Dr. Herzog Discusses Demodex: Mites That Live & Breed On Our Faces


creatures on face


Today, Dr. Jo Herzog shares some information about demodex, parasitic mites that many of us have never heard of (even though they might be living on our faces)!

My teenage daughters and some of their friends were sharing texts (at left) about these creatures and asked me if the information were true.  I didn’t have an answer, but I knew that Dr. Jo would.  As a dermatologist, she is savvy on all things skin related.  I passed this along to her, and she answered with the following intriguing and informative post.

Dr. Jo Herzog

Dermatologist Dr. Jo HerzogA couple of weeks ago, Jamie sent me copies of a text that was being circulated amongst teenagers and causing quite the stir.  Many of these teens were appalled to find out that they might have “creatures” crawling on their faces, especially at night while they slept.  I was asked to weigh in on whether this was fact or fancy. Here is my response.

The answer is YES, these creatures, demodex, are real, and they really do live in the skin of many of us. However, this is no reason to despair. Demodex cause no harm in most of us, and if they do, they can be treated. These are not the only organisms that live in harmony with us. Our body is a host to these and many others.

Demodex have been reported to live in the skin of up to 1/3 of children, 1/2 of adults, and 2/3 of the older population. Demodex live in hair follicles and prefer those of the eyebrows and eyelashes. They feast on skin cells within the follicles and on the oil that we produce (sebum). They can move outside the follicles but only do this at night, as they do not like light. They are very slowly, so don’t worry–they won’t get far.

Younger people have less sebum, which might be part of the reason why older people are more likely to have Demodex (in addition to the fact that they have had more exposure). You can get demodex from another person or from eggs that travel on dust. Demodex seem to be more of a problem in summer and in warm weather, which might be due to the production of more sebum under these conditions.

Demodex mites live and breed in the hair follicles. They eat but have no organs to excrete waste. Instead of excreting waste, they save it up, and it is released when they die and disintegrate. Most of the time these organisms live in harmony with us, but occasionally they cause disorders. The death and disintegration process might contribute to some of the inflammatory disorders that are associated with Demodex mites, such as Rosacea.

There are some disorders where increased numbers of demodex are seen, but there is no proof that they are actually the cause of the problem. Rosacea patients often have follicles that are filled with these mites. It is unclear whether this is due to a reaction to the mites, a bacterial reaction to their feces that are released at death, or something else that is causing inflammation.  It is my belief that some Rosacea patients have disease driven by Demodex while others have Rosacea of different origins. Blepharitis is another disorder seen with Demodex. The eyelashes become crusty, like dandruff, and might be irritated.

Physicians can treat disorders involving Demodex with several medications. There are also several over the counter remedies that people have used such as teatree oil and seabuckthorn oil, but I have no experience using these.

The bottom line is that we all have other organisms living within us, and these are the ones that keep us company in our skin. If they cause us trouble, we will chase them. I don’t know a lot about the GI system, but my guess is that we have many more friends living down there.

Hope you found this interesting.

Have a great week,

Dr. Jo

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