Have you ever heard of demodex? If not, you’re in for a surprise. Nearly every single person has small mites living on the skin of their eyelids. This is just a fact of being human, just like we have millions of bacteria covering our skin. Unfortunately, the infestation of these mites can cause inflammation and can wreak havoc on your eyes and skin if they’re left unchecked.
When demodex parasites nest in the eyelash follicles of your eyelids, they initiate an inflammatory response that leads to pluggedmeibomian glands and meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD. MGD is also known as posterior blepharitis and is also closely associated with anterior blepharitis. This occurs when bacteria builds up around the eyelashes. Blepharitis is an extremely common condition that affects 30 million Americans!
Since demodex can contribute to eye conditions such as blepharitis, the symptoms are often very similar. With both MGD and anterior blepharitis, you would notice red, painful, irritated eyes and may often notice crustiness around the eyelashes and on the eyelids. These symptoms, along with burning of the eyes and blurred vision, often mean dry eye disease, MGD, and/or anterior blepharitis. MGD and anterior blepharitis cause evaporative dry eye, because the glands become unable to produce the proper oils needed to prevent evaporation of the tear film. Therefore, the tear film evaporates more quickly, and dry eyes are the result.
So what can you do about this? While there are many products that claim to decrease blepharitis and MGD, having a proper eyelid hygiene regimen is key to keeping the mites under control, and therefore keeping your symptoms at bay.
One of the most important points to make is that removal of eye makeup at the end of the day is essential. Using an oil-based eye makeup remover (bonus points if it contains tea tree essential oil) is preferable because oil dissolves oil and these work well to ensure that you’re completely removing all makeup remnants. Next, wash your face with a tea tree oil soap, such as Heyedrate Foaming Tea Tree Soap. This product is 100% plant based and contains a nourishing liquid soap along with 19 soothing plant botanicals and extracts. It’s gentle on your skin, even if you’re sensitive to tea tree oil in other products.
Now is a great time to discuss the benefits of tea tree essential oil in the treatment of eye and skin conditions. Tea tree is known to kill demodex eyelash mites, and it’s a great anti-inflammatory substance that has antimicrobial properties that may be incredibly beneficial for those suffering from skin conditions. Tea tree works to calm the skin by calming inflammation and allowing you to heal.Click here to read more about the benefits of tea tree essential oil.
The next piece of the puzzle is hypochlorous acid. We recommend Heyedrate Lid and Lash Cleanser used twice per day. After thoroughly removing your makeup and washing your face, apply the solution by simply spraying your closed eyelids. Rub it in, and then let it dry. There’s no need to rinse it off! Alternatively, you can use a cotton ball or round for application if you prefer more friction. Hypochlorous acid actually works to kill all of the bacteria that demodex feed on. It is naturally made in our own bodies, so it’s as natural and organic as it comes. Studies show that hypochlorous acid properly kills the bacteria responsible for evaporative dry eye, and gets rid of demodex mites without causing irritation. We love this spray for all ages and all people, whether you know you’re suffering from irritated eyes or not.
If you want to go a little more aggressive, you can try the MediViz Eyelid Wipes with Tea Tree Oil. This product is amazing for fighting demodex because it contains tea tree oil and can be used safely around the eyes without causing irritation. Simply remove a pre-moistened wipe from its package, close your eyes, and use a gentle sweeping motion to clean the eyelids and lashes. Concentrate the wipe at the base of the eyelashes where demodex like to live. There's no need to rinse this formula off.
After you’ve taken care of your facial and eyelid hygiene, you’ll want to move onto taking care of the skin on the rest of your body. Our Heyedrate Tea Tree Bar Soap is great for this! We keep this in the shower and use it all over, every single day (Dr. Travis even uses it in his hair to fight flakes and irritation). This product contains only five ingredients: organic green tea, organic olive oil, organic coconut oil, raw shea butter, and tea tree essential oil. You can also use this in place of the foaming face wash mentioned above. It contains more tea tree oil but none of the extra essential oils present in the foam.
There are two types of demodex that live on humans: Demodex brevis and demodex folliculorum. Demodex folliculorum live in the hair follicles while demodex brevis live in the sebaceous glands (and the meibomian glands are sebaceous glands). Since we have both hair follicles and glands in our eyelids, this is the perfect place for these little buggers to hide out.
Both forms of demodex feed on oil, bacteria, and dead skin that our bodies produce, and they lay eggs and replicate rather quickly. While demodex are present on nearly everyone, even if in small quantities, they can become a problem. If they are allowed to become overpopulated, demodex can cause inflammation of the skin and eyelids, leading to red, irritated, uncomfortable eyes and skin. It is thought that demodex may be closely linked with rosacea, ocular rosacea, and evaporative dry eye, and we see this time and time again.
Those at risk for ocular and skin problems due to demodex include the elderly, those who are immunocompromised, and those who have other inflammatory conditions. However, if you don’t fall into this category, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be affected. Each person has a different level of tolerance, so that plays a role as well.
If you find yourself dealing with demodex, all hope is not lost. Follow the above recommendations at home, and discuss other options with your doctor if you feel you’re not achieving the results you’re looking for.
Dr. Jenna Zigler