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What is the Demodex Mite?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The demodex mite is a very small arthropod that lives in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands of many animals. Some people may know them as “eyebrow mites,” in a reference to one of their favorite hang-outs. Chances are very high that nearly all people are hosting a few of these mites right now, along with a host of other organisms that feed on sloughed skin, hair, and other discards from the body. As a general rule, these mites do not cause any problems, but when they proliferate, it can become an issue.

Two species of demodex mites are commonly found on humans: Demodex folliculorum and D. brevis. These mites are also often found on dogs, in which case the species is usually D. canis. The mites are classified as parasites, unable to survive away from their hosts, and they can jump to new hosts through physical contact with infested areas. They feed on skin cells and oils found near the skin, anchoring themselves in place.

Along with other organisms that call the skin home, demodex mites can actually be beneficial. They help to process waste materials from the body, keeping things more tidy and sometimes reducing the risk of infections and other health problems as a result of accumulated waste. In some circumstances, however, they can proliferate, causing skin rashes, skin sloughing, and hair loss. The mites have also been linked with acne, with some medical professionals suggesting that a profusion of the mites can clog the pores.

In dogs, demodectic mange can be a very serious condition, requiring prompt medical treatment. Both humans and dogs have a number of options when it comes to treating conditions related to the mite. Medications can be used to kill the bugs themselves, typically through topical application, while creams can soothe inflamed, irritated skin that has responded to an infestation. Some home remedies recommend covering the area with oil or other substances to essentially suffocate the mites; this is not advised, as this can cause damage to the skin, depending on what is used to cover it. Motor oil, for example, a popular treatment for demodectic mange at one time, can cause serious health problems.

In some cases, the demodex mite can also carry bacteria that can lead to skin infections and other health problems. Since getting rid of the mites is impossible and undesired, the best course of action for avoiding such infections is to keep the skin clean, regularly scrubbing dead skin and excess oils away.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon998252 — On May 02, 2017

I have just used Cliradex eyes wipes and have seen a difference already. I have bought tea tree oil shampoo and soap and hope to be rid of demodex within a week or two.

By anon992814 — On Oct 04, 2015

They can be in eyelash follicles too.

By anon354589 — On Nov 09, 2013

I have distinct yellow 'balls' of oil/sebum coming out of my sebaceous filaments all over the sides of my nose and there is red skin. Does anyone know what this is?

By anon236118 — On Dec 21, 2011

I just want to know about those "mites" that are in your eyebrows, and if I can get rid of them by plucking my brows? I am a girl and I have really small eyebrows so does that mean I don't have a lot of them? I don't know who to ask, and I found this site and thought I would ask. Someone please tell me if this is a way to get rid of them!

By yournamehere — On Sep 08, 2010

What kills demodex mange mites in cats? My poor cat is just overrun with the things, and I really need to find out a good treatment for him!

By pharmchick78 — On Sep 08, 2010

Demodex folliculorum mite symptoms are actually pretty common in people with compromised immune systems, whether due to AIDS or chemotherapy or something else entirely.

As demodex mites eat, they actually produce an antigen which causes the body to produce antibodies, keeping their population in check. That's why most people don't suffer from an infestation.

However, when the body's function is compromised, the mite population can get out of control, leading to rosacea, pimples, large pores, blackheads, cysts, and itching and burning.

Many doctors recommend patients with a compromised system to use tea tree oil products on their face for this very reason -- to help keep the mite population in check.

However, in more serious cases, they may prescribe a medicated cream, or even ivermectin pills to kill off the mites.

By rallenwriter — On Sep 08, 2010

Yech. Even though they are beneficial and microscopic, demodex mites freak me out. I mean, have you looked at those demodex mite pictures? I can't believe those things are in my eyebrows.

I wish that there was a good demodex mites treatment for humans out there that would somehow...oh, I don't know, get rid of them but not their beneficial side effects.

I know that that is impossible, but still, I hate the thought of having buys in my eyebrows.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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