Can't Live Without Lash Extensions? Here's How to Avoid Dreaded Eyelash Mites

Eyelash extensions are totally underrated. I got a fresh set of natural-looking lashes just before Christmas, and they completely transformed my beauty routine. Not only did I no longer have to worry about applying mascara every morning, but I also found that I didn't need much more than a thin layer of tinted moisturizer and a touch of blush regardless of where I was heading.

But when I was showing off my lash extensions (read: bragging) to a friend, she freaked out about eyelash lice and mites and demanded I go home immediately and clean them. And that's when I realized I had no idea how to clean my eyelash extensions, let alone what eyelash lice were. So I went straight to the experts — Dr. Sophie Shotter, medical director and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic in Kent; Dr. Michelle Green, cosmetic dermatologist and chief resident in dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City; and Natalie Piper, international training manager at British eyelash extension company Lash Perfect — and asked them to share their insights on all things eyelash extensions hygiene. Read on to see what they said.

How Do You Clean Eyelash Extensions Correctly?
Getty | ICHIRO

How Do You Clean Eyelash Extensions Correctly?

Cleaning your eyelash extensions is easier than you probably think and should be done daily, just as you would your regular lashes. "Not only will your lash extensions look fresher after a daily clean, but they will also last for longer," Piper said. According to Dr. Green, all you need is a gentle cleanser or makeup remover and a cloth. Then you simply wash your falsies in a downward motion over the eyelid and lash line. "Be sure to not rub back and forth, as this can be too abrasive on the eyelash extensions," she warned.

Piper agreed, saying that the cleanser must be oil-free and the cloth should be fiber-free. "Oil can cause adhesive bonds to break down, meaning lash extensions will last for less time than they should, while any wipes/cloths with fibers will get tangled in lash extensions," she explained. Once dry, use a clean mascara wand to ensure the lashes hold their curl and don't form clusters.

Why Is It Important to Clean Your Eyelash Extensions?
Getty | Georgijevic

Why Is It Important to Clean Your Eyelash Extensions?

If you don't clean your eyelash extensions correctly, you are putting yourself at risk of dirt and bacteria buildup. Piper believes this can affect the adhesive bond and ultimately cause your lashes to fall off earlier than expected.

Worse still, Dr. Green said a lack of hygiene can lead to an allergic reaction, or sore, itchy, irritated, red eyes. "It's also common for lice/mites to appear in eyelashes if not cleansed properly," she added.

Wait, What Exactly Are Eyelash Lice?

When people talk about to eyelash lice, they are actually referring to mites, which are known medically as Demodex. "Demodex mites are tiny mites that live around hair follicles," Dr. Shotter explained. "Since eyelash extensions have boomed in popularity, so has a rising problem with Demodex mites living in the eyelashes."

She added that, "True eyelash lice are very uncommon and are normally transferred from the pubic area." Demodex mites, on the other hand, can be found all over your body and are often the cause of rosacea.

So, Are You More Susceptible to Demodex If You Wear Eyelash Extensions?

When you first get your eyelash extensions, you are advised to avoid wetting them for 24 hours. Dr. Shotter pointed out that many people are then afraid to wash them at all, as they are worried the extensions will fall out. "This leads to a buildup of debris and bacteria, the perfect habitat for the Demodex mite," Dr. Shotter said.

However, you're only ever going to be more susceptible to Demodex if you don't practice good hygiene. "The purpose of eyelashes is to catch dirt and debris — keeping it out of the eye," Dr. Green said. "When you wear eyelash extensions, you're more prone to debris getting caught in the lash line; therefore, daily washing is mandatory."

Dr. Green also noted that practicing good hygiene starts at the salon, as Demodex can live on lash applicators and tools and spread. "Make sure you do your research before booking an appointment to make sure this place is 100-percent sanitary," she advised.

How Do You Treat Demodex?

If you experience any eye irritation while wearing eyelash extensions, book an appointment with your local GP or dermatologist so they can diagnose the problem. If you do have Demodex, Dr. Green said they're likely to tell you to apply petroleum jelly to your eyelids and let it sit for two hours, followed by 1-percent permethrin shampoo for 10 minutes. You wash this off, and do this treatment twice a day. If they don't advise this course of treatment, they may prescribe an ointment.

Ultimately, prevention is the best treatment, so keep your lashes clean and, as Dr. Shotter said, "don't be afraid to take a break from extensions every now and then."