What are Demodex Mites

Demodex mites are tiny mites that live within hair follicles and are found in all adults over the age of 18. There are two species of the mite: D. Brevis, and D. folliculorum. D. Brevis inhabit the sebaceous glands of the skin, and D. folliculorum are found on the eyelids within the meibomian glands, and in the hair follicles on the face. Demodex mites only require medical attention when they are found in large amounts or intensify skin conditions such as rosacea.

Demodex mites are unable to expel feces from the body because they do not have an anus; therefore, everything they consume stays in the body, and this kills them within two weeks. They have an aversion to light and will scout for female mites to mate with during the night. When the males go searching, you may feel them crawling over the skin. After the mating session, the females lay eggs, a lot of mites in one pore causes them to stretch making them more visible.

Demodex mites feed off yeast, hormones, and sebum; they also eat elastin and collagen which cause excess wrinkles on the skin. They consume the good nutrition required by the hair for healthy growth causing them to become weak and lifeless over time.

Signs Demodex Mites are Dying

Apart from the obvious physical symptoms of Demodex mites, one of the most aggravating features of the condition is the unnerving feeling of crawling over the skin and on the top of the head. One of the first symptoms of Demodex mites dying is the disappearance of this crawling sensation.

This is experienced by patients who use scalp detox products to treat the condition. The burning, redness, eczema, itchy, scaly and sensitive skin will clear up as the mites are eradicated from the skin.

Another thing to note here is that a large number of dying mites in the follicles or glands may increase bacterial antigen load, triggering inflammatory responses in patients. This is why some patients experience worsening of the symptoms before the mite infestation completely subsides.

Life Cycle Of Demodex Mites

The life cycle of these mites spans between 14 and 18 days – from the egg to the larva and then finally to the adult stage. Since this is a relatively short life cycle, successful copulation is crucial to the survival and thriving of Demodex mites.

So, to successfully eradicate this infestation, it is essential not just to kill these mites, but also prevent them from copulating.

How do Demodex Mites Multiply?

Several factors contribute to the overpopulation of Demodex mites; these include the following:

  • Hair products
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • A weak immune system

Who is Most Susceptible to Demodex Mites?

Infestation is most common in males; age is also a major contributing factor. People between the ages of 20-30 are most likely to carry the mites as well as those with the following conditions:

  • Dermatitis
  • Alopecia
  • HIV
  • Inflammatory acne
  • Rosacea
  • Skin infections

What are the Symptoms of Demodex Mites?

Demodex mites are undetectable with the natural eye; they do not cause symptoms when they are in small numbers, but in large numbers, the bacteria in the feces triggers a reaction on the skin. The symptoms are as follows:

  • Extreme redness
  • Burning sensation
  • A rough sandpaper texture on the skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Scaly or itchy skin

The Causes of Demodex Mites

There are no causes for Demodex mites as they occur naturally on the skin; however, they are contagious and are transferred through skin to skin contact. Research suggests that d. folliculorum may be the cause of rosacea; according to the National Rosacea foundation, patients with the condition have got 18 times more Demodex mites than those who do not suffer from rosacea.

How are Demodex Mites Diagnosed?

Unless a person is experiencing complications or symptoms, it is not necessary to get tested for mites. If you are experiencing symptoms, book an appointment with your doctor, they will ask about any symptoms you may be experiencing and will take a tissue sample from your face or eyelashes, the skin biopsy is then examined under a microscope to determine the presence of Demodex mites.

Demodicosis is diagnosed if the examination detects a high number of mites on the skin.

How are Demodex Mites Treated?

Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition; mild cases can be treated without medication. Some home remedies include:

  • A Warm Compress: This treatment is most effective for D. brevis, put the mask in the microwave for 20 seconds. Make sure the temperature is suitable by applying it to the inside of your wrist and then let it rest on your eyelids for 15-20 minutes. You will need to do this twice a day.
  • Tea Tree Oil: It is not advised that you apply tea tree oil directly to the skin; however, there are soaps that contain tea tree oil. It is an antibacterial that works by killing microorganisms on the skin. Wash the face with soap and water twice a day.
  • Toning: Mix a few drops of tea tree oil into a hydrating toner and shake to combine. Apply the toner to the face using a cotton pad to rub the skin gently.
  • Sunscreen: The majority of sunscreens on the market contain harmful ingredients such as titanium dioxide. Therefore, it is advised that you replace regular sunscreen with zinc oxide.
  • Lotion/gel/cream: When applying any lotion, gel or cream to the skin, combine it with a few drops of tea tree oil before using it to the face.
  • Scrubs and Deep Cleaning Masks: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to any scrubs or deep cleaning mask before applying them to the face.

You can reduce the number of mites on the skin and limit the risk of further complications by doing the following:

  • Use a mild shampoo to wash the hair and the eyelashes daily
  • Take a bath or shower every day to reduce the amount of oil secretions available for the mites to feed on
  • Cleanse the face twice a day
  • Exfoliate the skin once a week to get rid of trapped sebum and dead skin cells
  • Shower after sun exposure and workouts
  • Avoid oily sunscreens, lotions, and cleansers

For cases that are slightly more severe, a doctor might prescribe a medical ointment, facewash or gel to trap the mites and stop them from reproducing in other hair follicles. They typically contain active ingredients such as:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Benzyl benzoate
  • Sulfur
  • Selenium sulfide

Other treatments a doctor may prescribe include:

  • Metronidazole (Flagyl)
  • Crotamiton (Eurax)
  • Permethrin (Nix, Elimite)
  • Ivermectin (Stromectol)

It is also advised that any underlying infections contributing to mites are managed. Also, conditions such as rosacea and eczema will need additional medical treatment.

National Rosacea Society, “The Ecology Of Your Face: Demodex, Rosacea And You” , link
US National Library Of Medicine, “Human Demodex Mite: The Versatile Mite of Dermatological Importance” , link
US National Library Of Medicine, “Under the lash: Demodex mites in human diseases” , link
– Image 1 src: Wikimedia