Demodex mites and rosacea
You might be asking yourself “what are Demodex mites and what do they have to do with rosacea?”
It’s a good question and not the nicest of thoughts that we have these little creatures living and breeding on us. Here’s a quick overview for you about the mite that affects rosacea.
What are Demodex mites?
Demodex mites are microscopic organisms that live on human skin naturally. The Demodex folliculorum mite (this is the one we’re interested in) lives in hair follicles (mostly the ones on the face) and feeds on dead skin cells and sebum.
A lovely characteristic of these mites is that they don’t go to the toilet when they are alive. This means that when they die, the built-up waste flushes out, all at once. This causes the bacteria to build upon your skin. Not a nice thought, but this is just a natural occurrence in the human microbiome (the community of microorganisms that live on and in your body). The death of the mites on your skin is thought to be what causes the irritation and inflammation that comes with rosacea.
The link between Demodex mites and rosacea
It’s not a pleasant thing to think about, mites living on your face. It is completely normal for all mammals to have a small amount of them though. Generally, they are harmless and go unnoticed. However, when there are more of them than there should be, that’s when it can become problematic.
The Demodex unfortunately tends to live in greater numbers in those with rosacea. There can be 10x the number of Demodex mites on subtype 2 rosacea skin, as there is on regular skin. Adult Demodex mites are tiny, with a length of roughly 0.3 - 0.4 millimeters, and generally have a life cycle of 18-25 days.
There has been some debate around the abundance of these mites. Are they the cause or effect of some subtypes of rosacea? Some evidence suggests that too many of these mites trigger an immune response in rosacea sufferers. It is also thought that the inflammation could be caused by bacteria associated with the Demodex.
Frank C. Powell, a dermatologist in Ireland has noted that the mites are present mostly in the same areas that rosacea tends to affect - the nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead. In biopsies of the pimples found in subtype 2 rosacea, an overabundance of these mites has also been found. (Powell, n.d)
The connection between Demodex folliculorum and rosacea may be linked to a bacteria unique to these mites (Bacillus Polonius). In one study, it was found that this bacteria triggered an inflammatory response in 79% of the study patients that suffered from subtype 2. This study also found that antibiotics aimed to destroy this bacteria were much more effective than antibiotics that didn’t target the bacteria. This further backed up the notion that these mites contribute to rosacea symptoms.
Treatment for Demodex mites
Demodex mites can do you some good once there aren’t too many of them! They can help to remove dead skin cells. Once there’s a normal amount of them, there’s nothing to worry about and they won’t cause negative effects. When there are too many of them, that’s the problem. They can lead to conditions like rosacea or blepharitis. Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids caused by blocked oil glands. Always visit your doctor or dermatologist for advice if you think you have either.
If you do go to your doctor for rosacea, you might be prescribed medication like metronidazole or ivermectin. Ivermectin is based on an insecticide for rosacea. This is used a lot for mite infestations and scabies in animals. This rosacea cream was brought on to the market in 2016 and is also known as Soolantra or Eurax.
Treating with natural alternatives
There are certain active ingredients you can find in creams, gels, and other skincare products which can help. These include salicylic acid, benzyl benzoate, and sulfur. If you’re a fan of doing things the more natural, plant-based route, Tea Tree oil is also a great alternative. It’s known to be a potent killer of these mites. Although high concentrations can irritate so it is better to find products where it is an ingredient, and not use the oil in raw form.
Demodex mites and Finca Skin OrganicsAccording to a study done in 2010, Tea Tree oil was shown to be the most effective ingredient of all in targeting these mites.
This is why it’s one of the main ingredients in our Calming Serum 2 for sensitive skin including acne rosacea.
After using our products for their rosacea in a Harley Street dermatological study, 87% felt the appearance of their skin improved significantly*.
Generally, any treatment for Demodex mite control should be applied the last thing at night. This is because the mite comes out of the hair follicle at night to mate. This is the ideal time to get them!
With love from Ireland,
*Clinical evaluation by Harley St. dermatologists on 23 subjects after 8 weeks of use.