Eyelash extensions causing concern for lash mites

Published: Nov. 18, 2019 at 12:41 PM EST
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(11/18/2019) - A popular cosmetic procedure is causing concern for ophthalmologists, who are reporting an increase in a type of eye bacteria.

"They're kind of tough critters to find, but on rare occasions we can see them with a microscope," said Dr. Gary Keoleian at the Michigan Eye Institute.

Some say beauty is pain, but eyelash extensions may be causing more harm than good.

"Generally they're good, you just have to take care of them the right way," Keoleian said.

He said demodex, a near microscopic parasitic organism, is actually something everyone has. While some reports have called it "lash lice," it actually isn't the same kind of critter.

"Lice and then there's lice," Keoleian said. "Really what's being called lice online and on social media right now are actually a form of mite called demodex and that's where the concern is."

Keoleian said lash extensions can be completely fine if done by a licensed esthetician and taken care of properly. But the mites can build up and cause irritation when lashes are neglected and left to collect bacteria.

"Over time, dirt and debris can accumulate. When it accumulates, that's when you start getting into irritation," Keoleian said. "Demodex can infest, bacteria can take root, then you have irritation and you're picking at your lashes and it's a whole cycle."

He said the best treatment is to clean eyelashes and eyelids with a tea tree solution, which is known to kill demodex.

Keoleian also said demodex can be transferred through products like mascara and eye shadow brushes.