Mites Living on Our Faces Are Slowly Merging with Humans — And It Might Be Good for Your Skin

  • Oddee presents, possibly the most disgusting way to keep your face naturally clean.

Have you ever felt desperately lonely? Well, don’t — there’s always someone there with you.

That’s not a religious statement or anything. There are literally dozens of creatures who are with you at all hours of the day, wherever you go.

Meet Demodex folliculorum, otherwise known as the skin mite. It’s a microscopic mite that lives on people’s faces.

Even yours. They could be there, right now, hiding in your hair follicles.

Does the thought gross you out? That’s too bad because you’re about to get a lot closer with your little facial friends.

Researchers have now sequenced the entire genome of the Demodex mites. And they’ve found that they’re starting to genetically merge with humanity.

So far, the Demodexes have parasitized us. But they’re ever so gradually moving toward becoming symbionts — creatures that share a mutually beneficial relationship with their hosts.

That’s right, these tiny arachnids are good for you. They just might help give you clearer skin.

If that thought grosses you out, sucks to be you. There’s nothing you can do about them.

A Demodex mite, conveniently labeled so you don’t miss it.

A Day in the Life of a Mite

In case you’ve never heard of Demodex mites before, here’s a quick crash course. These arachnids — yes, they’re distantly related to spiders — have been humanity’s companions for longer than we know about.

A Demodex mite is a microscopic creature, only 1/64 of an inch long at its most gigantic. They’re mostly transparent, with two segments (just like spiders) to their sausage like-bodies and eight teeny-tiny legs.

During the day they don’t do much. They crawl into your hair follicles, like those on your eyelashes, and anchor themselves inside them.

But once night falls and you go to sleep, the mites come out. Clumsily, they emerge from your follicles and start crawling around, looking for their one and only food source — your dead skin.

Their entire two-week-long lifespan is spent on your face. There, they eat, sleep, and mate.

Yes, whenever you sleep, there might be mites banging on your face. According to estimates, 50% to 100% of human adults have Demodex mites on them.

In the morning, when the sun comes up, a mite’s work is done. It returns to your hair follicles to rest and wait for another night.

One of Us, One of Us!

This whole thing does seem pretty unpleasant, doesn’t it? After all, nobody likes having parasites, even if there’s nothing you can do about it.

But the Demodex mites might soon be parasites no more. A new study — published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution — has found that we’re gradually developing a mutually beneficial relationship.

The mites are genetic freaks in the sense that their genome has atrophied to contain only the bare minimum of genes necessary for survival. Your face is such a cozy and predator-free environment that they have no need for anything more.

This is also the reason why they come out only at night. They’ve lost all genes that would protect them from UV radiation. Sunlight is straight-up lethal to them.

So, they’re kind of like tiny vampires.

But here’s the thing — when a new mite is born, it actually has more genes and cells in its body. But as it moves past the nymph stage, they lose cells.

The researchers say this is the first evolutionary step in a process that will lead to Demodex mites becoming humans’ internal symbiotes. They shed that unnecessary genetic package because our bodies provide them with everything they need.

After who knows how many years, there will be no mites on your face. Instead, they will have moved to live inside your body.

A Portable Skincare Professional

But a symbiotic relationship goes two ways — both parties need to get something out of it. What could the mites possibly have to offer us?

Cleaner skin is what. That goes against previous assumptions about the mites.

For the longest time, scientists thought the Demodex mites didn’t have buttholes. They figured that feces simply pack inside them until they die and burst, spilling their poop on your face.

The mite poop has been blamed for a whole slew of skin conditions, from acne to rosacea and eye infections. But now we know that it may not be true.

Scientists found out that the mites do indeed have buttholes and can poop. The amounts they excrete are so small that they probably won’t cause issues in healthy humans.

Not only that, the mites could actually be doing the complete opposite. Experts now suspect that they play a small but important role in clearing our pores.

As you surely know, clogged pores are what cause zits and blackheads. So, the Demodex mites could be keeping your face zit-free.

So, gross as they might seem, the mites are doing a service for your skin. And as time goes on, they will eventually become a part of you.

Quid pro quo. Though we still think the mites are the bigger winners here.