Eyelash extensions have become so popular in recent years, I assume anyone with extremely luscious, long lashes has them. And I get it. With extensions you can skip mascara and save yourself the struggle of trying to figure out falsies. But, like most inventions that are supposed to make life easier, lash extensions come with a few caveats. The adhesive can weaken your actual lashes, causing them to fall out, and you might have buy new makeup and skincare products because certain ingredients break down said adhesive. Oh, and it's possible to get eyelash lice.
ABC 7 News is reporting that optometrists are seeing a rise in eyelash lice among people with eyelash extensions. Also known as Demodex, the lice are organisms that live on the hair follicle, and just like the lice that you can get on your head, it can be transferred from person to person.
So, how the hell do you end up with lice on your eyelashes? It comes down to how extensions limit the products you can use on your eye area. According to ABC 7 News, the doctors say people aren't properly cleaning their extensions, which can lead to bacteria growth and infection. Symptoms can include redness, itchiness, and yes, lice.
While this is a bone-chilling revelation for anyone who currently has extensions or has been considering trying them, how common is getting lice in eyelash extensions, really?
"It’s important to properly and regularly cleanse the area once you get eyelash extensions. This won’t necessarily prevent lice completely, however, it will definitely make it harder for any bacteria to grow," explains Dr. Michele Green, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. "Don’t be afraid if you think that washing your extensions will cause the lashes to fall off – not true! Cleaning your eyelashes on a daily basis helps to prevent buildup of microorganisms."
Along with not properly cleaning your extensions, Dr. Green says that lice can be transferred from the combs, towels and applicators used to apply extensions, so it's important to do your research before picking a salon.
And if for some godforsaken reason you do end up with lice, visit an optometrist — stat. "If you suspect you might have Demodex, it’s best to visit an eye doctor and get an exam with a slit-lamp, a special microscope to view the eyes and eyelids," says Dr. Arian Fartash, OD, a VSP network eye doctor. "Your eye doctor will be able to determine if Demodex is the culprit of your symptoms."
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If Dermodex is what's causing your eye discomfort, Dr. Fartash says your extensions should be removed, and you can use diluted tea tree oil to clean the area.
The bottom line: eyelash lice is a risk that comes with getting extensions, but you can avoid it by properly cleaning the area. Dr. Fartash says to use a cleanser that isn't oil-based to keep the extensions from falling out. "I suggest my patients use an eyelid margin brush with a cleanser to gently remove makeup, debris, and dirt that accumulates throughout the day," she says.