Does your pet frequently scratch? Do you find your eyelashes or eyelids “itching” more than usual? While the reason might be allergies, it’s not the only reason. Demodex mites are attracted to hair follicles of humans and animals. Although several dozens of species exist, two are frequently called “eyelash mites.”

Yes, it sounds creepy, but the little buggers can affect any animal or human, regardless of age or geological region. If you find yourself or your pet experiencing symptoms of Demodex mites, take steps to get rid of them safely and effectively.

About Demodex mites

The two primary species of Demodex mites that affect human eyelashes are folliculorum and brevis

Demodex canis primarily affects dogs. Such infestations are widespread and don’t typically cause symptoms.

While the thought of mites living on or in your hair follicles is alarming, they are microscopic, and it’s relatively common to have small amounts of them on your body. They usually only become a problem if they exacerbate pre-existing skin conditions.

Demodex folliculorum was first identified in 1842, and the brevis species in 1963. Demodex folliculorum is actually found in hair follicles. Demodex brevis lives in sebaceous glands that provide vital nutrients to hair follicles.

Both types of Demodex mites are attracted to facial hair; nasal, eyelashes, eyebrows, but also have the potential to occur on other parts of the body where hair is found.

A number of studies have been conducted regarding Demodex mite infestations in humans. Some have suggested a link between Demodex mites present with acne vulgaris and suggest that it might increase the potential for acne.[1] In fact, Demodex mites have been associated with several skin disorders. Research continues, along with controversy over these potential links.

In one Chinese study, patients over 30 years of age were found to have a higher likelihood of Demodex infestation than those younger. In addition, patients with dry, oily, or mixed skin types were more likely to experience Demodex infestation than those who didn’t.

Most people with Demodex mites don’t even realize they have them. However, for those who do experience symptoms, a visit with a dermatologist is recommended.

Symptoms of Demodex mites in pets and humans

Some of those common symptoms of human Demodex folliculorum include:

  • Gradual roughening of the skin (for some, the skin might feel like sandpaper)
  • Redness in certain areas around locations where hair follicles grow (eyelashes, eyebrows, facial hair, nose)
  • Itchy or scaly skin
  • Increased skin sensitivity
  • Burning sensations on the skin
  • Eczema

Most people don’t experience any symptoms in the presence of a small number of these microscopic mites.

In healthy animals, the immune system is most often capable of reducing presence of mites due to natural immune suppression. In other cases, Demodex mite infestation on a pet might be difficult to identify, especially if you’re just looking for signs of itching. 

The most common areas in pets for Demodex infestation include the face, the trunk, and the legs. In localized situations, symptoms are typically mild. Common indications and symptoms of demodicosis (the medical term) in animals include:

  • Areas of thinning hair
  • Scaly skin
  • Skin looks “angry” or reddish-brown.
  • Skin lesions (in severe cases, these lesions can be found over the entire body
  • In serious cases, lethargy and poor appetite are also indications that your pet is unhappy or even miserable.

Demodex mites are not contagious to other animals or humans.

If you believe your pet may have skin problems, make an appointment with your veterinarian. A number of treatment options are available. Most of them include topical or oral medications, but in cases of a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics may be recommended.

How to get rid of Demodex mites

A diluted hypochlorous acid face wash can help improve symptoms. Diluted and antiseptic hypochlorous acid products are effective as wound care agents. Spray solutions are manufactured by some dental and skincare professionals, such as Pearl Oral Health, which provides a diluted hypochlorous acid facial mist

Hypochlorous acid is a weak, unstable acid, the active form of chlorine in the water. However, solutions of diluted hypochlorous acid have been shown in laboratories to effectively kill the main forms of Demodex mites as well as other types of bacteria that live on the skin. It does this by neutralizing inflammatory toxins released by both bacteria and mites. 

Diluted hypochlorous acid solutions are non-irritating and non-toxic. They behave as human metabolites and inhibitors. Such products contain potent microbial and topical antiseptic benefits, such as the near-instantaneous destruction of microorganisms.[2]

Such mists aid in giving a boost to natural immunity produced by one’s own body and can soothe skin irritation due to its primary component – HOCl (hypochlorous acid). If you believe that you or your pet may be experiencing any form of mites or bacteria on your skin or hair follicles, discuss with your primary care provider or dermatologist.

  [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3232434/

[2] https://www.woundsresearch.com/article/hypochlorous-acid-ideal-wound-care-agent-powerful-microbicidal-antibiofilm-and-wound-healing