Monsters In Your Make-up Bag

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Eyelash mites?

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.

Eyelashes are the most common site for the eyelash mite. However, there are other areas they inhabit.
Eyelashes are the most common site for the eyelash mite. However, there are other areas they inhabit. | Source
The eyelash mite is microscopic and can both live and reproduce on the lashes of the eyes.
The eyelash mite is microscopic and can both live and reproduce on the lashes of the eyes. | Source
Blepharitis - often caused by too many eyelash mites colonising the eye area.
Blepharitis - often caused by too many eyelash mites colonising the eye area. | Source

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

Conjunctivitis is another condition that may be caused by the eyelash mite.
Conjunctivitis is another condition that may be caused by the eyelash mite. | Source
Wearing too much mascara or not cleaning mascara off properly can entice eyelash mites to inhabit the eye area.
Wearing too much mascara or not cleaning mascara off properly can entice eyelash mites to inhabit the eye area. | Source

Eyelash mites

Before reading this article were you aware of eyelash mites?

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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.

Prevention:

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.

Medical Treatment:

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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Comments 27 comments

marketingskeptic profile image

marketingskeptic 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

Great article! It was really informative even though it gave me the shivers.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Thanks for all this great information, I'm sure a lot of woman will benefit from reading this hub .


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi

marketingsceptic - many thanks for stopping by and your lovely comment - sorry about the shivers!!

Kashnir56 - it will be of benefit to me as well knowing this,so Yes I agree, hope many women will get the benefit and hopefully avoid any possible eye conditions. Many thanks for stopping by and your comment - very welcome.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Not long ago on the local news I saw a report that warned women to avoid trying cosmetic samplers at the makeup counters, including the ritzy, high priced varieties at the malls and upscale couture stores. Every sample tested taken from a large variety of cosmetic counters contained e-coli, staph and herpes virus. Just like the handles on grocery store carts, there must be a large segment of the population that does not comply with CDC recommended handwashing practices. Many of the grocery stores are providing disinfectant wipes and advise wiping down the handles on the carts to avoid contamination. I have always been repulsed by the notion of "trying on" any makeup at the counters or allowing employees to place product on my skin. I see too many shoppers all too eager to swipe their mouths with the sample lipsticks (I've personally witnessed more than one with obvious herpes infection on her lips). I make my choice according to what I see at the counter and ask questions if I need clarification and only purchase a product with the seal intact. Great informative piece.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Amy, Many thanks for stopping by and for your very informative comment. I have to say I am similar to you, I don't touch anything at a sample counter no matter how posh the department store is - even if they supply wipes, I think some of the boxes of wipes have been there for months without being changed. I don't mind perfume testers so much, but lipsticks - absolutely not!! And for loo seats!! I tried not to go if at all possible until I get home - most folks are clean I know, but some of the yucky looking people going into public loos puts me right off! Many thanks again.


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 5 years ago from I'm outta here

WOW now that's important information to know about safe make-up free of eyelash mites... OH MY! Thanks, Katie


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Katiem2,

Many thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. It is interesting about our make-up bags but gross as well. I've already had one major clear out.


suncat profile image

suncat 5 years ago

Thank you. It's something to know about. Well explained and illustrated.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Suncat,

Very nice to hear from you - really appreciate the comment and for stopping by. Many thanks.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

Ewwww!!! I will be sure to clean out my make up bag now. Thanks for the info!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi jeannieinabottle, many thanks for stopping by and for leaving your comment. I know how you feel - sounds really gross doesn't it!!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

Fascinating - and we won't mention the skin mites in bed with us :D Thanks for this informative hub.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi RedElf,

Many thanks for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts. I think the skin mites are worse than the eye ones - yuck!!


ChristineVianello profile image

ChristineVianello 5 years ago from Philadelphia

AHHHHH!!! I feel gross right now.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Christine,

I know exactly how you feel!! I have never looked at a mascara brush the same way since. The good side is I am now very particular with make-up, brushes and bags and so on, hoping to keep the little -------- at bay. Many thanks for stopping by and welcome to the 'if feel gross' bag!LOL


zduckman profile image

zduckman 5 years ago

WOW...great hub...kinda gross...but very informative. Ah the power of essential oils. Ahhhh Im itchy now.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi zduckman - I know what you mean. Fascinating subject but kind of revolting at the same time! Think I've changed my make-up bag at least once since writing this hub but have scrubbed it raw a few times - think I'm maybe paranoid?? Anyway, many thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment - hope the itch is better? LOL


elnavann profile image

elnavann 5 years ago from South Africa

I am so glad that I cant really see them. This is very informative and I will definitely look at my make-up kit differently. I am so lazy though I hardly wear mascara, so that would make the risk a bit lower/


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi elnavann, many thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. I only wear make-up occasionally so I don't feel too threatened either. But I have to say I haven't looked at my mascara brush in quite the same way since I wrote this hub. LOL


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Okaaay...I think I have sufficiently recovered from this news to say thank you. I'm going to drench myself in tea tree oil now. Be back later.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi RTalloni - LOL!!!! You really made me laugh with your great comment! I know what you mean. When I first came across this subject I was so revolted I had to write something about it. My harmless make-up bag now tends to have a very slight sinister tinge to it! I keep looking for things moving about - which is daft cause you can't see them - but this is one big yuck! Wonder what guys would think if they knew that the sexy, slinky lady on his arm has bugs crawling all over her eyes?!! Tee hee!


noorin profile image

noorin 3 years ago from Canada

Ouch and though I don't put much makeup but I still got the shivers and feel like I wanna stay away from my makeup bag for quite some time until Im totally over these pictures. Having said that, its a very informative hub and Im pretty sure we all would rather read about such things and take the precautions for it than have to experience it.

Rated it up :)


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi noorin - LOL!!! I know what you mean. When I researched for this hub I became so paranoid that I went out and bought not only a new make-up bag but new make-up as well. It cost me a small fortune but at least I was fairly confident that I didn't have any ugly little bugs on my mascara brush!!!

Many thanks for the vote!!


noorin profile image

noorin 3 years ago from Canada

@Seeker7 anytime, my pleasure both for reading your hub and for giving me an excuse to go shopping :P


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

LOL!!! You're very welcome!!


stricktlydating profile image

stricktlydating 3 years ago from Australia

Wow that's creepy! I tend to change my makeup quite regularly, as I like it to feel 'fresh' I find makeup doesn't store very well in the warm weather here in Australia... But still the idea of bugs in my makeup bag kind of creeps me out!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi stricktlydating, many thanks for stopping by and yes it is creepy!!! The first time I researched for this hub, I didn't want to go near my make-up bag!!! LOL!! I did end up buying a new one and new make-up cost me a small fortune but I guessed it would be worth it not to have bugs in with my mascara and blusher!

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