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What Is Demodex Folliculorum?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 11, 2021

Demodex folliculorum — shortened as D. folliculorum — is a kind of the parasitic demodex mite. D. folliculorum mites live in or around the hair follicles on your face.

Generally, D. folliculorum mites are harmless to humans. At normal levels, these mites benefit your skin by removing dead skin cells, oils, and hormones found around hair follicles, all of which can clog up your pores. But, in large numbers, they can irritate your skin and cause other related skin problems.

Without treatment, D. folliculorum infections can lead to rosacea-like symptoms. You may show inflamed skin and rashes as well as severe acne. 

You can find D. folliculorum on:  

  • Eyelids
  • Eyelashes
  • Eyebrows
  • Forehead
  • Nose
  • Cheeks
  • Chin

D. folliculorum is found more in men than in women and affects adults aged 20 to 30. 

When Do D. Folliculorum Mites Become Dangerous?

D. folliculorum mites are naturally found on human skin. And, these mites can spread from person to person.

They become a problem when they are present in large numbers on the skin. They cause skin irritation among other skin problems. 

If you have a compromised immune system, then your chances of getting D. folliculorum outbreaks are high. The diseases that can weaken your immune system include: 

Another cause linked to increased D. folliculorum infection is sharing cosmetic products. Also, using oily cleansers or thick make-up products creates breeding grounds for D. folliculorum

Symptoms of D. Folliculorum Infection

Some of the most common symptoms of D. folliculorum infection are: 

  • Rough skin
  • Scaly, flaky, or itchy skin
  • Redness or rashes
  • Skin sensitivity
  • Burning skin
  • Eczema
  • Blepharitis

Diagnosis of D. Folliculorum Infection

Generally, you may not know if you have high concentrations of D. folliculorum on your skin until they experience a flare-up. That's because these microscopic mites aren't detectable with the naked eye. To diagnose D. folliculorum, your doctor will take a small tissue sample. 

The doctor collects the sample by scraping the affected skin. They then examine it under a microscope.

This helps the doctor diagnose a D. folliculorum flare-up. Depending on the number of D. folliculorum, your doctor will prescribe treatment. 

Treatments for D. Folliculorum Infection

Some home remedies backed up by medical studies include using a 50/50 solution of tea tree oil and water. You can use it for short-term treatments

You can also clean your face with gentle cleansers twice daily. Exfoliating the skin twice weekly to remove dead skin cells is also recommended. 

Medical treatments for D. folliculorum infection can come in many forms. For D. folliculorum on the eyelashes, your doctor may prescribe a medical ointment. This ointment traps D. folliculorum mites, preventing them from laying eggs. 

Along with medical ointments, your doctor may prescribe creams, gels, or face washes that include: 

  • Sulfur
  • Benzyl benzoate 
  • Salicylic acid
  • Selenium sulfide

‌These ingredients help bring the mites to the surface of your skin.

Other prescriptions may include: 

The goal of these treatments is to lower the number of D. folliculorum on the skin. The fewer the mites, the lower is the chance of your skin being affected. 

Other Considerations

Even though a large number of D. folliculorum mites can irritate your skin, most people don’t any symptoms of infection. But, if you tend to have dermatitis, you have an increased chance of D. folliculorum infection. 

Some people may need to treat D. folliculorum flare-ups often because they have frequent inflammatory conditions like rosacea, blepharitis, or eczema.

To prevent D. folliculorum breakouts, wash your face with gentle cleansers twice daily and use eye wipes. 

Most cases of D. folliculorum infection go unnoticed because these mites live for several weeks and then decompose without you noticing.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES: 

Acta Parasitologica: "Shared Makeup Cosmetics as a Route of Demodex folliculorum Infections."

Annales Academiae Medicae Stetinensis: "Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis as a cause of chronic marginal blepharitis."

Frontiers in Medicine: “Association Between Demodex Infestation and Ocular Surface Microbiota in Patients With Demodex Blepharitis.”

Indian Journal of Dermatology: "Human Demodex Mite: The Versatile Mite of Dermatological Importance."

Klinika Oczna: "Demodex as an etiological factor in chronic blepharitis."

Medicine: “Treatment of mites folliculitis with an ornidazole-based sequential therapy.”

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Tea tree oil for Demodex blepharitis."

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: “A Retrospective Analysis of Clinical Diagnosis and Successful Treatment with Topical Crotamiton.”

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