Demodex is a type of mite that lives in human hair follicles, usually on your face. Almost everyone has these mites, but they usually don’t cause any problems. But Demodex can multiply too quickly in people who are immunocompromised or have other skin conditions. That causes an itchy, irritating condition called demodicosis.
Demodex is a genus of microscopic mites that live in human hair follicles. The tiny creatures are arachnids, cousins of spiders and ticks.
Almost everyone has Demodex mites living on their skin and in their pores, particularly their:
Usually, the mites don’t cause any harm. But too many can cause a skin condition called demodicosis (also called Demodex folliculitis).
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Two main species of Demodex live on humans:
A Demodex mite is extremely tiny (0.15 millimeters [mm]–0.4 mm). It would take several of them to cover a pin head.
Under a microscope, the mite looks slightly transparent and is covered with scales. It has an elongated body with two segments. The first segment has eight legs and a mouth.
When you sleep, the mites come out of your skin’s pores, mate, then go back into your skin to lay eggs.
Although Demodex mites are very common, demodicosis is relatively rare.
Demodicosis is more likely to occur in people who:
Demodicosis occurs when the face mites multiply out of control. This usually occurs because your immune system isn’t functioning well.
The symptoms of demodicosis appear very suddenly, seemingly overnight. You may experience any of the following:
If the condition affects your eyes, you may experience:
Demodex mites can spread from human to human. Babies aren’t born with mites, but they get mites from the people they live with.
If you suspect you have an infestation of Demodex mites that’s causing symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist.
They might conduct a test, such as:
Most people have Demodex mites on their skin. You don’t need treatment unless the mites grow out of control and cause symptoms.
Treatment for a mite infestation usually involves a cream, gel, lotion or wash containing an acaricide. An acaricide is a pesticide that kills ticks and mites.
Your healthcare provider may recommend:
You can’t wash or scrub all Demodex mites away. But you may be able to help prevent infestation by keeping your skin clean. This removes the extra oil and dead skin cells the mites eat. For example:
The prognosis with demodicosis depends on the cause. If you have an immunodeficiency condition, demodicosis can occur repeatedly.
Removing face mites on your own usually isn’t successful. If you have demodicosis, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you treat the issue safely and effectively. In the meantime, continue washing your face twice a day with a mild cleanser.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Demodex mites live inside almost every human’s hair follicles. The mites usually don’t cause any problems, but if they multiply too much, they can cause demodicosis. If you have itchy, bumpy or red skin on your face, talk to your healthcare provider or dermatologist.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/19/2022.
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