What You Need To Know

Last updated: 27 July 2012 (download info added)

I get lots of emails from people all over the world asking various questions about demodicosis and the treatments provided here.

To help save your time (and mine!), I put together this list of Frequently Asked Questions. Please read it because it contains some very important information and may just provide you with exactly what you need to know. If not, please don’t hesitate to email me.

To download this document as a PDF, please right-click on the FAQ link in the sidebar on the left. You should see a context menu that contains an option to download the linked file.
  • Q: How did I get this infestation?
    A: From when you were an infant, you’ve had both Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis mites living in your skin. Most commonly, they are found in eyelash and eyebrow follicles, as well as in sebaceous and other glands in the eyelids. They’re also found around the nose, in the forehead, cheeks, and chin. But they CAN also be present in parts of the body other than the head.

    In a healthy person, the immune system keeps these mites from spreading beyond the sites mentioned above and causing us any bother. If this becomes damaged, however, you lose that control mechanism and the mites take full advantage to expand their empire. This immune system damage can be caused by an underlying undiagnosed illness, prolonged stress, chronic insomnia, an unhealthy diet, low levels of cell oxygenation, or a combination of these. (New information: demodex gut fungus also directly attacks the immune system).

    While the topical treatments will kill mites elsewhere on the body, you cannot use them on your eyelashes because of the danger of damaging your eyes. So, just like any non-infested person, you’ll still have them in this eye site (!). Consequently, until you find out what is damaging your immune system and how to fix it, you may always be prone to eventual systemic reinfestation from facial regions. So I would advise that you see your doctor to arrange immune system tests.

    For this reason, you MAY need to use a topical ocular maintenance system after you’ve dealt with the infestation. I have asked Toni and Ted to devise such protocols and have now published their recommendations here. Back to Top
  • Q: Will the topical treatments get rid of all my demodex mites?
    A: No, they will not - demodex mites will remain in your eyelashes at least or reinfest them via others (see above). What the treatments WILL get rid of is your infestation - that is, generalised demodicosis. But please remember that to be successful, you MUST perform them every day. If you’re tempted to skip a treatment, the mites will take full advantage. After all, they’re fighting for their very existence.

    Insects like these don’t watch TV, they don’t have hobbies, and they don’t do crosswords, yoga, or macramé. They have three activities only - sex, sustenance, and sleep. Your job is to disrupt all three - all day, every day. So please DO IT DAILY. Back to Top
  • Q: Why do the topical treatments take so long to work?
    A: Demodex folliculorum should be eradicated reasonably quickly because they live in hair follicles. These are relatively close to the surface of the skin. However, Demodex brevis live in the sebaceous glands, and these are deeper in the skin and more difficult to reach with a topical solution. They also emerge to the surface much less frequently than Demodex folliculorum. At the moment, consistently repeated applications are needed to eventually penetrate down to them.

    Also, remember that a new clutch of eggs hatches in your skin every day. When they mature sufficiently to reproduce, new males will emerge onto the surface to seek females to impregnate. New females are virgins and will emerge to seek a new home for themselves. You MUST prevent these new youngsters from breeding. This is why it’s vital to treat yourself every day. If you conform to the recommended regimens, they will die rapidly when they emerge and come in contact with active mustard on your skin - that, mustard that is still damp.

    Ted is presently working on a proposed solution to this problem using an unusually powerful skin penetrant called DMSO which will bind readily with the killing agent and carry it deeper into the skin than hydrogen peroxide, hydrating skin lotions, or oils. Research also needs to be done on how mustard used with DMSO will affect demodex eggs. Current science holds that demodex eggs are impenetrable by any agent. We shall see... Back to Top
  • Q: Will the internal borax treatment kill all my mites?
    A: Yes. Taking Vitamin E daily will help to boost your circulatory system and enhance capillary blood-flow to make this more efficient. But since almost everyone on the planet has these mites, it’s inevitable that you will almost immediately pick them up again from normal human contact. Back to Top
  • Q: Are demodex mites harmful?
    A: Some websites say that demodex are human symbiotes. (One even claims that demodex is our friend!). This is simply not true. In a symbiotic arrangement, both parties derive benefits from the “partnership.” With demodex, they get all the good stuff and you get nothing but the potential for harm. Demodex perform no useful function whatsoever in humans. This is known as a commensal lifestyle. Back to Top
  • Q: Will my pet catch demodicosis from me?
    A: Despite extensive research, I’ve been unable to find any information on whether human demodex are zoonotic (that is, capable of successfully infesting secondary hosts like pets). Even if they are not zoonotic, it is also unknown how long they can survive on another animal.

    Consequently, the problem you face here is the possibility of reinfesting yourself by regular skin contact with your pet. My advice would be first to stop your pet from getting on your bed or sleeping in your bedroom for the duration of your treatment. Don’t allow them to sit on chairs you regularly use yourself, or to sit on your lap.

    I would also use rubber gloves with a long cuff when grooming, petting, or even picking up your pet, and make sure to steep these gloves in very hot water immediately afterwards for at least 30 minutes. You may add white table vinegar or borax if you wish but the hot water alone should be enough to kill any that have transferred to the gloves.

    Please note that I don’t have any pets myself, so I don’t have any personal experience of this problem. I would welcome additional advice from pet owners on this. Back to Top
  • Q: Do I need to treat my environment?
    A: Some people say you need to wash all bedding and clothing daily using borax added to your detergent, then dry them in a tumble dryer set to high heat. They also say that you need to vacuum your home daily, and spray all surfaces every day with substances like Windex, bleach, or white vinegar and borax. I will give you the facts about environmental demodex survival as well as my own experience and leave you to make up your own mind.

    The facts: current medical and entomological research estimates that male mites in the skin live for up to 15 days. For females in the skin, lifespans are estimated at 15 to 24 and even up to 60 days, depending on whose research paper you read. Demodex have sharp abrasive claws designed to keep them from falling off you. But if a mite is somehow dislodged from your skin, some research papers estimate survival times of 24-38 hours. Other research states that in a warm dry environment, dislodged mites will die in a few hours, but in a damp environment, like a used towel, they can survive for up to 58 hours.

    I have placed intact infested hair follicles and undamaged sebaceous plugs that contained mites and eggs into empty pill bottles along with dampened cotton plugs, then sealed the tops securely with sellotape and left them inside a dark cupboard in a warm room to see what would happen. The mites all died and no egg ever developed. These experiments, analytical consideration of the nature and lifestyle of the beast, and my own common sense therefore lead me to the conclusion that demodex do not successfully lay eggs outside the skin because these need an oily environment at human body temperature to develop.

    Note that a medical “research” paper has been published by NIMH that contains a visually unsubstantiated assertion that demodex eggs may “most likely” be transmitted by airborne household dust. The ONLY way this can happen is for an infested hair follicle to be shed into the environment. Our personal experience is that such shed follicles dry out so quickly that the mites and eggs they contain pose no threat, and it will take total decomposition of the tough follicular plug for the dead contents to become airborne.

    This report also contains so many factual errors about demodex that I don’t have space to list them all. When such authors can show visual evidence of viable human demodex eggs in airborne dust, as well as any live larvae developing from them in air at room temperature, then I may lend some credence. Until that time (which I predict will be never), I suggest you may safely ignore this fabulous nonsense.

    My experience: for two and a half years, I washed all my clothing and bedding daily at 60 and sometimes even 90 degrees Celsius, then dried them at high heat in my tumble dryer. When dry, I immediately placed them into a vacuum-pack double-seal plastic bag. This made absolutely no difference. All this does is kill any surface wanderers that happen to be caught up in your clothes or bedding.

    I vacuumed my entire home daily, including furniture - and sometimes up to three times a day. This, too, made absolutely no difference.

    I also washed all surfaces like tables, hard chairs, desks, bedside lockers, bed headboards, etc. with bleach and vinegar solutions. It made no difference.

    All I achieved was the eventual destruction of my clothes and bedding due to excessive wash and dry temperatures, astronomical electricity bills that I couldn’t afford, and searing spinal pain which would leave me weeping and almost unable to move or even breathe properly.

    What I do now: because of my other infestations, I packed away all my good clothing and bedding in garbage bags sealed securely with duct tape and put them in my garage. I can’t use these until the end of summer 2012 because bedbugs can survive for two years without a blood meal, and flea pupae can delay hatching for up to two and a half years. I currently have three changes of clothing (I used to have four).

    Each night, I undress, putting my clothes straight into the dryer, run it on high heat for 40 minutes, and leave them in the dryer for the next morning. I then do my head-shave, shower, and lotion treatments and go to bed. I wear each set of clothing for 2-3 days, then wash it at 40 degrees Celsius with detergent only and dry it on high heat.

    I sleep on an inflatable mattress, rubber side up. This sits on top of a latex mattress thoroughly dusted with diatomaceous earth. My bedding consists of two cheap non-woven artificial fibre sleeping bags (non-woven means the mites cannot easily get into the filling). I alternate them once a week and wash them at 40 degrees Celsius. My “pillow” is also a non-woven artificial fibre bag stuffed with an old sweater.

    Every morning, if it’s not raining, I take them into the garden, shake them out vigorously, and hang them on the wash-line so the interiors can catch the ultraviolet light contained in direct sunlight. UV light makes any dislodged mites run for cover. And since they can’t get into the sleeping bag stuffing, they must drop off into the grass where they’re easy prey for other insects. After 4-5 hours, I take them off the line, shake them out thoroughly again, then run them through the dryer on high heat for 40 minutes. If it’s raining, I still shake them out outside, then run them through the dryer.

    I then vacuum the air-mattress surface before putting them back on the bed.

    If you sleep using conventional fabric bedding, I suggest running it all through your dryer at high heat for 40 minutes the moment you get out of bed. Although demodex are chemically very hardy and adaptable insects, physically they are just microscopic members of the arachnid class with thin exoskeletons, making them as easy to kill mechanically as any spider.

    I live alone, so I vacuum only the rooms I actually use once a week.

    The only things I wipe down with neat white vinegar or a bleach solution daily are those I touch with bare skin - door and faucet handles (and basin plug chains), light and electrical switches, toilet seat, computer keyboards and mice, TV and other remote controls, mobile phone, landline phone keypad and handset, etc. And I never touch the floor with bare skin. I have two pairs of slippers which I alternate daily, leaving the just-worn ones sitting on a radiator for 24 hours. I also alternate my shoes and give them the radiator treatment as well.

    The results: my electricity bills have been substantially reduced. I’m not as crippled with spinal pain. And, most important of all, my mite problems have been no worse than they were before.

    But on this subject, you’ll have to decide for yourself and do whatever makes you feel most secure and comfortable.
    Back to Top
  • Q: How do these mites migrate all over my body?
    A: They can’t fly, they can’t jump, and they can’t travel under skin. They have just two modes of transport - their legs, and your hands (also known as “The Demodex Bus”). They walk at slightly more than six inches per hour, but can move faster in warmer temperatures - like under your bedclothes.

    This means that if you’re six feet tall, a demodex mite can walk from the top of your scalp almost all the way to your feet while you’re asleep - and in much less time if they can catch “The Demodex Bus.” Back to Top
  • Q: I must wear eye-glasses constantly. Any special recommendations?
    A: Yes, two. The first is NEVER to push your glasses (or sunglasses) up to sit or rest on your scalp. Any mites present on them will take advantage to move house.

    The second is to clean them thoroughly with either neat alcohol or white vinegar every night when you take them off to go to sleep. This includes lenses, frames, and side-pieces. And don’t store them in your glasses case for at least three days after starting this.

    I’m very grateful to two readers for these tips (R. and S.). Back to Top
  • Q: Can you recommend anything for my sleep problem?
    A: Yes, a pre-bedtime all-over application of Toni’s mustard body lotion mix will help enormously.

    Magnesium is also essential for healthy sleep. This is best taken combined with calcium since these two minerals complement and potentiate each other. You can get a single supplement that combines both (Sona Cal/Mag in Ireland). This combined supplement should also be available from other manufacturers at good pharmacies and health shops everywhere.

    As well as its healing effects on skin and other benefits, chamomile is also a natural sedative. Try a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime. Note that chamomile thins the blood, so check with your doctor if you take anti-coagulants, including warfarin or aspirin, or if you're allergic to plants in the daisy or ragweed family.

    Other possibilities suggested (many thanks, T.) include Valerian, Passion Flower, Melatonin, 5 Hydroxytriptamine (5HTP), and Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA). You can also ask a doctor about the synthetic prescription varieties of GABA (Gabapentin or Neurontin). Dr. Bach’s Night Rescue is another possibility. It didn’t work for me, but it may for you.

    If all else fails, Ambien CR (the Controlled Release type) - called Stilnoct or Stilnox in the UK and Europe (generic name Zolpidem) is effective. But, like all pharmaceuticals, it carries a long list of side effects, some fairly serious, that you’ll need to be aware of. It can be taken five nights a week for up to 12 weeks. But you cannot stop taking it immediately - you must “ween” yourself off it by reducing the dosage. Ask your doctor for details.

    Brainwave entrainment apps are also available if you own an iPhone or iPad (these may also be available for other mobile platforms). Pzizz is the best I’ve found, available on the App Store (also from the Android marketplace). However, since you MUST use these with headphones or ear-buds only, the problem of reinfestation arises. Consequently, I can’t recommend them. Back to Top
  • Q: If I do my mustard shower and body lotion treatments at night before bed, can I wash my face in the morning?
    A: Yes, you can. Just make sure you reapply mustard lotion to the washed areas after you’ve dried off. However, you don’t have to wash your face in the morning while doing this regimen. You can simply apply another coat of lotion over the one from the previous night and massage it well in. Always try to have some lotion left over for this.

    My personal timetable is a mustard shower and body lotion application last thing at night. Then another body lotion application at around 4-5pm. I don’t wash my face in the morning because the skin is still damp.

    Note: any skin exposed to the elements will dry out faster (even repeatedly putting your hands into your pockets will do this), rendering the mustard inert. Be aware of this and use your left-over mustard lotion for touch-ups when needed. Back to Top
  • Q: Can I wear make-up while doing these treatments?
    A: In an ideal world, it’s better not to. But since we have to live in the real world, Toni advises:

    1. Never apply make-up until after you’ve thoroughly washed your hands (including under your nails) and face with mustard body wash or shampoo.

    2. Liquid make-up: pour what you need into a little “dish” made from something disposable, like tin-foil, to avoid contaminating the whole bottle.

    3. Powder make-up using brush or pad: again, sprinkle what you need onto a piece of tin-foil. When you’ve done, DON’T put the brush or pad back into the make-up container ever again. Instead, leave brushes to soak in an eggcup of neat white vinegar for at least 30-60 minutes, rinse under hot water, shake dry, and leave it in a warm dry place for the next time. For pads, use a saucer of vinegar for the same length of time, squeeze out gently, rinse the pad (and saucer) in hot water, and leave to dry as above. From now on, DON’T put brushes or pads back into their original containers if they’ve ever touched your skin. When you buy new make-up, continue using the old regularly-cleaned brushes and pads.

    4. Mascara: for this, it’s safest to buy a new bottle. Throw out the old one BUT KEEP THE APPLICATOR and clean it throughly as outlined above. Depending on the type of mascara you use, you may have to use a cotton bud with the cotton ball removed to get mascara out and either put it on a piece of tin-foil or apply directly to your old applicator.

    5. Lipstick: although Demodex mites DO infest the mucous membranes, they never infest the inside of the mouth or lip tissue because human saliva contains powerful digestive enzymes as well as hydrogen peroxide. So you shouldn’t have to worry about this as long as you’re very careful and don’t stray into normal facial tissue areas when applying.

    When you’re done, dispose of your tin-foil containers and cotton bud sticks safely.

    The rule with all make-up except lipstick is NEVER TO “DOUBLE-DIP.” In other words, if any applicator, including your hands, has touched your face, eyes, or eyelashes, NEVER put it back in the original container - clean immediately after every use and keep it separate to avoid being reinfested by your own make-up. Back to Top
  • Q: Do I need to shave my head? And is it a good idea to get rid of body hair?
    A: No to both questions. I shaved my head after I found out that demodex sex takes place at the opening of hair follicles. I wanted to see if hair shafts played an important mechanical role in facilitating the act of copulation itself, and if so, whether removing them would hinder the mites’ reproduction.

    While it didn’t stop them breeding, it did seem to reduce the number of tickles a little. Whenever I allowed my hair to grow out for more than three days, scalp tickle numbers increased somewhat. So I believe that hair shafts protruding from the skin MAY play some as yet unknown (and most likely unstudied) role in demodex reproduction.

    So I don’t advise shaving your head, you’ll be relieved to hear. The slight improvement is not worth the drastic alteration in your appearance. The reasons I keep shaving are: first, I can get the treatment straight to the follicles immediately; second, it makes it much easier to remove dead and dying mites from my scalp, and third, a shaved head actually makes me look younger (my life is full of little paradoxes like that!).

    For men, it’s best to shave your face and neck just before doing your first treatment of the day.

    For women who regularly shave their legs and/or armpits, the same applies.

    Concerning body hair, I wouldn’t shave this myself nor would I advise anyone else to. However, it may be a good idea to trim back excess pubic and armpit hair somewhat to make it easier to get the mix straight onto your skin. Back to Top
  • Q: Large areas of my skin dry out while I’m massaging the body wash into other parts. What can I do?
    A: Don’t rinse off the areas you’ve already done just to get your skin wet again. Instead, fill a spray bottle with hot water, bring it into the shower with you, and use it to wet down the dried-out areas. Back to Top
  • Q: Can I add my own ingredients to Toni’s mustard regimens?
    A: No. This is a bad idea for one good reason - when two active compounds are mixed together, any of the following may occur:

    1. Each may cancel the other’s action out.
    2. Each may potentiate the other’s action, possibly making the treatment dangerous to the skin.
    3. A new compound may be formed whose action on skin is unknown.

    It is highly unlikely that the two compounds will remain unchanged since atoms are always seeking to form new bonds with others – that’s how chemistry, and consequently the universe, works. So please don’t do it.

    Think of it like this:

    Say you make yourself a cup of tea. You then decide that you also like the taste of Coke, so you add some to your tea. You also like red wine, so you put some in as well. And what the heck, dump in some cocoa powder on top, because that’s pretty yummy, too. You then decide that just in case this might give you a stomach-ache, you’ll add some Alka Seltzer. And so on…

    What you have now is no longer a cup of tea but a cup of something whose taste and effects you can no longer predict.

    Exactly the same goes for Toni’s regimen - if you start adding extra ingredients or using your own ideas about potential mustard carriers (Toni’s tested most of them), then all bets are off because it is no longer the “cup of tea” that is predictable and known to work. Back to Top
  • Q: Can I just add some raw mustard powder straight into petroleum jelly and use that instead?
    A: No. Part of petroleum jelly’s function is to act as a skin barrier. This means that the mustard powder granules are encapsulated by it and will never even touch your skin.

    Mustard powder CAN be incorporated into petroleum jelly, but it takes a professional compounding chemist to do it successfully. It cannot be done at home. Back to Top
  • Q: Why must I mix the dry mustard with cold water first? Can’t I just add it straight to oil?
    A: First, the cold water isn’t simply a mixing agent - it is the catalyst which releases the mustard granules’ active ingredients. ONLY cold water can do this - not hot water, not oil, not petroleum jelly.

    Second, raw mustard granules added straight into oil will be encapsulated by it and have no effect whatsoever on the skin. To use mustard with oil, you must first mix the powder with cold water, allow it to stand for 10 minutes, then add a little dish soap so the oil and mustard/water mix will be emulsified. This is the ONLY way you can get the positive effects of mustard when using it with oil.

    Toni has spent much time and effort at considerable personal risk to find the right amounts of mustard and the right carriers for it. She tried virtually everything until she found the mixtures and procedures that are effective and safe.

    Please follow them exactly once you’ve determined the right amount of mustard powder to use safely on your own skin. Back to Top
  • Q: Can eating mustard help?
    A: We don't know whether ingesting mustard can help with mite killing. But Toni has alerted me to research carried out by Washington State University which found that mustard killed 90% of three powerful (and sometimes lethal) pathogens within two hours - E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria.

    So in addition to putting it on your skin, you should think about putting it on cold cuts and sandwiches, and using it in cooking. It's powerful stuff. Back to Top