Summary Background  In many Demodex-associated skin diseases Demodex mites are present in abundance and seem to be at least partially pathogenic. So far all diagnostic approaches such as scraping or standardized superficial skin biopsy are (semi-)invasive and may cause discomfort to the patient.

Objectives  To see whether confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) – a noninvasive method for the visualization of superficial skin layers – is able to detect and quantify D. folliculorum in facial skin of patients with rosacea.

Methods  Twenty-five patients (34–72 years of age) with facial rosacea and 25 age- and sex-matched normal controls were examined by CLSM. Mosaics of 8 × 8 mm and 5 × 5 mm were created by scanning horizontal layers of lesional skin and quantification of mites per follicle and per area as well as follicles per area was performed.

Results  In all patients D. folliculorum could be detected by CLSM and presented as roundish or lengthy cone-shaped structures. CLSM allowed the quantification of Demodex mites and revealed significant differences (< 0·0001): the mean number of mites was 165·4 per 8 × 8 mm area and 94·2 per 5 × 5 mm area in the patients compared with 34·7 and 22·4, respectively, in the controls. The corresponding mean number of mites per follicle was 0·7 and 0·8, respectively, in the patients and 0·1 and 0·2, respectively, in the controls.

Conclusions  With the help of CLSM it is possible to detect, image and quantify Demodex mites noninvasively in facial skin of patients with rosacea.