Microscopic Face Mites

I am fascinated with the microscopic world and all that goes on that is not visible to the human eye. If you are prone to become squeamish, read no further. This is a good one.

(D. folliculorum) Drawing credit – Wellcome Trust

One of those microscopic worlds is on our faces. That includes two species of microscopic face mites. These creatures are teeny-tiny arachnids living face first in our pores and hair follicles, sometimes several in a single pore. They have evolved alongside humans for so long, they now have pore-shaped bodies and eight impossibly small legs. Not that they need the legs – they don’t move much. Even if they did, apparently we wouldn’t feel it. So they say.

Of course there are scientists out there researching these mites. To date we don’t know a lot about them, other than the fact they their entire life cycle is completed on a human body. That means they do everything on our faces. They dine on whatever happens to be in our pores (dead skin? Oils?). They reproduce on our skin. And, of course, they defecate. For while after the presence of the mites was known to science, the thought was that these mites lacked an anus and that waste simply accumulated in their bodies until they died. However, science being such that it is, the research continued and revealed that these mites do, indeed, have a teeny tiny anus.

Don’t freak out. While this information certainly makes you think (and want to wash your face), the mites are not harmful. They have evolved over a very, very long time in a symbiotic relationship humans. While the research is still ongoing, scientists believe the mites help us by eating dead skin and harmful bacteria, and perhaps producing antimicrobial compounds. Those face mites are just two of the many inhabitants of the human ecosystem!