Just How do you Kill Demodex Mites ?


Demodex mites and rosacea seem to be a popular, if not somewhat controversial pairing.Even though there is no proven link between rosacea symptoms and the presence of demodex mites, many rosacea sufferers are interested in eliminating demodex mites to see if their rosacea symptoms improve.

So just how can you kill them ? Demodex mites are tiny, and live naturally in everyone’s skin, but sometimes in abundance with rosacea papules and pustules. They are quite difficult to kill.

Read on if you’d like to know more about how to elminate demodex mites.

First of all, why would you want to eliminate them ?

There may be some new evidence that proteins from a bacteria that can be isolated from demodex mites cause an immune reaction in rosacea sufferers. I’m still not a believer in the involvement of these critters in the cause of rosacea.

Just in case more evidence is found in the future, though, demodex mites are worth further understanding. Indeed demodex mites might be proven to not be involved in the pathogenesis or rosacea.

Mites and Faeces

Some recent publicity related to demodex mites conjured some impressive images of what demodex mites look like and might be doing in your skin. These comments lead to lots of headlines and articles that might confuse you even more about the role of demodex in rosacea. Here are some quotes attributed to Dr. Kavanagh, one of the few researchers making actual progress in this direction.

Rosacea may be caused by mite faeces in your pores

15:57 30 August 2012 by Debora MacKenzie

Kevin Kavanagh of the National University of Ireland, in Maynooth, now thinks he has discovered the cause – and it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Tiny mites – eight-legged arachnids related to spiders – live in the pores of our facial skin. They are particularly fond of the hair follicles of eyebrows and eyelashes, and the oily pores most common on the nose, forehead and cheeks. Called Demodex, the mites eat sebum, or facial oil, and colonise your face at puberty.

They crawl about your face in the dark to mate, then crawl back into pores to lay their eggs and die. Healthy adults have around one or two mites per square centimetre of facial skin. People with rosacea, however, can have 10 times as many, says Kavanagh. Research suggests that the stress that causes flare-ups of rosacea changes the chemicals in sebum, making it better food for mites.

Rosacea often improves with antibacterial drugs that don’t affect the mites, such as tetracyclines. Kavanagh thinks this is because rosacea is caused by a reaction to bacteria in the mite’s faeces.

Demodex does not have an anus and therefore cannot get rid of its faeces. “Their abdomen just gets bigger and bigger, and when they die and decompose they release their faeces all at once in the pore,” says Kavanagh. When the mites are numerous, he believes that the material is enough to trigger an immune reaction, inflammation and tissue damage.

Killing Demodex Invitro (in the test tube)

We know from the paper In vitro and in vivo killing of ocular Demodex by tea tree oil, that various oils and solutions can kill demodex mites quite quickly in the test tube.

Solution Demodex Kill Time
100% alcohol 4 minutes
50% tea tree oil15 minutes
100% tea tree oil4 minutes
100% carraway oil4 minutes
100% dill weed oil14 minutes

Note that carraway oil and dill weed oil are toxic to the eye.

Studies have also confirmed that ether, xylol, benzene, Danish (compound polysulfide ointment) ointment can kill demodex in a few minutes.

Note that demodex mites have a life cycle of 14-18 days.


Ivermectin is used in dermatology against some parasitic infestations in humans. The drug is used in the treatment of patients with different forms of scabies, human body lice, head lice, demodecicosis, et. al. Published literature includes a case study of one patient who was treated with topical permethrin and oral Ivermectin. In another case report of one patient, the papules and pustules of rosacea were difficult to treat until oral ivermectin was included in the treatment regime.

Several rosacea sufferers on the rosacea-support email group report success in treating their rosacea with Ivermectin, but the benefits were only short lived.

Ivermectin (Stromectol, Mectizan, Ivomec, Oramec, Cardomec) has been patented as a treatment for rosacea.

I would advise extreme caution should you consider a 0.5% Topical Ivermectin prescription like Sklice, which is only for the scalp and hair.

Galderma has recently started selling Soolantra, a 1% Ivermectin Cream for the treatment of the papules and pustules of rosacea. Soolantra is showing promising results as a mainstay treatment for rosacea.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil (TTO) is sourced from the Melaluca tree which is native to Eastern Australia. Tea Tree Oil has been shown to kill demodex mites in as little as 4 minutes. External application of undiluted tea tree oil and/or at inappropriate high doses has been associated with toxicity, including death, in cats and other animals.

There is so much interest in the properties of tea tree oil that a research group has been created within the School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences at The University of Western Australia.

In a recent study, TTO was used to eliminate demodex mites living in the eyelashes of ocular rosacea sufferers. Study participants were given weekly lid scrubs with 50% tea tree oil and a daily lid scrub with a tea tree shampoo. After six weeks all 6 participants showed improvement in conjuctival irritation and inflammation.

TTO is not soluble in water, but is soluble in alcohol, but sadly that would be unsuitable for use around the eye. Tea Tree Oil can be diluted 50% in Macadamia nut oil for use around the eyes. Lid scrubs with 50% Tea Tree Oil did produce irritation in the participants but the effect was found to be minimised if care was used to avoid spilling it into the eye.

Full strength tea tree oil should never be used anywhere on the face.

Kwellada/Elimite (Permethrin)

Back in 2000, Annette Anderson advocated using Permethrin 5% on the face to eliminate the mites. Permethrin was originally used to treat scabies. She warned that getting it in your eyes burns terribly and that the instructions mention that you should not use it on your face. A few members of rosacea-support had bad reactions to using permethrin on their face, so use Permethrin with extreme care. In the U.S., 5% Permethrin (Elimite Cream) is only available by prescription.

If you are considering Permethrin in any form it would be wise to consider Dr. Linda Sy’s advice to “solicit the cooperation and supervision of their respective dermatologists, get a KOH skin scraping to establish the presence of florid demodex population … Participants try the Permethrin on a small area of face first, to determine if any immediate severe problem exists”.

Seabuckthorn Oil

Despite claims on various internet sites, I have not been able to find any published evidence that Seabuckthorn oil kills demodex mites. If you know of some evidence, please post in the comments below. In the meantime, please disregard any claims that you find that Seabuckthorn Oil kills demodex mites.

A natural approach

For those interested in a more natural approach to treating rosacea including using Olive Leaf Extract and Tea Tree Oil see Rachelle’s Alternative Treatments for Demodex Mites.

Selenium Sufide

Note that despite some media coverage relating to Selenium Sufide (the active ingredient in Selsun shampoo);

Your Health:

The active ingredient in the shampoo, selenium sulfide, might help control the Demodex skin mite population that triggers the inflammation associated with rosacea. People use the shampoo to wash their faces gently.

(Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.)

Selenium Sulfide has not been found to kill demodex mites.

Over to You

Have you tried any treatments to eliminate demodex mites ? Did you have a bad reaction them ? any suceess ? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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2,161 Reader Comments

  1. LF says:

    Suzana, do you have ane news?

  2. Mike Marca says:

    Hello. I have good news! It has been over two weeks since I had to use the 9 volt battery. The only thing I am using right now is the pure lanolin at night and the Pro-Tech-Skin during the day on the main areas there the mites usually gather together (eyebrows and below my nose). The mites do not like the lanolin (ebay), and it is cheep to buy! I haven’t had an outbreak for quite a while, but if their activity does increase I will use the 9 volt battery or what ever I have to do. I also scrape the scale they leave behind on my eyebrows once a day. I have very little activity! Mike

  3. Mike Marca says:

    Also, perhaps, I have killed so many mites that their numbers are way down now, and my immune system with the lanolin is now keeping them down. I do believe that if I quit everything that their numbers will return. I can use the reprieve! Mike

  4. K Goodwin says:

    I have been able to keep the demodex mites at bay for quite a while, now. BUT, we need to eradicate them…plain and simple. I have had them for over 2 1/2 YEARS. I have been unable to sleep on a bed for that long, as well, because they just LOVE warmth. I sleep sitting up every single night in a chair, which is having an effect on my spine. So, at this point, I am so sick and tired of this crap.
    My so-called doctor has, over this time, given me at least 17 prescriptions of ivermectin and permethrin; needless to say, the prescriptions did NOTHING for me, and she couldn’t care less. One time, when I went to get a prescription filled, the pharmacist told me to take cold showers, which made total sense. Do you think my own doctor told me to do that?
    I don’t want to just “keep them at bay”, I want to KILL them, which HAS to be done from the inside out. Otherwise they will be so content in staying and multiplying in our bodies…for the rest our lives…seriously.

  5. Mike Marca says:

    Hello Goodwin. Cold showers will not help you. I think she is a quack! I use the 9 volt battery to kill them and a sticky substance to keep their activity down. I sleep well at night now by using lanolin before I sleep. If I go somewhere I use Pro-Tech-Skin to keep their activity down, and it is not as sticky. Even nature will use sticky substances to keep off insects like the inside of your ears and the sap on the pine tree. Mike

  6. Mike Marca says:

    Hello again Goodwin. By looking over your entry I perceive you still have an acute mite infection. What I do if one pops up is use rife therapy and afterwards 91% alcohol soakings for 18 minutes on each infected area. I keep this up until the infection is over. Then there is only maintenance on a daily routine using the 9 volt battery when I feel them, and lanolin at night with Pro-Tech-Skin during the day. The lanolin keeps the mites from biting during the night, and I sleep well. Also, you mentioned eradicating them. Unless your immune system returns back to where it was before you had mite problems that is impossible. Maintenance is the best you can do. My wife sleeps next to me, and she does not have to worry about getting a mite infection. Her immune system is good. I know that these mites are a royal pain in the ass, and no one understands our plight including the so called professionals. Needless to say we must live in our bodies and do the best that we can do to get near to normalcy. It could be worse. We could have a cancer diagnosis to fight. At the present time I do not have a mite infection, and I have my maintenance program. Yes, I do feel them at times, but very little now. That is all that I can tell you. Did you try praying to Jesus? Mike

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