Face mites

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Not too long ago, I picked up the Kobo Glo e-reader. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how quickly I would take to using it because I have always loved the feel of books in my hand, but I can honestly report that I fell in love with my Kobo right away. One of the best features is the glo, which illuminates the “page” so that you can read in the dark. Another bonus of the Kobo (over Kindle) is the ability to borrow e-books from the local library. In fact, I just finished reading The Sisters Brothers, which I recently checked out from the library.

The current book I am reading is Your Body: the missing manual. I’ve learned something fascinating but it can make you squirm. Have you heard of Demodex? These are mites, often referred to as face mites. There are two species of face mite. Demodex folliculorum live in the hair follicles on humans, primarily around your face, near the nose, eyebrows, scalp and eyelashes. Each follicle can support a small colony of around ten mites. The second specie is Demodex brevis, which is shorter in length and found in the sebaceous glands connected to hair follicles. They prefer to live on their own. You can’t see these with the naked eye as they usually only measure between 100-300 microns in length (0.1 mm-0.3mm). Both species have scaly, elongated bodies and eight short, stumpy legs with tiny claws. They do not scamper quickly across your face. In fact, they only move about one centimetre per hour.

Although the mouth of the mites is like a very sharp needle used to sting into your dead skin cells to absorb nutrition, they do not bite. And although they are consuming your skin cells, they do not poop on your face despite what certain websites say (e.g. rosacea caused by mite poop). The reason this can be disproved is that these eight-legged demodex do not have an anus. Their abdomen just gets bigger and bigger so when they die, they decompose and release their feces all at one in the pore. They do have sex on your face.

The life cycle of the Demodex mite is approximately 14–18 days from the egg to the larval stage followed by 5 days in the adult stage. Females may live an additional 5 days after oviposition. Because of the limited life span of the adult mites, mating plays an important role in perpetuating Demodex infestation. Furthermore, Demodex’s life span is limited outside the living body, thus, direct contact is required for transmission of mites.

We aren’t born with face mites, but acquire them over the course of our lives. At the age of 20, it has been estimated that 25% of us have them, with this figure increasing to 100% if we live to 90. We pick them up from using other people’s combs and hats, from things like headrests, and of course from close contact with people.

Demodex are mostly harmless, but they have been implicated in a number of minor skin diseases. A large infestation of them can result in an itchy condition known as demodicosis or demodex folliculitis.


  1. The Face Mite, Updated Nov 17, 2011
  2. Rosacea: Caused by Mite Poop in Your Facial Pores? Alexandra Sifferlin, Sept 4, 2012
  3. Pathogenic role of Demodex mites in blephartis, US National Library of Medicine, Oct 1, 2010
  4. Demodex: Mites that Live On Your Face! Atomy Cosmetics, Sept 7, 2011
  5. Demodex spp. – Face Mites, Rosemary Drisdelle
  6. All about Demodex, Demodex Solutions Ltd

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