CBS News ran a scary headline in 2016 – Eye Mites: Millions of People Have Them and Don’t Know It. The story went on to explain that eye mites are demodex mites which are microscopic 8-legged parasites that live in and around the hair follicles, thriving on the natural oils that are produced by our skin. The story certainly got a lot of attention and raised public awareness about mites and some of the problems that they can create for our eye health. However it only scratched the surface, provided only a little bit of information, and did not cover the reality that demodex can make you lose your eyelashes!
What Good Are Eyelashes?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology our eyelashes are akin to human whiskers in that they sense when a foreign object is approaching the eye and cause an involuntary or reflexive blink. The curved shape and length help to keep moisture, sweat, dust and other fine particles out of our eyes and assist in retaining moisture by preventing up to 50% of tear evaporation. In this way, our lashes help to keep our eyes healthy, irritant free, and moist.
Not only do eyelashes keep your eyes healthy, they are one of the most recognized markers of human beauty. For centuries women have colored, curled and enhanced these hairs to make them look longer and lusher. False eyelashes, eyelash implants and eyelash extensions are all beauty trends that people embrace world wide. Mascara that promises to curve, thicken and sparkle, flies off the shelves. Having beautiful, long lashes can make you look more feminine, elegant and youthful.
Unfortunately eyelashes can be the site of skin diseases and they can fall out due to the symptoms of those diseases. Eyelashes are small, fine, hairs that grow out of eyelash hair follicles (ELHFs). The eyelash hair has a different growth cycle, is shorter, and may have a different pigment than scalp hair; it also retains color in many cases longer than scalp hair does. The exact biology of ELHFs is just beginning to be understood, but what we do know is enough to protect and enhance the health and beauty of these hairs and support their underlying chemistry and structure.
Alopecia areata (AA) is a disease that causes hair loss and can impact eyelashes and eyebrows, even occasionally impacting just the eyelashes. It is caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicles. (Source). It is only one of the possible causes of the loss of eyelashes. Dermatologists will not usually diagnose AA without first ruling out trichotillomania, a psychiatric disorder in which people are compelled to pull their own eyelashes and other hairs out. Thyroid problems can lead to eyelash loss, as well, and so can cosmetic allergies to mascara and other beauty products applied to the eye area. Sleeping with mascara on can increase the likelihood of infection. Chemotherapy causes most patients undergoing treatment to suffer generalized hair loss. Blepharitis is a disease that directly impacts and irritates the eyelid due to bacterial growth, blocked sebaceous glands or allergies. (Source). Eyelash mites are implicated in more than one of these causes of lash loss.
When there are too many mites living on your skin they can cause complications. This is due to their life cycle of laying eggs inside of the sebaceous glands, dying and expelling their waste, clogging the pores and blocking the skin’s natural ability to shed dead skin cells. (Source) This is what is known as a demodex infestation. It can lead to a host of problems that are uncomfortable and unsightly, including the loss of eyelashes.
In one study it was found that demodex mite infestation in lashes can cause the lashes to become mal-aligned, turn in to touch the cornea (trichiasis) and fall off (madarosis). (Source)
There are a number of ways that mites are known to contribute to eyelash loss. Inflammation can cause the destruction of the hair follicle. It can also alter the hormone metabolism which can disrupt hair growth and it can entirely eliminate the functionality of the hair bulb over time due to continued mite presence. (Source). In blepharitis, the buildup of bacteria has been attributed to mite infestations as well.
Preventing Hair Loss from Mites
One of the best ways to prevent the loss of your eyelashes is to practice good eye hygiene that is targeted at eliminating the buildup of bacteria and oils that could block the hair follicles from producing soft, healthy, hairs. An even better approach is to combine that good hygiene with targeted removal of the demodex mites that contribute to this problem. Cliradex is specially formulated with T4O to both help you protect your natural beauty and keep your eyelashes mite free.