The Mites That Live On Your Face

  • By Anna Rothschild
  • Posted 06.04.15
  • NOVA

Right now, there are tiny mites eating, laying eggs, dying, and leaking feces on your face. Learn more in this episode of Gross Science.

Running Time: 01:56


The Mites That Live On Your Face

Posted: June 4, 2015

What if I told you that right now, you have dozens of tiny mites eating, laying eggs, dying, and leaking feces—all over your face?

Turns out, you probably do.

I’m Anna Rothschild, and this is Gross Science.

Face mites, or Demodex mites, are wormy-looking creatures with eight tiny legs. They’re actually arachnids, related to spiders, scorpions, and ticks, and they’re really common. They’re found in pretty much every society on the planet, and most healthy adults have at least a few.

People usually acquire their first mites during childhood, but the mites don’t really start getting busy til you hit puberty.

That’s because face mites love oily skin. They live in the hair follicles on your forehead, cheeks and nose, or depending on the species, inside the sebaceous—or oil producing—glands surrounding those follicles.

They eat sebum, or skin oil, and also slurp out the insides of your dead skin cells. And that’s where things get really gross. You see, face mites don’t have anuses. They store all of their waste in their abdomens until the day they die. At which point they decompose and leak feces all over your face.

In fact, some scientists think that the bacteria in their poop could be related to certain skin condition, like rosacea or blepharitis.

Each mite only lives for about two weeks, but that’s more than enough time for them to crawl out onto your skin at night to mate around the edges of your hair follicles. The female then burrows back and lays one gigantic egg. Two and a half days later you’ve got a brand new baby mite, ready to once again begin the circle of life… on your face.




Host, Animator, Editor
Anna Rothschild
DP, Sound, Writer
Kristen Clark
Many thanks to Dr. Dan Fergus and Dr. Anne A. Madden.
Music: “Moondots and Polkabeams”
©Podington Bear


Image of Face Mite and Video of Mite Laying Egg
©Your Wild Life, North Carolina State University
Acne Rosacea, man
Wellcome Library, London/A. Henning
Wikimedia Common/clubtable


(used with permission from author)
Squeak Pack/squeak_10
Bubbling Popping
Produced by WGBH for PBS Digital Studios


(main image: Face mites kissing)
©WGBH Educational Foundation 2015


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