You all have tiny bugs burrowed into your skin right now! Creepy little bugs that come out at night and crawl all over your face, chewing on your skin cells. Many of them live in your eyelashes right now...
This is a Demodex folliculorum, also known as Demodicids or “face mites”.
They're sensitive to light, so during the day, they burrow down into your hair follicles. The yellow shaft is a human hair. The green things are the tails of burrowed face mites.
Demodex: Mites That Live On Your Face!
Demodex folliculorum, also known as Demodicids and “face mites”, is a species of tiny mites that live in the hair follicles on humans—primarily around your face, near the nose, eyebrows, scalp, but more commonly around the eyelashes. Demodex brevis is another shorter type of Demodex found in the sebaceous glands connected to hair follicles. While mites can be beneficial in the removal of dead skin cells, an overabundance of mites can cause numerous problems. Large infestations of Demodex are called Demodicosis.
Researchers have identified Demodex to be a profound contributor to hair loss and a cause of some skin problems such as acne, rosacea, blackheads, and skin irritations.
These mites have been observed since the 1840s and they are passed on from contact with others starting as early as infancy; e.g. a parent rubbing their cheek on their baby’s face as an innocent gesture of love.
Anatomy of Demodex
Adult mites have a semi-transparent body that is up to 0.3-0.4 mm long and can only be seen by high-powered microscopes. Their bodies are segmented into two with one part having eight short legs. Their bodies are covered with scales for anchoring themselves to the hair follicle. They have pin-like mouth parts for eating skin cells, hormones and oils (sebum) in your hair follicles. Because Demodex is sensitive to light, they leave hair follicles only at night and slowly walk around on the skin at a speed of 8-16 cm/hour.
Both males and females have a genital opening for mating but neither have an excretory opening to excrete waste due to their highly efficient digestive system. In order to repopulate, eggs are laid inside the hair follicle opening or sebaceous glands. After 3-4 days, six-legged larvae hatch and take about seven days to develop into adults. Their total lifespan spans several weeks and at the end of their life, they decompose inside the hair follicles or sebaceous glands.
How Demodex Can Affect Our Bodies
Demodex is generally harmless to a large percentage of the population who may not experience skin troubles. Others that are more susceptible to Demodex-related problems may be unaware that it is the underlying cause of or contributor. People with oily skin are particularly prone to having the mites. Signs of Demodex mites are frequent itchiness around your eyebrows, eyelids, or nose, especially at night or early morning.
There is a close association between inflammation and Demodex. It is suggested that skin inflammation and infection results when a large number of mites infest a single hair follicle. The mite is commonly associated with the inflammation of the eyelids, a condition that is known as Demodex blepharitis. Symptoms include itchiness, discomfort of the eyelashes, and loss of eyelashes. Research has shown many as 25 mites can colonize a single eyelash.
Some research suggests that the Demodex mites are not the direct cause of hair loss but rather our body’s reaction to Demodex. In some people, their body reacts by instigating an inflammatory response to reject the mites. The inflammation, however, blocks the hair follicle killing both the mite and the hair follicle.
Another common reasoning for hair loss from Demodex is the severity of the infestation. Because the mites feed off of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands and dead skin cells, too many mites feeding off of one hair follicle can cause malnourishment to the follicle resulting in loss of the hair.