Demodex hair mites are parasites in or near hair follicles and have recently been identified as a leading contributor to hair loss. Hair mites are closely related to thinning hair and hair loss. As hair mites feed off of sebum, the hair follicle can become progressively undernourished causing the hair to eventually fall out. If they go untreated, their population can dramatically increase, resulting in hair loss.
2. Where can hair mites be found and how do they spend their time?
Hair mites can be found in hair follicles and sebaceous glands and they become most active in the dark at night.
They eat sebum, but such a diet wouldn’t be nutritious enough. Instead they feast on the cells that line the follicle, sucking out their innards with a retractable needle in the middle of a round mouth. On either side of the mouth, Demodex folliculorum has a seven-clawed organ (a “palpus”) for securing itself to what it’s eating. All of the structures formed a sharp, offensive weapon.
3. What do Demodex hair mites look like?
They are invisible to the eye unless aided by a microscope. The adult Demodex mites usually are 1/2 to 2/3 of human hair, around 0.3 mm in length. They have semi-transparent elongated bodies with 8 short segmented legs.
Hair mites have pin-like mouth-parts for eating skin cells, hormones and oils. Also they absorb nutrition and oxygen from cells and have a high reproductive rate. They can walk around on the skin at speed of 8 to 16 cm/hour at night.
They crawl! They move about in darkness and freeze in bright lights. The fact that Demodex mites have been found on the surface of the skin suggests that they emerge from follicles at night for shadowy strolls across our skin.
4. How long is the life cycle of a hair mite?
There are five stages in their life cycle. After mating on the surface of the skin, within 12 hours they go back under the skin and lay eggs, taking bacteria with them and excreting wastes and secretions, laying 50 to 60 eggs inside the hair follicles or sebaceous glands while the eggs take two weeks to develop into adults.
After death, their corpses become liquid and decompose inside the skin. They reproduce by a generation every 15 days. Their total lifespan is around 30 to 90 days.
5. Is the hair mite equivalent to the head louse?
No. the hair mite is different from the head louse.
Hair mites are parasites in hair follicles which can be visible by a microscope. Hair mites can lead to hair loss.
The head louse is an obligate ectoparasite of humans. Head lice are wingless insects spending their entire life on human scalp and feeding exclusively on human blood. They are insects which can be seen by naked eyes.