Monsters In Your Make-up Bag
The last place on earth you would expect to find bugs is in your pristine - or like me, messy, make-up bag. Nevertheless our beauty products are probably packed with a bug called Demodex folliculorum. The more common name for this creature is the eyelash mite.
How do eyelash mites survive?
The mite can live in various places such as the eye lashes, eyebrows, nose, outer ear canal, face and forehead.
If you have very oily skin, you may be more of a temptation for the mites. In addition, people who wear very heavy make-up regularly and don't cleanse their skin properly are viewed are an attraction for these microscopic creatures.
However, most adults, whatever the skin type, do carry one or two of the mites somewhere.
The mites tend to be more active at night and look like something from a sci-fi movie.
They have a worm-like body with stumpy legs. Their skin is white and scaly. They have tiny claws with which they hang on, while they bury themselves head first into the skin. Dead skin cells are eaten by using needle-like protrusions from their mouths.
However, they also enjoy lapping up sebaceous gland excretions. The female tends to favour the hair follicles for laying her eggs and this is where the babies hatch.
The good news is that the mites don't have an anus, so they don't dump droppings onto your eyelashes etc.
The bad news is that there are not a lot of remedies to solve the problem. Some tips suggest cleansing and exfoliation. Others recommend that tea-tree oil based products are good for getting rid of the mites.
Scientists have shown that these mites are not only harmless - unless you have an army of them - but they may also do a great job of keeping the eye area clean from old skin cells and other debris.
On the down side, if there are too many mites fighting over one follicle this could cause itching and/or redness.
More seriously they may possibly cause skin infections - although this has not been absolutely verified.
What research data does show is that in the cases identified below there are an increased number of mites found on the patient. These inflammatory disorders are:
- Pityriasis folliculorum - rough, dry scaly skin
- Conjunctivitis - inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye
- Blepharitis - inflammation of the eyelid margins
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Why do we have to worry about our make-up bags?
So what has all this got to do with your make-up bag? Well as it happens research shows that when the mites find their way into clumps of mascara, they are literally as 'snug as a bug'.
In addition damp make-up sponges, as well as your mascara wand, are also favourite habitations. Basically anything that has eyelashes or skin debris of some sort clinging to it will attract the mites.
However, instead of having a frantic search for anything gross crawling around your beauty kit, don’t waste your time. You won’t be able to see them.
The most practical thing to do is maintain simple hygiene. This will not get rid of the mites but it will keep their numbers down to a level where they are doing a good job not a harmful one.
As mentioned earlier, prevention methods do help to keep the mites from over populating your skin and hair follicles around the eyes. Some basic measures you can take are:
- Avoid wearing heavy make-up daily.
- Washing your face and using a gentle cleanser can help.
- If you have very dry skin, in addition to cleansing, use a moisturiser daily. Alternatively if you have oily skin, then using a cleansing technique that reduces the amount of sebum (skin oil) sitting on the surface of your skin.
- Tea-tree oil has shown to be particularly beneficial in keeping mite numbers down. Using tea-tree oil in a cleanser or soap is effective.
- Exfoliating the skin also helps to keep numbers in check by reducing the amount of debris on the skin surface.
- One tip is to use diluted baby shampoo dipped in cotton wool to cleanse your eyes - keep your eyes closed while doing this even although they are a 'no tears' recipe. Using any shampoo directly into the eye will not only cause irritation and dryness, but could cause more serious eye conditions to develop.
- Clean out your make-up bag on a regular basis, discarding any make-up that is dried up or you no longer use. It is quite a good idea to also clean the inside of the bag with mild detergent on a regular basis.
There are medical treatments available for people who have developed a severe infestation of the mites.
Normally this will involve the use of ointments that kill the mites and their eggs. In addition, anti-biotics will be prescribed if blepharitis or another infection is present. On occasion steroid treatment is also required.
Having these tiny mites is a fact of life. As scientists suggest, getting rid of them entirely is not possible and in low numbers are probably beneficial. In addition, would we really want to get rid of them all? Isn't it a case of better the devil you know?
In other words what other 'monsters' would move into our make-up bag if Demodex folliculorum was not there? Sweet dreams.
© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell
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