SCIENCE

Tiny Arachnids Do Indeed Live On Your Face, Scientists Say

09/02/2014 03:39 pm ET | Updated Sep 02, 2014

Talk about creepy! You may think your morning shower did its job, but odds are a bunch of microscopic mites are crawling on your face and living in your pores at this very moment.

In fact, new research suggests that a specific genus of these tiny parasitic creatures called Demodex are way more common on the faces of human adults than previously thought. Just check out the video above to see one of the little critters in action.

"The surprise is that these mites seem to be on nearly all or even all adults, even though they are rare or maybe even entirely absent on younger people," study co-author Dr. Rob Dunn, a biologist at North Carolina State University, told The Huffington Post in an email.

How do the mites make their way onto our faces to begin with? Dunn said the answer to that question remains a "fundamental mystery."

For their study, the researchers scraped a metal spatula along the noses and cheeks of 253 men and women to collect samples of their faces' microscopic ecosystem. Then the researchers extracted DNA from the sebum -- the oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands -- of another group of 19 adults.

What did the researchers find? Mites were visible in only 14 percent of the scraped skin samples, but DNA from the mites was spotted in all of the 19 adults.

The finding certainly shows the mites are even more ubiquitous than scientists thought. But that's just the beginning.

"This research can help us tell a compelling story of our own human history," study co-author Megan Thoemmes, a graduate student in biology at North Carolina State University, told The Huffington Post. "The genetic diversity and structure we are seeing in the Demodex mites can help us to better understand... how human populations have radiated around the world."

The study was published online in the journal PLOS ONE on August 27, 2014.

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