Avoiding mites with eyelash extensions

Aneta Allen has sworn off clumpy mascara and embraced super long, super thick eyelashes. They're extensions, professionally applied by her sister, a certified lash technician.

"It's single lashes that are attached to your lashes," Allen explains.

Aneta Allen has sworn off mascara and embraced eyelash extensions. (FOX 5 Atlanta)

Once they're applied, the synthetic lashes stay on anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks before falling off.

And Allen, an assistant with Eye Consultants of Atlanta, an ophthalmology practice, says she is hooked by how convenient they are.

"I can wake up every day looking fabulous," she says.

Allen is pretty meticulous about caring for her extensions says she has never had a problem with them.

But. her boss, eye surgeon Dr. Michael Roach says eyelash extensions can be problematic for a couple of reasons.

Dr. Michael Roach, an Atlanta ophthalmologist, says failing to regularly clean eyelash extensions can cause build up of mites.

First, he says, some people may react to the adhesive used to apply the lashes.

"I've seen some folks show up with some eyelid irritation, probably from the glue that's used to hold the lashes in place," Dr. Roach says.  "That's an allergic reaction."

The other problem, he says, is a buildup in eyelash mites.

Roach says Demodex are not, as widely reported, lice.

Instead, he says, they are tiny parasitic mites that live in and on our hair follicles and like to eat our dead skin.

"We all, probably all have some Demodex," Dr. Roach says.

He says the mites are usually harmless, and most of us will never even notice them.

But, Dr. Roach says the mites feed on oil and dead skin.

Demodex mite.

So, if you're not regularly cleaning your eyelids, and along your lash line, they can begin to congregate in that area.

"If you have an overabundance, you can have troubles with eyelids swelling, redness, irritation," he says.

So, how can you protect yourself, if you love your extensions?

"Clean your lids, daily,” Dr. Roach says.  “And, warm compresses can help."

Aneta Allen says she cleans her eyelash extensions every day.

Aneta Allen cleans along her lashline at least every, and she combs out her lashes to keep debris from building up along her lash line.

"You want to make sure you're brushing them daily," she says. "Make sure you're brushing them 3 to 4 times a day. Try to keep your fingers out of your eyes."

Dr. Roach recommends diluting some baby shampoo with warm water and using a Q-Tip to gently clean along with the lash line.

"Cleaning without an oily product can be helpful because the mites do seem to feed on oils," he says.