographic on eyelash mites including eyelash mites symptoms and how to get rid of eyelash mites

Eyelash mites live on healthy individuals, but an infestation may cause problems. Learn how to recognize the top eyelash mites’ symptoms and six steps you can take for at home eyelash mites treatment.

Scientific Research Referenced in this Article

  1. Rather, PA. & Hassan, I. (2014) Human Demodex Mite: The Versatile Mite of Dermatological Importance. Indian J Dermatol. 59(1): 60-66. doi: 4103/0019-5154.123498
  2. Liu, J. & Sheha, H. (2010) Pathogenic role of Demodex mites in blepharitis. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 10(5): 505-510. Retrieved on December 05, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946818/
  3. Tiuseco, KA & Siong, RL. (2012) Petroleum Jelly Versus Tea Tree Oil and Tea Tree Facial Wash Lid Scrub in Patients with Blepharitis Associated with Above-normal Demodex Count. Phillipp J Ophthalmol. 37(2): 73-82. Retrieved on December 05, 2017 from http://paojournal.com/vol37no2/vol36no2/article-list.php?id=4
  4. Gao, YY. & Pascuale, MA. (2005) In vitro and in vivo killing of ocular Demodex by tea tree oil. Br J Ophthalmol. 89(11): 1468-1473. doi: 1136/bjo.2005.072363
  5. Bhandar, V & Reddy, JK. (2014) Blepharitis: Always Remember Demodex. Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol. 21(4): 317-320. doi: 4103/0974-9233.142268
  6. Luo, Y. & Sun, YJ. (2016) Treatment of mites folliculitis with an ornidazole-based sequential therapy: A randomized trial. Medicine. Volume 05 – Issue 27 – p e4173. Retrieved on December 05, 2017 from – View Reference
  7. Tighe, S. & Gao, YY. (2013) Terpinen-4-ol is the Most Active Ingredient of Tea Tree Oil to Kill Demodex Mites. Transl Vis Sci Technol. 2(7): 2. doi: 1167/tvst.2.7.2
  8. Koo, H. & Kim, TH. (2012) Ocular Surface Discomfort and Demodex: Effect of Tea Tree Oil Eyelid Scrub in Demodex Blepharitis. J Korean Med Sci. 27(12): 1574-1579. doi: 3346/jkms.2012.27.12.1574
  9. Sedzikowska, A. & Oseka, M. (2015) Impact of Salvia and Peppermint Oil on the In Vitro Survival of Demodex Mites. J Bacteriol Parasitol. 6: 227. Retrieved on December 05, 2017 from – View Reference