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What are Eyelash Mites?

Nicole Madison
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Eyelash mites are tiny mites that are typically described as parasitic and take up residence in a person’s pores and hair follicles. They are typically found in the pores and follicles of the face, especially in such areas as the nose, forehead, and the eyelashes; they may also be found on a person’s cheeks or chin. Scientifically referred to as Demodex folliculitis, eyelash mites slightly resemble worms but have very short legs, claws, and sharp mouth parts. Humans usually do not notice them, and low infestations are unlikely to cause health issues. Sometimes, however, a person with numerous mites may develop an infection or inflammation.

Eyelash mites are described as worm-like mites that live on and feed off of a host. These mites have claws and pointy mouths that facilitate feeding on secretions. They take up residence in a person’s hair follicles, in a face-down position, and eat dead skin and oily deposits. Sometimes, more than one eyelash mite buries itself inside a single hair follicle or pore. If too many bury themselves in a single follicle, however, they may cause the corresponding eyelash to fall out.

When this type of mite reproduces, it lays eggs in a hair follicle or pore. A single mite can lay more than two dozen eggs inside one follicle. The eyelash mites grow inside the follicle, though they are crowded together until they reach maturity. Once they reach maturity, the eyelash mites move out of the follicle and mate with other eyelash mites. At that point, they travel to other follicles, and the females lay new eggs; the cycle from birth to laying new eggs usually takes about a couple of weeks.

Scientists believe most people have eyelash mites, and having them has nothing to do with cleanliness. The mites do find some hosts more hospitable than others, however. For example, women who wear a good deal of eye makeup and people with oily skin may be more prone to them than others or deal with larger populations of them on their bodies. Elderly people and those with weakened immune systems may be more prone to high eyelash mite populations as well.

High numbers of eyelash mites can cause irritation and inflammation of a person’s skin. When this happens, a person is said to have a skin condition called demodicosis. Severe infestations of these mites may also lead to infections of the eyes or skin.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a All Things Nature writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

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Discussion Comments
By anon354048 — On Nov 05, 2013

These demodex mites can invade your skin - leaving horrible lesions - invade your nose, ears, cause blepharitis of your eyes and even private areas. The Western doctors don't know how to treat it. I am going to try a Chinese doctor. Apparently they have more ideas and treatments. My mother had these as her immune system was shot and I picked them up from her. I have had them six months now and have tried every conceivable thing including tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil to no avail. It's been hell on earth!

By bluespirit — On Dec 05, 2011

I tried treatments for the allergic reaction to poison ivy, but none worked at all. After a week, I could not endure the pain and itchiness any longer. So I went to the doctor, and he informed me I had scabies.

I had to get a prescription topical medicine that I had to apply to my whole body, which I had to leave on for an hour, shower, then repeat a couple more times. I also had to wash everything in my house and I sprayed almost everything with this high-powered chemical cleaner to kill most everything, including mites.

Luckily, after a few days some of the mites seemed to die, as my skin somewhat cleared up, and post two weeks of putting on the topical treatment, I was completely cured and the mites were destroyed, thank God!

The moral of this story is, if someone has a suspicious skin condition and/or lives in unclean quarters, do not touch them and/or spend the night at their house.

Also, if you see something on yourself or someone else you know that has what looks to be poison ivy, with similar symptoms too, you need to go to the doctor, and tell your friend they should go to the doctor if they can not cure it themselves.

Trust me, you do not want to even take a chance of getting scabies, it is one of the most horrific and worst memories of my life so far, and I have not had the best life.

By Saraq90 — On Dec 04, 2011

Unfortunately, I have experienced the type of skin mites that are harmful, dangerous, and painful. I don't remember the scientific, formal name for them, but their informal, non-scientific name is scabies.

Scabies are mites that burrow into your skin and leave eggs that hatch in less than two weeks. When burrowing in your skin, they sometimes can make their path so distinct and painful, that not only can you feel them move around, but sometimes even see like little tiny red pencil like lines, which indicates the path they took to their final burrowing spot.

The reason I got scabies is from staying over at a friend's place, who lets just say was not the cleanest of people. But I did not know this until I went over to their apartment to stay the night, and then I felt obligated to stay. I did not know about scabies back then, so I just thought the worst stuff I may have to deal with were cock roaches and/or mice, which is probably why I barely slept that night.

Let me just tell you, when you have mites in and/or on your body that are harmful and/or are not meant to be there, you will usually know. It takes a couple weeks for you to become allergic to the mites, but once you do it is a non-stop battle of scratching versus not scratching.

Your skin constantly feels like it is crawling, and well, it is. Your skin can also feel on fire. You also can and usually will get red rashes and/or small red bumps above the infected area. My red bumps looked a lot like an allergic reaction to poison ivy, and felt a whole lot as irritated and itchy as the allergic reaction produced from poison ivy.

By geekish — On Dec 04, 2011

After reading this article about eyelash mites, it makes me feel even better that I rarely put on make-up, even eye makeup. I know that these mites are harmless, except in rare circumstances, but I still feel better knowing I may have less of them since I rarely use mascara and/or eye shadow.

I luckily do not have a fancy job, so I can wear casual clothes and no make-up without worrying about making a bad impression or getting fired for not looking a certain way.

Any kind of mites seem disgusting. I can not believe we have microscopic bugs and mites crawling on and/or in our skin and/or our hair follicles. Might I add a big eww!

I try, for the most part, just to not think about these eyelash mites and other microscopic bugs being on/inside my body. As the old saying goes, "out of sight, out of mind", which in a lot of cases rings quite true, especially in this case.

I am sure if we saw these mites and bugs on/in us, we would not only lose our mind, but also our meals as well.

By Speechie — On Dec 03, 2011

I did not know about eyelash mites until reading this article. It does sound disgusting, but as I read more information about it it really does not seem like something any of us should be concerned about unless we have a major infestation of them, in which case the skin around our eye will scale.

It sounds like unless the skin around our eye(s) starts becoming irritated and/or scaly, we really should not worry about these skin mites, as we have skin mites and other bugs crawling and burrowing around on a daily basis, no matter how clean we are.

I am by no means saying do not be hygienic, but I am saying that there is a point of excessive cleaning that could lead to its own set of problems. For instance, we could clean our skin so much we could rub our skin raw, making it flaky, dry, and may even make it more susceptible to infections.

Most doctors will inform you that besides usually general hygiene techniques, like removing make-up before sleep each night, washing sheets and pillowcases frequently, and washing your face on a regular basis, that there is nothing else you can do.

These eyelash mites are harmless mites that most everyone has, unless a rare and extreme case presents itself, which will be followed by symptoms like skin rash/irritation, so that will be your signal to go to the doctor and clean your eyelashes and surrounding areas regularly.

By SarahSon — On Dec 03, 2011

I remember hearing about eyelash mites when I was watching the Dr. Oz show. He said that many people attribute losing their eyelashes to aging, but many times it is because of these mites.

He recommended using tea tree oil as a natural remedy for these mites. Rub some tea tree oil on your eyelashes every night before going to bed. This is something that you should do for 4-6 weeks to get the best results.

I knew tea tree oil was good for many things, but had no idea it would work for something like this.

From what I have been reading, it sounds like mascara could be the biggest culprit of these mites. From now on I am going to make sure I use a quality mascara and make sure I remove it every night.

It also might be a good idea to skip wearing this a few days a week. I am thinking the weekends might be a good time to try this out.

By bagley79 — On Dec 02, 2011

When I first saw this article, I thought it would be about eyelash mites in dogs or animals. I have never heard of this in humans and it sounds pretty gross.

The fact that you can see them with the naked eye is even more disturbing. If you get an eyelash in your eye, does that also mean you have the possibility of having mites inside your eye?

I am diligent about taking off my eye makeup and washing all the makeup off my face at night, but it sounds like that might even be enough to keep these mites away.

I am also wondering if wearing high quality eye makeup would make a difference. You can get some name brand eye makeup at dollar stores, but it sounds like this might not be such a good idea.

By bear78 — On Dec 02, 2011

@Sara007-- Yes, I've seen them! I agree with you, it's pretty scary. I also saw an image where several were embedded in one hair follicle. Every time I have an eyelash fall out now, I'm going to wonder if there are lash mites there.

I also read that eyelash mites love makeup products and there might be thousands of them living in there! No wonder experts keep telling us to change mascaras every three months!

I don't know about eyelash tinting but since lash mites live on areas other than the lashes, I don't think it would be too effective.

When I looked up demodex solutions, the one I liked the most was the hot water and baby shampoo treatment. Apparently, putting a drop of baby shampoo in hot water and then using a sterile cotton ball to rinse the eyes and eyelashes with this is really beneficial. I'm going to try it tonight!

By SteamLouis — On Dec 01, 2011

@anamur-- Yea, they are too small to see with the naked eye. I think washing your face often, renewing makeup products after some time and changing your pillowcase often helps prevent eyelash and face mites from multiplying into huge numbers.

But for the most part, these are natural organisms that don't harm us. We don't need to get rid of them entirely. I think they might even be beneficial in small numbers because they eat the excess oil and dead skin cells. I mean we have thousands of dust mites doing that for us all the time.

Nature has a balance to it and getting rid of mites entirely would probably mess up that cycle. I just pay attention to hygiene and ignore that they're there!

By Sara007 — On Nov 30, 2011

Has anyone ever seen any eyelash mites pictures? They are pretty scary looking.

My kid is currently doing a science project and he picked demodex folliculorum for his topic. I think it is going to be a good presentation but it is quite eye opening to realize how many kinds of skin mites are currently living on us. I think his science teacher was just trying to get a rise out of the parents.

I wonder if something like eyelash tinting would kill eyelash mites? The process uses a pretty powerful chemical, so it would be interesting to know whether or not that would do them in.

By serenesurface — On Nov 29, 2011

This is unbelievable! I had heard of dust mites before, but never eyelash mites!

How can we know whether we have eyelash mites or not? Are they too small to see with the naked eye?

I have oily skin and also wear makeup, so I'm scared that I might have skin mites and eyelash mites. It's so scary! But I also cleanse and wash my face regularly, isn't this enough to get rid of eyelash mites?

What's the best way to get rid of them and prevent them from coming back?

By lonelygod — On Nov 29, 2011

@manykitties2 - I wouldn't worry about eyelash mites unless you are experiencing a lot of itching around your eye area. A lot of stuff on us is totally natural, so unless it is genuinely bothering you, just relax.

If you are having a problem with eyelash growth or find that your eyelash extensions are causing problems, try washing your face with a mix of tea tree oil and Macadamia nut oil. Just apply it to your eyelashes with a cotton ball.

Be careful not to get the oil in your eyes though, as it will sting. Just give your eyelashes a good scrub. Also, make sure you replace your makeup on a regular basis and change your pillows.

By manykitties2 — On Nov 28, 2011

I must say that I am thoroughly horrified by the idea of eyelash mites. I really need to stop randomly clicking on things. I wonder if false eyelashes make this kind of infestation worse? Also, what can be done as an eyelash mites treatment?

I don't know if I have eyelash mites, but the idea is pretty disturbing. I am sure they are harmless, but it doesn't really make me feel any better. I suppose there are all sorts of things living on us that we don't know about. I hope there is an easy solution to keeping eyelash mites at bay.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a All Things Nature writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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