Facial care for humans is not just soap and creams – countless useful tiny creatures live on our skin. They become active at night.
Have you already had your mite facial care today? The answer “no” is likely to be wrong in most cases. It is estimated that the tiny creatures we are talking about here inhabit more than 90 percent of the world’s population. They are passed on through breast milk.
So it’s very likely that last night for most of us, the midgets did what they do – munch on tallow and have sex right in the middle of our faces when we sleep.
A mite’s life is short, but apparently not joyless. The tiny eight-legged creatures, which have recently become a much-discussed subject of research, are around two weeks old. They live deep in the skin, on the hair follicles of our faces, nipples and eyelashes, feeding on the sebum our pores secrete and dead skin cells. Last week, the BBC wrote a veritable eulogy for the little useful helpers in facial cleansing.
Hair follicle mites are little helpers in our facial care
Scientifically, the 0.3 millimeter small organisms have the name Demodex folliculorum. In German they are called hair follicle mites.
A study on the small organisms was published at the University of Vienna at the beginning of last week. Alejandro Manzano Marín and his team write about the strange properties of the mini-creatures in an article in “Molecular Biology and Evolution”. The researchers managed to analyze and sequence the genome of these mites.
According to several reports, the researchers’ study suggests that hair follicle mites are no longer genuine parasites, but are developing in such a way that they form a symbiosis with humans. In other words, they are not harmful, but do useful things – such as the cleaning work at night mentioned above.
Do the little mites cause skin irritation?
So far it has been assumed that their activities can cause skin irritation. Because it was assumed that the body of the small mites fills up with faeces over the course of their lives because they do not have an anus. When the animals died, the collected droppings would then be released all at once, which would irritate the skin.
However, the current study suggests that the animals do have an excretory organ and regularly release their excretion products. The anus is probably so tiny that it was simply not recognized in previous research. The facial cleansing by the mite cleaning crew should therefore take place without any undesirable consequences for humans, at least according to the current state of research.
At night, when we sleep, the little mites get fit, their pick-me-up is the sleep hormone melatonin, which we release at night. Then the hair follicle mites wander around between the hair follicles, looking for possible mating partners and having sex. On our face.
The small mites are photophobic because they lost their protection against UV light in the course of their evolution, which is also shown by the studies. Mite sex on the face always takes place under cover of darkness.
If you want to know exactly how mites do it: The male mite must always take a position below the female, because his penis protrudes upwards from the front of the body. Female mites are always on top.
Hair follicle mites are extremely adapted to life in human skin
This all sounds like a carefree life for mites, especially since the small arachnids are extremely well adapted to life on human skin, as the scientists describe. Hair follicle mites also have no food competitors on our skin.
However, the tiny creatures do have one problem: in the course of their development and because of their isolated lifestyle, they were able to optimally adapt to life on human skin, but at the same time their gene pool had shrunk extremely. As a result, they may even be in danger of becoming extinct one day, the new study suggests.
Which would be a shame, since they make a valuable contribution to facial care night after night.
Sources: BBC, “Spektrum der Wissenschaft, “Molecular Biology and Evolution”, “N-TV.de” “Berliner Zeitung”