Yes, most people have tiny mites living on their eyelashes. These mites are known as Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. They are harmless to humans and are normal inhabitants of human hair follicles. Almost every adult human has Demodex mites on some part of their body.
What are Demodex mites?
Demodex mites are tiny arachnids that live in and around hair follicles. There are two species that live on humans:
- Demodex folliculorum – Lives in hair follicles on the face, especially around the nose and eyelashes
- Demodex brevis – Lives in hair follicles on the body
Demodex mites are elongated in shape and measure about 0.3-0.4 mm long, making them invisible to the naked eye. They eat skin cells and oils inside the pores.
These mites crawl out onto the skin surface at night to mate, then crawl back into pores and hair follicles during the day. Each mite lives about 14-18 days.
How common are eyelash mites?
Eyelash mites (Demodex folliculorum) are very common. Studies have found that:
- Nearly 100% of people over age 70 have eyelash mites
- Between 84-100% of adolescents and adults have eyelash mites
- About 23% of children under age 10 have eyelash mites
So while not everyone has eyelash mites, the vast majority of adults do. Infestation increases with age.
Are eyelash mites harmful?
Eyelash mites are generally harmless. They live in balance with the human body and do not cause any issues in most people. Their presence alone does not indicate any disease.
In rare cases, some people may be allergic to the mites or get an overgrowth, leading to irritation and inflammation:
- Blepharitis – Eyelid inflammation, redness, flaking of skin
- Conjunctivitis – Pink eye, irritation of the clear membrane over the eye
- Stye – Swelling and inflammation of an eyelash follicle
But for most people, eyelash mites remain asymptomatic and unnoticed. Good hygiene can help control their numbers.
How to reduce eyelash mites
While impossible to fully eradicate, you can reduce eyelash mites with proper hygiene:
- Wash your face twice daily with a clean washcloth
- Use tea tree oil wipes on the eyelids and base of lashes
- Avoid sharing towels, pillowcases and other items that contact the face
- Replace makeup and mascara every 3 months
- Remove eye makeup thoroughly before bed
- Keep hair out of your face
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes
Prescription medicated shampoos and creams may also help. Speak to your eye doctor if you think you have an overgrowth of mites.
In summary, most adults have tiny Demodex mites living on their eyelashes and skin. These mites are normal inhabitants of human hair follicles. While their presence alone is harmless, occasionally they can overpopulate and cause irritation. Proper hygiene helps control their numbers. Consult a doctor if you have symptoms like eye inflammation or styes. But otherwise, just assume that these microscopic mites are living on your lashes!