Demodex mites are tiny mites that live in the hair follicles and oil glands of the skin. They are found naturally on most adults. An overgrowth of Demodex mites on the scalp can cause symptoms like itching, redness, and scalp flaking. While they are harmless, getting rid of an overgrowth of Demodex mites may help relieve uncomfortable scalp symptoms. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to get rid of Demodex mites from the scalp.
What are Demodex Mites?
Demodex mites, also known as eyelash mites or follicle mites, are tiny eight-legged parasites that live on the skin of mammals. There are over 100 species of Demodex mites, but only two live on humans:
- Demodex folliculorum – lives in the hair follicles
- Demodex brevis – lives in the sebaceous glands connected to hair follicles
These mites feed on skin cells and oils in the hair follicles. They are found on the face, nose, cheeks, forehead, and scalp of most adults. Small numbers of mites are normal and do not cause issues. However, if the mite population grows out of control, it can lead to skin irritation and inflammation.
Signs and Symptoms of Scalp Demodex Infestation
When Demodex mites overpopulate the scalp, they can cause uncomfortable symptoms like:
- Itching and redness
- Scalp flaking or dandruff
- Scaly skin patches
- Burning or stinging sensation
- Hair loss in patches
- Greasy scalp area with mites
Demodex overgrowth is associated with skin conditions like rosacea, blepharitis, and demodicosis. See a dermatologist if you experience persistent scalp irritation or inflammation that may indicate Demodex overpopulation.
Risk Factors for Demodex Overgrowth
Certain factors can increase the risk of developing an overabundance of Demodex mites on the scalp:
- Age – Demodex mites multiply with aging skin.
- Weakened immune system – Allows mites to overpopulate.
- Skin inflammation – Can stimulate mite reproduction.
- Use of topical steroids – Can suppress immune function on the scalp skin.
- Infrequent hair washing – Allows buildup of oils that feed mites.
- Stress and poor diet – Weakens the immune system.
- Other skin conditions like rosacea – Leads to excess mites.
Practicing good scalp care and hygiene can help prevent Demodex overgrowth. Treat any underlying inflammatory skin conditions as well.
How to Get Rid of Demodex Mites on Scalp
If Demodex mites are causing bothersome scalp symptoms, try these methods to reduce and control the mite population:
Use Anti-Parasitic Shampoos
Look for shampoos containing ingredients like selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, or tea tree oil. These natural compounds have anti-parasitic properties to kill mites. Use the medicated shampoo 2-3 times per week as part of your hair care routine.
Apply Tea Tree Oil
Pure tea tree essential oil is a natural miticide that can kill Demodex mites. Dilute a few drops with a carrier oil like coconut oil. Apply it to the scalp and leave on for 30 minutes before washing out. Repeat 2-3 times a week.
Use Prescription Creams
Your dermatologist may prescribe topical creams containing crotamiton or sulfur to treat a Demodex infestation. Apply as directed to affected areas of the scalp and leave on overnight. Wash out in the morning and repeat daily for one week.
Take Oral Medications
For severe infestations, oral medications like ivermectin, metronidazole or moxidectin may be prescribed. Take these antiparasitic drugs exactly as directed by your healthcare provider to control mite overgrowth.
Keep Scalp Skin Healthy
Gently exfoliate the scalp once a week to remove dead skin cells and excess oil that feed mites. Use moisturizers containing ingredients like aloe vera or hydrating oils to prevent dryness and itching.
Wash Hair and Bedding Frequently
Wash hair with a clarifying shampoo once or twice a week. Change pillowcases and sheets often to prevent mite transfer back to the scalp. Also avoid sharing personal items like hair brushes, hats, and towels.
Manage Underlying Skin Conditions
Treat inflammatory skin disorders like seborrheic dermatitis that can stimulate Demodex reproduction. Follow treatment plans to keep skin conditions under control.
Improve Diet and Lifestyle Habits
Stress and poor diet can worsen Demodex infestations. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and minimize stress. This supports immune function to regulate mite populations.
Use Protective Styling
Wear hair in braids, buns, or ponytails. Use a shower cap when bathing. This reduces contact between the scalp skin and surfaces where mites may be present.
See a Dermatologist If Needed
Consult a skin doctor if at-home treatments do not resolve symptoms. Prescription medications are available for severe Demodex cases. Procedures like scalp scraping can also be done to diagnose overgrowth.
How to Prevent Demodex Overgrowth
You can take proactive steps to prevent excessive growth of Demodex mites on the scalp:
- Shampoo regularly – Wash hair at least 2-3 times a week with a gentle cleanser to control oil and dead skin buildup.
- Don’t share personal items – Use your own combs, hats, pillows etc. to prevent mite transfer.
- Avoid scratching – This can disturb follicles and stimulate mite reproduction.
- Manage stress – Chronic stress weakens immunity against Demodex mites.
- Eat healthy – A nutritious diet supports the immune system to keep mite populations in check.
- Treat underlying conditions – Control inflammatory scalp disorders that allow Demodex to thrive.
- Use tea tree oil – Apply diluted oil to the scalp regularly as a preventive measure.
With disciplined scalp hygiene and smart lifestyle habits, Demodex infestations can be avoided.
When to See a Doctor
Consult a dermatologist or doctor if:
- Scalp symptoms like itching and redness persist after home treatment
- You experience hair loss, wounds, or bleeding
- Demodex mites are seen on scalp skin under a microscope
- Other symptoms develop like eye irritation, rosacea, or rash
A doctor can prescribe stronger medications, perform a skin scraping, recommend specialized shampoos, or suggest other therapy options to clear a severe Demodex infestation.
Demodex scalp infestation can be frustrating and uncomfortable. But armed with the right information, these bothersome mites can be controlled. Using medicated shampoos, tea tree oil, oral meds, and other remedies can help eliminate excess mites. Combine this with good hygiene, healthy skin care, smart lifestyle habits, and seeing a doctor when needed. With a diligent, multipronged approach, your scalp can be cleared of Demodex mites for good.