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demodex folliculorum - the unseen culprit

A Bit of Background

Demodex Folliculorum, also know as Demodicids, are a species of tiny mite that some researchers have recently identified as a profound contributor to hair loss. While we believe that there are other factors affecting those with hair loss, such as diet, genetics, and chemical laden hair care products, many researchers attribute this microscopic critter with much more than just a small role in the plight of hair loss. Demodex has also been called “face mite” as it has been commonly associated with various skin complications of the face, such as Acne Rosacea, blackheads, and other skin irritations.
Varying in size from .1mm to .4 mm long, it lives in your pores and hair follicles, typically on your scalp, cheeks, nose, eyebrows and often in the roots of your eyelashes. Demodicids have worm-like attributes, with tiny claws, and scales over the whole of its body so that it may better anchor itself in the hair follicle. An individual female may lay up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, and as the mites grow, they become tightly packed. When mature, the mites leave the follicle, mate, and lays more eggs. During the day, Demodex mites remain feeding within the follicle. At night, they emerge onto the surface to mate, and eggs are laid into follicles so that the newly hatched larvae may feed on sebaceous oils.

Disturbing Research

Demodex Folliculorum was first discovered in human hair by a researcher at Nioxin, a major hair-care and cosmetics manufacturer, thanks to a newly developed, hand-held, high powered microscope capable of magnifying the human scalp up to 1000 times. What did he see? As many as a dozen mites, burrowed head down in the hair follicles, feasting off the oily secretions of the scalp known as sebum. Nioxin Research Laboratories in collaboration with Tulane University, pointed out that, of individuals with thin-looking hair, 88% have Demodex Folliculorum. In contrast, only 9% of tested individuals with normal hair density had Demodex Folliculorum.

According to one dermatologist, Dr. William Regelson, an expert with the Medical College of Virginia, the mite has been known since the 1840s to cause mange in animals, and until now no one had noticed that the minute organism known as Demodex Folliculorum is invariably present in the hair follicles of human beings who are losing their hair. Apparently Demodex can arrive in adolescence, and by late to middle age all almost all people harbor the Demodex mite to some degree.

Researchers say that in people up to 20 years of age, the incidence was about 25%; in people up to 50 years of age, the incidence was 30%; in people up to 80 years of age, the incidence was 50%; and in those aged 90 or older, everyone has it.

So then the million dollar question – wouldn't everyone be losing their hair? The answer is not so clear-cut.

Determining Factors - Who is Affected?

So if the presence of the mite is so rampant, why doesn’t hair loss affect everyone who harbors the mite? Varying opinions have been given towards this subject, however we will only cover the two most relevant ones here.

The most widespread explanation is that some of us have the unfortunate gene that may cause an immune response that is not necessarily uniform across all those who are affected with the mite. Respectfully their body reacts to the existence of the mites and instigates an inflammatory response as it tries to rebuff the mites. Unfortunately, when the inflammatory process kicks in and blocks the hair follicle and killing the mite—it also kills the hair follicle.

The second most common reasoning is the level of infestation taking place. As the Demodex mite feeds off of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands, the hair follicle can become progressively undernourished causing the hair follicle to eventually fall out. Several Demodex mites can feast off of a single hair follicle, so the resulting effect is that there are just too many mouths to feed at the table, and the hair follicle eventually suffers.

Treatment Options

Unfortunately, treatment options for Demodex Folliculorum infestations of the scalp have not been widely researched, especially on a holistic level, which is the primary focus of this article. The majority of studies have been associated with animals, namely dogs, as Demodex was thought for some time to be specific to canines before discovering its prevalence on humans as well.

After some tedious searching we have come across very little regarding the treatment of this bothersome mite. However, what we have found points us in the direction of an essential oil from “Sea Buckthorn" (Hippophae rhamnoides). Touted as having anti-inflammatory attributes as well general nourishing, revitalizing, and restorative actions, in addition to being able to effectively wipe out the Demodex Folliculorum mite, Sea Buckthorn oil is widely available over the internet in bulk as well as pill form. While we were unable to find the specific abstract of the research conducted, we have found several references to a Dr. Neal Bhatia, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCSD, San Diego, who said his patients have found that the oil, used in both soap and skin cream, is a natural weapon against the parasite.
sea buckthorn berries

Keep in mind, that harsh chemical laden shampoos can worsen the infestations, as they rob the scalp of its natural pH, and can upset the balance of the sebaceous glands causing an overproduction of sebum and prime breeding grounds for Demodex Folliculorum.

The mite can be irritating to the scalp, so maintaining an all natural hair care regimen that doesn’t compromise the integrity and balance of the scalp is optimal. Not sure what constitutes an all natural shampoo? Take a look at Morrocco Method – they wrote the book on holistic hair care.

Try massaging the some cold pressed Sea Buckthorn oil directly into your scalp, for a few minutes prior to entering the shower. We also offer Follicle Food, our concentrated scalp serum that can be used as an overnight treatment. In addition to Sea Buckthorn oil, Follicle Food contains pure organic essential oils of manuka, rosemary, and ylang ylang which nourish and regenerate the scalp and hair.

Could This be the Answer I've Been Searching For?

While it has long been said that the person who figures out how to eliminate hair loss will be the richest man in the world, it is unclear whether Demodex Folliculorum is the unsuspecting culprit that we have all been searching in vain for. However, the fact remains that Demodex has long been known to cause hair loss in mammals, and since the hair follicle is synonymous between both animals and humans, it would stand to reason that we should take this little critter seriously. How and where genetics, mites, diet, hormonal changes, and the notorious DHT fit into the hair loss puzzle is still undecided among the medical community, but Demodex Folliculorum could be the big piece we have been missing.

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