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Meet the Mites That Live on Your Face

These microscopic organisms live and die on your face

smithsonian.com

Don't freak out, but right now there are probably miniscule mites eating, mating and going about the daily business of their lives — on your face. 

Plenty of microscopic organisms inhabit our bodies. Microbes like bacteria and viruses are some better-known residents of this ecosystem, but teeny tiny animals also call the human face home. In a recent installment of the video series "Gross Science," Anna Rothschild of PBS Digital Studios provides a peek into the lives of the mites that live on your face.

Rothschild explains that two species of arthropod likely call your cheeks, nose or forehead home: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. Invisible to the naked eye, these microscopic arachnids are relatives of larger spiders and tarantulas. The mites hang out in your skins hair follicles, drinking oily secretions called sebum and eating dead follicle cells.

While entomologists don't know too much about these creepy crawlers, they do know that most humans have them, according to a 2014 study by researchers at North Carolina State University. 

It might sound unsavory, but, as Rothschild notes in the video above, these mites are just part of the bustling circle of life — on your face.

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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