The Gross Reason You Should Never Share Your Mascara

You've likely been warned that you should never share eye makeup. Doing so can lead to the spread of infections like viral conjunctivitis, or pink eye (via University of Rochester Medical Center). But if that wasn't gross enough, there's an even ickier reason not to pass around the mascara wand with friends: eyelash mites.

Eyelash mites are microscopic organisms that are naturally present in hair follicles and feed on dead skin cells around the lashes and eyelids (via Healthline). They are caused by two types of Demodex mites — Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. Demodex folliculorum is more likely to affect the eyelashes. Everyone has eyelash mites in small amounts, but it is still possible for them to spread from person to person through close contact. For example, if someone has an infestation of eyelash mites and you use their mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow brush, or other cosmetics used around the eye, the mites can spread to you.

Are eyelash mites dangerous?

Since eyelash mites are microscopic, they are not visible to the naked eye. You would not know you had an infestation unless symptoms appeared and you received a diagnosis from a doctor. Symptoms of eyelash mite infestation include itchiness, scaly, rough patches and redness around the eyes, and burning sensation in the eyes. Sometimes, eyelash mites can lead to blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelid (via Cleveland Clinic). This can cause crust to form and eyelids may stick together. If left untreated, blepharitis can lead to more serious eye issues, such as corneal problems or infections like chronic conjunctivitis.

An eyelash mite infestation can be treated with a prescription ointment from your dermatologist. Your doctor might also recommend using tea tree oil on the affected area. During episodes of irritation, you should avoid eye makeup and use warm compresses to clean the eyes. If there is a co-occurring or underlying skin condition, your dermatologist can treat this, as well.

To prevent eyelash mites, practicing good hygiene can go a long way. Wash your face twice daily and cleanse the eye area with water only. Never share mascara or other cosmetic tools or products. Remove all eye makeup before you go to sleep and stick to non-oily cosmetic products.