Doctors Warn Pubic Lice (Crabs) Increasingly Found On Eyelashes

The popularity of eyelash extensions and the trendy comeback of beards and mustaches can provide a second home for species of lice that are typically found on humans’ pubic regions.

Doctors are warning that they are seeing an increase in the number of cases of lice found on eyelashes and especially among women who wear eyelash extensions.

Pubic Lice Not The Same As Head Lice

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, there are three different types of lice that live on humans:

Pediculus humanus capitis (head louse),
Pediculus humanus corporis (body louse, clothes louse), and
Pthirus pubis (“crab” louse, pubic louse)

Adult pubic lice are much broader in comparison to head and body lice, measure 1.5-2.0 mm long, and are dorsoventrally-flattened.

The second and third legs have a large modified claw with a thumb-like projection, used for grasping on to hair shafts.

Nymphs resemble the adults but are smaller; there are three nymphal stages in the life cycle of P. pubis.

Adults and nymphs require human blood and are found only on the human host; although they are most commonly found in the pubic and perianal regions, they may also be found on armpit, mustache, and chest hairs.

How Pubic Lice Are Transmitted To Eyelashes And Other Facial Hair

Public Lice (Crabs) human transmission
Public Lice (Crabs) human transmission. Credit: CDC

Pubic lice are transmitted from person to person most-commonly via sexual contact, although fomites (bedding, clothing) may play a minor role in their transmission.

The most common way pubic lice are transferred to eyelashes and facial hair is through oral sex, but transmission can also occur when sharing sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and clothes.

Pubic Lice Symptoms

Itching (“pruritus”) in the pubic and groin area is the most common symptom of pubic lice infestation, according to the CDC.

As with other lice infestations, intense itching leads to scratching which can cause sores and secondary bacterial infection of the skin.

Visible lice eggs (“nits”) or lice crawling or attached to pubic hair, or less commonly other hairy areas of the body (eyelashes, eyebrows, beard, mustache, armpits, chest, back) are other signs of pubic lice infestation.

Special treatment of lice and nits found on eyebrows or eyelashes

If only a few live lice and nits are present, it may be possible to remove these with fingernails or a nit comb, the CDC says.

If additional treatment is needed for lice or nits on the eyelashes, careful application of ophthalmic-grade petrolatum ointment (only available by prescription) to the eyelid margins 2–4 times a day for 10 days is effective.

Regular petrolatum (e.g., Vaseline) should not be used because it can irritate the eyes if applied.