The UK Lash Institute

By Miranda Tarpey

I decided to write this post and I’m sorry it’s not for the light-hearted! but I hope you find it helpful!

Do you know the difference between Lash mites and Phthiriasis? 

What Are Lash Mites?    Lash mites (Demodex) are tiny little parasites that live in or around the lash follicle,  they are usually harmless and we cannot see them with the naked eye. They feed from waste, dirt and oil from our follicles.

Anyone can get lash mites and they are usually harmless and cause us no problems, in fact we don’t even notice that they are there, unless we have so many of them that they build up to high levels and cause an infestation, this may then lead to a  blepharitis infection.

What Can Cause An Infestation? Apart from low immune system and some medical conditions, many external products such as makeup, mascara etc. but in our industry it’s the lashes and adhesive that can cause a lash infestation.

How?  Mites come out of the lash follicles at night to mate and lay eggs, if a client has an infestation of mites and we have laid a large platter of yummy food (lash glue) they will feed from this and lay lots of eggs, they will be crawling in and around the follicle causing inflammation to the top eyelid, this may then result in itchy and sore eyelids in the morning when your client opens her eyes. 

What is Blepharitis?

Lash mite infestation may lead to blepharitis, blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, an infestation of lash mites can lead to blepharitis as dirt will trap the lash follicles and cause bacteria leading to infection, blepharitis can be seen as crusty or greasy yellowish in colour, eyes sticking together in the mornings, swollen eyelids, itchy sore and red eyes can be some of the symptoms.

Source: Nhs.co.uk

As lash therapists, we have a responsibility to clean the lashes/eyelid thoroughly before applying lashes, there are some great professional lash shampoos nowadays that are designed for our lashes and brows, please use them for every client to avoid an infestation.

Of course it goes without saying that our clients also need to keep their lashes and lid line clean too! As a contact lens wearer, I love to use a product called Blephagel to keep my eyelids hygienically clean, it’s a gel that doesn’t sting and does not alter the skins pH balance to cause any irritation. 

What is Phthiriasis?

This is a rare eyelash/eyelid infestation, also known as crab lice. Usually they first invade the pubic hair but they can easily be transmitted to the lashes by not washing your hands, they can also be transmitted from towels and bedsheets etc.  

What Do They Look Like?  Adult lice attached themselves to the lash and are almost completely transparent, the nits(eggs) are greyish white shells and attached near the base of the eyelashes. The empty shells remain in place after the lice hatch. You will also see brownish looking dirt near the base of the lashes, I’m sorry to say this and I hope you’re not eating whilst reading this! But the dirt that you can see at the base of the lashes is a mixture of loose faeces (poo poo) and blood following louse bites (they will draw blood from you and release it in their poo). Bites leave a red inflamed area on the lid margins.

Source: Sciencedirect.com
So the lash mites = harmless and live in our lash follicles, our natural body’s sebaceous glands can cause lash mites.
Crab lice = caused by poor hygiene.

How Can We Differentiate The Two?  Lash mites are much smaller than crab lice, crab lice can be 1mm – 1.5mm long, so it may be possible to see the eggs of the lice clinging to the bases of the eyelashes.

Lash mites are not usually seen outside the lash follicle.

Treatment for crab lice? Refer to optometrist or GP

I hope you found this post useful as I have seen some photos circulating of Phthiriasis and thought , lets try to simplify this grey area. 

If your not squeamish here’s a video that shows Phthiriasis close up, don’t watch if its going to give you nightmares!


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