A colony of small mites is currently living in your hair follicles and sweat glands, where it is feasting on dead skin cells, mating, and producing eggs. Demodex folliculorum is a tiny arthropod that can be found on the face of nearly every animal and rarely causes any harm.
Due to their peculiar existence, the microscopic mites that live in human pores and mate on our faces at night are becoming such basic organisms that they may soon become one with people.
Nearly everyone has these mites in their pores, but as we get older and our pores expand, the numbers really start to rise. About 0.3 millimeters in length, they reside in the hair follicles of the face and nipples (including the eyelashes), where they feed on the sebum secreted by the skin's cells. They come out to play at night, searching for a partner by hopping from follicle to follicle.
The D. folliculorum mite, the first organism to have its entire genome sequenced, has been revealed to be evolving from an exterior parasite to an interior symbiont (an organism living in symbiosis with another) as a result of its isolated existence and subsequent inbreeding.
Mites reveal human population history
The narrative of how we got mites is only a small piece of the whole story. Since mites have become such persistent friends, we are also interested in learning more about their evolutionary history.
Early humans undoubtedly brought Demodex mites with them as they left Africa and traveled the world. Demodex DNA can help us get insight into our own ancient development by revealing previously unknown migration routes.
In one of the research studies, the DNA of one of the mite species, D. brevis, revealed that mites from China are genetically different from mites from America. The inhabitants of East Asia and Europe split off more than 40,000 years ago, and it appears that their mites also split off at that time.
Conversely, D. folliculorum from China cannot be distinguished from its American-originating counterpart. D. brevis, one of the two Demodex species commonly found in humans, dwells deeper in your pores than D. folliculorum and is likely to be passed between people less quickly, whereas D. folliculorum appears to enjoy global dominance.
As impressive as these outcomes are, China and the U.S. represent only a minor part. This is the story of how humans got here in the first place, as told by mites.
The choice of Mites to live in Facial Pores
Think of it as a free sebum (the waxy oil your face produces to stay hydrated) buffet. Demodex mites tunnel headfirst into pores, where they spend the day resting and feeding on the sebum secreted by glands at the base of the hair follicles. They wait for you to go to sleep at night so that they can mate on your skin. The truth is, mites throw a party on your face every night, and you're not included.
Due to their diet, face mites are drawn to the oiliest areas of your skin, such as the cheeks, nose, and forehead. Infected hair follicles can hold up to six mites at once, according to a study published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology in 1992. Mites have a lifespan of roughly two weeks.
People are not likely to get sick from these mites unless they get them in very large numbers, which could cause demodicosis, also called demodectic mange. Demodicosis can cause a red or white tinge to appear on human skin and is often connected with a reduction in immune-system function.
Are they harmful?
Many people don't even notice they have face mites until they're old, and then they start to itch. Think about it: your nose may be the home of hundreds of generations of grease-loving, late-night-partying spiders throughout your lifetime.
In reality, most people can ignore face mites without any ill effects. Demodex has been linked to rosacea and other skin conditions in some studies, but the evidence isn't conclusive.
Demodex mites inhabit face follicles. According to expanding research, they may contribute to chronic skin inflammatory problems like rosacea, blepharitis, otitis externa, alopecia, and folliculitis. Demodex mites were studied in 96 healthy people. Mite risk factors and skin types were assessed. Demodex folliculorum or D. brevis was identified in 17.7% of samples, mostly in males (21.9%) and in 20% of older individuals. Makeup reduces Demodex carriage, although pet ownership, sharing objects, and living with elderly individuals do not. Demodex-positive people had drier skin, greater erythema, and less folliculitis.
Even if that doesn't make you feel like a million bucks, take solace in the fact that your Demodex visitors won't leave a mess for you to clean up. Face mites can't get rid of their waste as other insects can. Instead, they have to keep it in their bodies for the rest of their short lives.