Tick Removal: A Step-by-Step Guide (for Parents) — Nemours KidsHealth

Tick Removal: A Step-by-Step Guide

You just found a tick on your child! What should you do?

First, don’t panic. It’s true that Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States. But your child’s risk of developing Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick is very low.

To be safe, though, you’ll want to remove the tick as soon as possible. The risk of infection rises 24–48 hours after the tick attaches to the skin.

What to Do

Step 1: Use tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at its head or mouth, next to the skin.

Step 2: Pull firmly and steadily until the tick lets go of the skin. Do not twist the tick or rock it from side to side. If part of the tick stays in the skin, don’t worry. It will eventually come out on its own.

Step 3: Release the tick into a jar or zip-locked bag.

Step 4: Wash your hands and the site of the bite with soap and water.

Step 5: Swab the bite site with alcohol. Then, call your doctor, who might want to see the tick. Sometimes, doctors prescribe a preventive dose of antibiotics for kids at high risk for Lyme disease.

Note: Never use petroleum jelly or a hot match to kill and remove a tick. These methods don’t get the tick off the skin, and can make it burrow deeper.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor right away if your child has:

  • a red-ringed rash or skin that’s red and irritated
  • flu-like symptoms
  • joint pain or a swollen joint
  • facial paralysis (can’t move areas of the face)

Other conditions can also cause these symptoms. But having your child seen early means that if it is Lyme disease, treatment can begin quickly.


How to Remove a Tick

Finding, and removing, ticks quickly is the best way to avoid harmful effects.

If you spend any time in the woods, or even the grass in your backyard, you should know how to properly remove a tick. If a tick is left in your skin for more than 36 hours, it puts you at risk for Lyme disease. According to the CDC, although there are many species, ticks can be found across most of America.

The most important step for avoiding any effects of a tick bite is to do a thorough tick check after spending time outdoors, even your backyard. Don’t be content looking at your arms and ankles, ticks often attach in hard to reach places like the armpit or groin, including beneath your clothing. Showering after a day in the yard is often a great time to do this check. For hard to see places, like your back, use a mirror or ask a friend to look for you. If you do find a tick, remove it quickly.

While there are plenty of popular myths about the best way to remove a tick, we prefer that championed by the Center for Disease Control. The only tool you’ll need is a fine-tipped tweezer, and we recommend this one.

Know Where To Check for Ticks

How To Remove a Tick

Step 1: Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with your tweezers.

Step 2: Pull up and out with constant pressure until it pops out. Don’t twist, yank to the side, or jerk on the tick as this can cause it to leave part of its mandible in your skin. If this happens pull those parts out with the tweezers as well. If you can’t pull a part out, leave it alone and let yourself heal while watching for symptoms. (You can also try this Tick Key device to remove the entire tick.)

Step 3: Clean the area, and your hands, with soap and water or alcohol.

Step 4: Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet, putting it in alcohol, or wrapping it in a piece of tape.

Things to Avoid

Never squish a tick between your fingers after removal, tick-borne diseases can still be transmitted this way. Instead, drop the tick into rubbing alcohol before disposing.

Also be sure to not cover a tick with petroleum jelly or nail polish remover, or try to coax it out with heat. These methods rely on waiting for the tick to detach, instead it’s best to remove the tick as quickly as possible.

After Removing a Tick

The CDC recommends keeping an eye out for symptoms for 30 days. If you see rash, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, or joint swelling and pain, get checked out by a doctor. They also say not to bother with commercial “tick testing” for germs or disease as the results are often inconclusive and come back after symptoms would appear anyway.

Avoiding Ticks in the Future

If you live in a high tick area, or your backyard has grassy, bushy, or wooded areas, consider treating the clothes you wear outside with 0.5% permethrin. This helps to repel ticks and can also be applied to boots and camping gear. It’ll also last a few washes.

The CDC also recommends repellants with DEET, picardin, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus amongst others. They even created this handy tool to help you find the right repellant for your needs. Also consider staying covered with pants, high socks, and long sleeves. Even so, be sure to check under these garments when you get inside and do your tick check.


Tick Removal

About Ticks


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Tick Removal

How do I remove a tick?

Your main aims are to remove the tick promptly, to remove all parts of the tick’s body and to prevent it releasing additional saliva or regurgitating its stomach contents into your bite wound.

DO use a proprietary tick removal tool* (available from this website or many vets and pet shops), and follow the instructions provided. Two common types of removal tool available are illustrated on this page; the hook and the loop are designed to be twisted to facilitate removal.
These tools will grip the head of the tick without squashing the body.

* Alternative Methods : With pointed tweezers (not blunt eyebrow tweezers!) grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible; without squeezing the tick’s body, pull the tick out without twisting (it is difficult to twist tweezers without separating the tick’s head from its body) – there may be considerable resistance.

Illustrations are for general guidance and do not represent any particular species.

If no tools are available, rather than delay use a fine thread, something like cotton or dental floss. Tie a single loop of thread around the tick’s mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible, then pull upwards and outwards without twisting.

DO start by cleansing the tweezers/tool with antiseptic. After tick removal, cleanse the bite site and the tool with antiseptic.

DO wash hands thoroughly afterwards.

DO save the tick in a container in case a doctor asks for evidence that you have been bitten (label it with date and location). Public Health England is also currently running a scheme to investigate ticks – see below.

DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick, as this may cause the head and body to separate, leaving the head embedded in your skin.

DO NOT use your fingernails to remove a tick. Infection can enter via any breaks in your skin, e.g. close to the fingernail.

DO NOT crush the tick’s body, as this may cause it to regurgitate its infected stomach contents into the bite wound. See this graphic animation of what can happen, courtesy of the Lyme Borreliosis Foundation, Hungary.

DO NOT try to burn the tick off, apply petroleum jelly, nail polish or any other chemical. Any of these methods can cause discomfort to the tick, resulting in regurgitation, or saliva release.

Note that the video shows the tool being twisted according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If fine tweezers are used, the tick should be pulled steadily upwards without twisting.

Disposing of the tick

After you have removed your tick, keep it in a sealed container and send it to Public Health England’s Tick Recording Scheme. They will identify it for you and add the information to their database.

Alternatively, kill the tick by crushing it and flushing it down the toilet, or by folding it in a strip of sticky tape and placing it in the waste. Be aware that engorged ticks will contain potentially infected blood, which may splatter when crushed. Do not crush the tick with your fingers and do not allow the crushed tick or the blood it carried to contact your skin.

Now what?!

Don’t worry! The risk from a UK tick bite is very small and you don’t need treatment unless you develop symptoms of illness. The red mark left by the tick bite will fade over a couple of days, so perhaps just make a note on a calendar or diary so if necessary you can tell your doctor when the tick bite was and where it was on your body. Lyme disease symptoms appear on average about 2 weeks after the tick bite.

If you have left a small part of the tick mouthparts in your skin, which can sometimes happen, medical advice is just to leave it and your body will deal with it. You can do more damage digging around with a needle to try to get it out, and this can be particularly distressing for children.

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Be Aware!

The tick that generally bites humans can be as small as a poppy seed or full stop on this page. Small children are generally bitten above the waist—check their hairline and scalp. Do NOT use eyebrow tweezers to remove a tick as this may squash it. Use a proper tick removal tool.

Lyme Disease Action, Registered in England & Wales, Registered Charity Number 1100448, Registered Company Number 4839410

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Best ways to remove upper lip hair

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It is natural for both men and women to have some upper lip hair, but people may prefer to remove it. Creams, razors, electronic tools, and natural methods can remove the hair temporarily, and people can see a dermatologist for permanent removal.

Some methods, such as shaving or waxing, remove the hair immediately while others, including creams and electrolysis, work over a more extended period.

Read on for instructions on 10 ways to remove hair from the upper lip.

Share on Pinterest Hairs may regrow within 2 days of shaving.

Shaving is an easy and affordable way of removing upper lip hair, and it can be less painful than other options for sensitive areas of skin. Smaller razors are better than larger ones for removing hair from the upper lip.

Shaving is a temporary method of removing hair, which means that people may notice hair regrowth within 1–2 days.

To shave the upper lip, apply shaving cream, and use a clean razor to shave in the direction of the hair growth. Pull the upper lip down while shaving to keep the skin taut and create a cleaner shave. Take care to avoid shaving over any spots or cuts.

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Razors that manufacturers have designed specifically for the upper lip are available in drugstores, or people can choose between a range of products online.

Some hair removal creams are safe to use on sensitive facial skin, including the upper lip.

Depilatory creams are highly alkaline solutions that break down the protein bonds in the hair, causing it to dissolve. At this point, people can simply wipe the hair away.

To use this cream, apply it to the upper lip for as long as the instructions advise and then rinse it off, along with the loose hair.

Depilatory creams are an easy, affordable, and quick way of removing lip hair. However, these creams do not dissolve hair down to the root, so they only have a short-term effect.

Some creams have a strong smell that people may find off-putting. Depilatory creams contain strong chemicals that can sometimes irritate the skin. It is important to do a patch test on another area of skin before applying one of these creams to the face.

If people notice any sensitivity to these creams, they should stop using them. Depilatory creams are not suitable for use on any broken, sunburnt, or irritated skin.

Drugstores and online stores sell hair removal creams specifically for use on the face.

People can apply a waxing strip to their upper lip to remove hair. Waxing can be painful on sensitive areas of skin, such as the upper lip, but it provides longer lasting results as it removes the whole strand of hair.

To wax their upper lip hair, a person can apply hot wax to this area of skin and press it down firmly with a cloth strip while it cools. They then need to pull the strip away quickly, which uproots the hair, leaving the skin hair-free for several weeks.

Waxing is most effective when the hair is a certain length. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend that hair should be one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch before waxing. If the hair is longer than this, it might make waxing more painful.

People can buy home waxing kits from their local drugstore or online.

People can use tweezers to remove hair from their upper lip. Tweezing removes one hair at a time by pulling it up from the root, so this method is suitable for small areas of hair removal, such as the upper lip.

After cleaning the skin, a person can use a clean pair of tweezers to pluck out each hair from the upper lip as follows:

  • hold the skin taut by pulling down on the upper lip
  • pinch the hair with the tweezers and pull sharply in the direction of the hair growth
  • rinse the upper lip with cold water

An epilator is a handheld electrical device that removes hairs in a similar way to tweezers by plucking them from the root. Epilators remove more than one hair at a time though, so epilating is a more efficient method than tweezing.

People may find that exfoliating the upper lip with a facial scrub before using an epilator gives a better result. People can then run the epilator over the upper lip to remove any unwanted hair.

An epilator may cause some redness of the skin, which should soon pass. However, anyone who notices any skin irritation from using an epilator should stop using it.

People can buy epilators from drugstores or online. Small epilators or those that the label describes as being for use on the face may be more comfortable and easier to use.

People can use a spring hair removal tool to remove hair from the upper lip.

The tool is a length of spring that works by plucking out strands of hair. People can bend the stick into a U-shape and roll it over their upper lip to remove the hairs.

Some drugstores and online stores sell a variety of spring hair removal tools.

Threading is another technique for hair removal. Like tweezing and epilating, it works by removing hair from the root, so the effects are temporary but last longer than shaving.

During this treatment, a dermatologist or beautician winds a length of thread around the hairs on the upper lip and then pulls sharply so that they come out at the root.

Sugaring is a natural option for removing facial hair. Although there are no scientific studies to confirm that it works, some people find it effective, and trying it does not pose any risks.

People have used the sugaring method, which works similarly to hot wax, for centuries. The sugar in the solution also works as an exfoliant, which can help soften skin.

To use this method, thicken sugar with other natural substances and heat it. Once the mixture has cooled, apply it to the upper lip and firmly press a clean strip of cloth over it before pulling the cloth away quickly in the direction of the hair growth.

Some people use the following ingredients to create a sugaring paste:

People should ensure that the paste has cooled to room temperature before applying it to their skin.

Before trying any home remedies on the face, apply a small amount to another area of skin to test for an allergic reaction or skin irritation. If either occurs, stop using the paste and speak to a doctor if the symptoms do not go away.

Laser hair removal is an effective way to get rid of upper lip hair. During this procedure, a dermatologist directs a concentrated beam of light at the hair follicle to destroy the hair.

Laser hair removal is not a permanent method, but its results can last for up to several months. People may find that they need between two and six treatments to remove the hair.

Although people can purchase at-home laser hair removal kits, these are not suitable for use on the face. The AAD advise people to see a board-certified dermatologist for laser hair removal, as it can have dangerous side effects if an unskilled person attempts it.

Electrolysis uses an electrical current to remove body hair. An electrologist will insert a tiny probe into the hair follicle where a small electrical current will destroy both the hair and follicle. This damage prevents the hair from regrowing, so electrolysis removes hair permanently.

Electrolysis is suitable for sensitive areas of skin, such as the upper lip.

Some people may worry that shaving the upper lip can cause the hair to grow back darker, thicker, or faster. However, this a common misconception.

According to a 2007 article published in the BMJ, multiple studies have demonstrated that shaving does not affect the thickness or growth rate of hair.

The pervasiveness of this myth may be because when a person shaves, it removes the fine taper at the end of hairs, so the remaining part of the hair can seem coarser. New growth following shaving can also appear darker because the sun has yet to lighten the hair.

There are many effective ways to remove hair from the upper lip. People can choose their preferred method depending on their skin type, budget, and how long they want the effects of hair removal to last.

A person who is uncertain about how best to remove hair from their upper lip can talk to a dermatologist or cosmetic professional.

When undergoing any cosmetic procedure, it is essential to ensure that a board-certified dermatologist provides the treatment.


Itchy skin

Itchy skin is not usually a sign of anything serious. You can often treat it yourself and it should go away within 2 weeks.

How to treat itchy skin yourself

Sometimes, itching is simply caused by dry, cracked or irritated skin. You can do some simple things to help ease the itching.

These things may also help stop itchy skin returning and avoid skin damage from scratching.

pat or tap the skin instead of scratching it

hold something cool on the skin – like a damp towel

have cool or lukewarm baths or showers

use unperfumed moisturiser regularly

keep your nails clean, short and smooth

wear loose cotton clothing

do not wear tight clothes made of wool or some synthetic fabrics

do not have long baths or showers – keep them to less than 20 minutes

do not use perfumed soaps, deodorants or moisturisers

do not eat spicy foods or drink alcohol and caffeine – these can make itching worse

A pharmacist can help with itchy skin

A pharmacist can recommend the best products to help with itchy skin – for example, anti-itch creams, lotions or antihistamines.

Let them know where your skin is itchy and if you have any other symptoms.

They might also be able to tell you:

  • what you can do to treat it yourself
  • if you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if your itchy skin:

  • is affecting your daily life
  • lasts for longer than 2 weeks or keeps coming back
  • is caused by a new rash, lump or swelling and you’re worried
  • is all over your body – this could be a sign of something more serious

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Treatment from a GP

Your doctor might prescribe creams, lotions or tablets depending on what’s causing the itching.

They will look at your skin and ask about your symptoms.

They might ask to wipe a cotton bud over the area of itchy skin and send it for testing, or arrange a blood test. This helps to check it’s not something more serious.

Your GP may refer you to hospital if you need specialist tests or treatment.

Causes of itchy skin

Itchy skin has many possible causes. If you have other symptoms (such as a rash or swelling) this might give you an idea of the cause.

But don’t self-diagnose – see a GP if you’re worried.

Possible causes

Possible causes Common examples
Skin reactions to heat or something you’re allergic to allergies, hives, prickly heat
Longer-lasting skin conditions dandruff, eczema, psoriasis
Fungal skin infections thrush, ringworm, athlete’s foot
Parasites or insects living on the skin scabies, head lice, pubic lice

Many women also have itchy skin during pregnancy or after the menopause. This is caused by hormonal changes and should get better over time.

In rare cases, itchy skin can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as thyroid, liver or kidney problems.

Page last reviewed: 4 July 2017
Next review due: 4 July 2020



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Physical Description





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Other Information

Other Names


The Facehugger, known taxonomically as Manumala noxhydria [2] and designated a «Stage 1» Xenomorph by Weyland-Yutani scientists, [1] is a parasitoid form of the species Xenomorph XX121 that hatches from an Ovomorph. It is the second stage in the Xenomorph’s life cycle, and exists solely to implant a Chestburster within a host creature via their mouth. As such, it has no real offensive capabilities (beyond an ability to spit acid, which is generally only used to gain access to hosts and not for attack) [3] [4] and must rely on stealth, surprise or their victims being previously immobilized by an attacker to achieve implantation. Notably, a Facehugger dies shortly after its task has been completed.


The Facehugger greatly resembles a pair of skeletal hands fused together, with a spine-like tail. It has eight long, finger-like legs which allow it to crawl rapidly, and a long tail adapted for making great leaps. These particular appendages give it an appearance somewhat comparable to Chelicerate arthropods such as arachnids and horseshoe crabs. The underside of the Facehugger and its orifice (from which extends a proboscis used for delivering the Xenomorph embryo) noticeably resemble a human female’s vagina.

A Facehugger’s long digits allow it to move rapidly across all manner of surfaces and also grant the creature its crucial ability to «grip» a host’s head during implantation. The spindly appearance of these digits should not be underestimated; they are incredibly strong, and have been known to tear the skin from the skulls of human victims when an attempt is made to remove them. [3] Once the digits are gripped around a host’s head, they are nigh impossible to remove and implantation is virtually guaranteed. A Facehugger’s tail can propel the creature into huge leaps [5] and is also used for additional grip around a host’s neck during implantation. Facehuggers have even been known to use their tail to strangle potential hosts when attempts are made to remove them, sometimes fatally. Their potent acid blood further complicates any attempt at removal. Facehuggers are primarily beige in color, giving them a skin-like appearance.

A Facehugger’s air sacs, used to provide atmosphere to hosts.

Situated on either side of the creature’s body at the base of the tail are a pair of bag-like bladder structures that are used to circulate air into the victims lungs during implantation. Underneath the Facehugger is a small orifice, from which the creature will extend a proboscis into the host’s throat for implantation; this proboscis is around 50 to 60 centimeters in length. [1] While fragile and ill-equipped for combat, Facehuggers’ small size and rapid movement makes them adept at ambushing potential hosts, and also makes them difficult to kill. [6] Facehuggers have been known to be used in an actively offensive role when transported by a Carrier. [7]

Facehuggers inside their eggs.

Prior to detecting a host, Facehuggers are actually inert and lifeless within their Ovomorph. When the Egg detects a host nearby, it will transfer all of the remaining bio-electric potential of its acidic blood to the Facehugger, and it is only then that the creature becomes «alive». [8] The Egg will then open and the creature will launch itself at the victim.

Once outside of the Egg, Facehuggers use a similar set of thermoauditory senses as the adult Xenomorph to track and close in on their prey. [8] Typically, Facehuggers rely on the curiosity or ignorance of the potential host to draw them near to the Egg prior to release, thereby allowing for a lightning-fast pounce that gives the victim virtually no time to escape. However, they are more than capable of pursuing a fleeing host, an act they will carry out with relentless persistence; Facehuggers will chase down their prey with little consideration for their own safety or survival. They are adept climbers and jumpers, using these abilities to quickly overwhelm their victims before they can react. Although Facehuggers can survive outside of their Egg without implanting for a period of time — up to 120 hours has been recorded [9] — this is not thought to be common.

Facehuggers are not deterred in the least by their host’s death should it happen despite their determination in getting to them in the first place, they will simply detach from the body and will chase the nearest living suitable host. However, the window for this chance depends on whether or not the parasite had already «implanted» it’s host given that most Facehuggers will eventually die afterwards, the creature will be rendered useless.

Being submerged does not appear to affect their ability to operate, as Facehuggers on LV-426 were stored in an alkaloid nahcolite preservative fluid [10] for an extended period of time and were still able to function normally when released. [5] They are also capable of healing incredibly quickly, cuts and lacerations closing within minutes without leaving any trace of permanent scarring. [11]

Subduing a host

A Facehugger incapacitating its victim.

When a Facehugger initially senses a nearby host, it will attempt to attach to and subdue them. Once in range, the Facehugger will leap towards the host’s face, often with alarming force and accuracy, and immediately wrap its tail around their neck and its digits around their skull.

Once securely in place, the Facehugger rapidly renders the host unconscious using a cyanose-based paralytic chemical, [9] administered simply through skin contact. The delivery mechanism is dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), [8] a compound used for exactly this kind of transdermal drug delivery in human medicine. Studies done on Facehugger victims at Hadley’s Hope revealed that one of the sedatives administered is a neuromuscular toxin, and once this has been metabolized, the victim wakes up. [12] The sedative is extremely effective, capable of rendering an adult human comatose within seconds. The use of paralytic chemical compounds for sedation would imply that the Facehugger (or perhaps the Egg it resides within) is somehow able to determine a potential host’s body mass and composition, so as to ascertain a correct dose of toxin; if the dose was either too low or too high, the host may not be affected at all, or could suffer toxic shock and die. [13] Conversely, the chances of the chemical dose being sub-optimal may play a role in the selection process, as it would prevent the Facehugger from impregnating a host of insufficient body mass to support the Xenomorph embryo. [8] The Facehugger’s propensity for chemical attack is further seen in its ability to chemically suppress the host’s immune system during implantation, to prevent the host’s own defensive systems attacking the embryonic Chestburster. This is achieved using an immunosuppressive substance similar to azathioprine. [9]

While the primary method of subduing the host is chemical, Facehuggers can also use their tail, wrapped around the victim’s throat, to induce asphyxiation. For example, should a potential host attempt to interfere with or block the Facehugger attaching to the head in some way, thereby preventing the typical chemical sedatives from being administered, the creature will simply use its tail to choke the victim until they are either too weak to resist or they lose consciousness altogether. [5] This method is noticeably slower, however. The strength of the Facehugger’s tail has been described as being comparable to a boa constrictor; even Chimpanzees, with their markedly superior strength relative to humans, are unable to pry it loose. [2]

It also seems that not all victims of Facehuggers are rendered unconscious; on Bouvet Island, the mercenary Mark Verheiden remained conscious for at least part of the implantation process, as evidenced by his attempts to shout for help (rendered futile by the proboscis down his throat). It has been theorized that hosts cocooned in a Hive may not be rendered unconscious simply out of redundancy, owing to their inability to move or fight back. This may explain why many cocooned victims are aware that they have been impregnated and request to be killed, whereas others attacked in the open have no memory of their ordeal.

Whilst subdued, victims have been known to experience vivid and distressing dreams, often concerning smothering of the face. [3] [14] [15] It is unknown if this is directly linked to the Facehugger’s presence, although given the typical subject matter, it seems likely. Such dreams may not be universal to all victims, although many of the Facehugger victims during the initial stages of the Hadley’s Hope infestation were noted to have woken up screaming, suggesting that there is a majority that do. [14]

Given the size of a Facehugger, humans, Predators or other humanoid-sized victims are the most compatible hosts. It has been suggested that a Facehugger would likely not be able to use a host any smaller than a cat. [16] However, there is evidence that even Engineers, which are significantly larger than humans, have been impregnated by a Facehugger. [3] Similarly, it is not unknown for oxen to be successfully impregnated by Facehuggers. [17] Facehuggers are also known to attach to Oswocs, Kurns and Kritics. It is possible that a Facehugger does not need to entirely envelop a host’s head to implant a Xenomorph, but merely needs to subdue it and insert its proboscis through the host’s mouth.

As the Xenomorph species has occasionally been likened to ants, one theory is that Facehuggers may attack larger hosts in swarms, akin to warrior ants, or with assistance from other adult Xenomorphs. Presumably several creatures would subdue the host while another implants the Chestburster. There have been recorded cases of adult Xenomorphs pinning victims to the ground so that a Facehugger may then attach to them without fear of retaliation. [6]

Implantation process

A Facehugger’s proboscis, used to impregnate its host.

Once a Facehugger is securely attached to a host, it inserts its proboscis down the victim’s throat. This proboscis both supplies the host with suitable atmosphere for breathing and also implants the beginnings of a Xenomorph embryo in their esophagus, a process that takes several hours. It was originally theorised that the proboscis was also used to administer the sedative to subdue its host, however, further studies seemed to conclude that simple skin contact between the host and the underside of the parasite was the primary method.

Notably, the Facehugger does not in fact implant an embryonic Xenomorph in the true sense of the word; no fetus is introduced into the body. Instead, the Facehugger deposits a mutegenic substance known as Plagiarus praepotens [18] into the host’s oesophagus. This mutagen brings about a restructuring of the host’s cells, essentially causing the host’s body to assemble the Chestburster at a cellular level from its own biological material. Implantation takes only a few hours, although the Facehugger may remain attached to the host for some time afterwards to ensure the Chestburster is secure; this can be from as little as twenty minutes up to sixteen hours. [10] How the Facehugger knows when to detach is unclear, although it has been theorized that the developing embryo sends a recombinant plasmid pulse to inform the parasite when it is secure. [10]

During implantation, Facehuggers are not only able to determine a suitable atmosphere mix for the host to breathe, they are also capable of providing this mixture even in an otherwise unsuitable environment; Thomas Kane was exposed to the hostile atmosphere of LV-426 when the Facehugger that attacked him breached his suit’s faceplate, yet the Facehugger kept him alive until the crew could return him to the Nostromo. [3] It is thought that the creature supplies suitable atmosphere by breaking down molecules found in the ambient environment and rearranging them into the appropriate compounds before feeding them into the host’s lungs; [19] in the case of oxygen-breathing organisms such as humans, the Facehugger is capable of extracting oxygen from gaseous oxide compounds in the air, such as carbon dioxide. It is unknown if the creature is capable of performing this action in locations that lack an extant atmosphere, such as space, although there has been at least one notable incident whereby James Likowski — pilot of the cargo vessel Junket — was kept alive by a Facehugger despite a loss of atmosphere aboard his ship.

While there are no external signs of what is happening to the host during the implantation process, in some cases the host has been known to develop a fever and even sweat profusely. [3] It is possible this reaction is a result of the host’s immune system attempting to fight off the foreign element being introduced into the body. Paralyzed hosts have also been known to display muscle twitches or spasms while unconscious. [20] [21]


While Facehuggers have been removed before embryo implantation has taken place, the process is ostensibly fatal for the host. [5] The Facehugger’s combination of vice-like grip, ability to administer sedative chemicals and highly acidic blood makes them essentially impossible to remove safely. Additionally, their outer skin is known to harden shortly after emerging from the Egg, becoming a chitinous layer similar to the mesoskeleton of the later, adult stages of the creature’s life cycle, affording the Facehugger increased resistance to physical trauma. [1] [3]

For example, if a Facehugger senses it is likely to be detached by external forces, it will invariably kill the host rather than allow them to survive. [22] At least one medically documented case of a Facehugger killing its host with a chemical overdose during removal exists — that of John Marachuk at Hadley’s Hope. [23] They are also capable of killing their victims with direct strangulation, while some have even been known to use their proboscis to inflict terminal internal injuries to the host when threatened with removal. [1] Attempting to terminate the Facehugger before removal, in order to avoid any such assault on the host, is also likely to prove fatal thanks to the creature’s highly acidic blood or simply by way of collateral damage. Even in the very early stages of an attack, before the Facehugger is securely attached to the potential host, very few victims have managed to remove the creature before being subdued. Even Yautja and Engineers (both being notoriously strong) are apparently unable to fend one off once it is attached. It is possible a Facehugger’s legs may «lock» once wrapped around a host’s head, possibly in a manner similar to rigor mortis, which would make simply pulling it off almost impossible. While a victim could conceivably lift the creature off like a helmet, the Facehugger’s powerful tail prevents this.

Even a group of people may struggle to overpower a Facehugger.

However, there have been limited examples of Facehuggers failing to subdue a host. On Acheron, Ellen Ripley was able to impede a Facehugger by shielding her face with her hands as the creature attacked, and while she would inevitably been rendered unconscious in short order, with immediate assistance she was able to remove it. Similarly, on the USM Auriga, Ripley 8 successfully removed a Facehugger unaided, although due to her partially-Xenomorph DNA she had physical strength in excess of a typical human, and also an apparent immunity to the creature’s acidic blood. [24] It is unknown if being submerged in water aided in this instance, as it could have either discouraged the Facehugger due to the host potentially drowning after detachment following a successful implantation, or prevented it from sedating its host by chemical means altogether. Had Ripley 8 been attacked out of water, it is unknown if she would have been able to successfully defend herself. Another example is Captain Mike McCubbin, who partially wounded a Facehugger with a golf club and then removed it with assistance before it fully attached. Synthetics are typically strong enough to pull a Facehugger from a victim before they are subdued, but this carries its own risk as sometimes the Facehugger is torn apart in the effort and the synthetic risks showering the victim in acid. [25]


Once the embryonic Xenomorph is secure, the Facehugger will detach from the host and subsequently die. It is not known how long a Facehugger can survive after implantation is complete; some Facehuggers have been found dead directly alongside their hosts, [5] or even still attached to the host’s face, while others have been known to crawl away and apparently even hide before dying. [3] Hosts are often left with no memory of the Facehugger’s attack, a possible side-effect of the chemicals it administers to them. They may also experience post-implantation symptoms including extreme hunger, sore throat, dry mouth, nausea, nosebleeds and chest pains, although these may not be present in all victims and some individuals have been known to display no outward symptoms whatsoever until the Chestburster inside them begins to emerge. Some hosts have also complained about a bitter taste in their mouth or that their mouths feel strange.

However, these negative effects do not appear to be universal — Darcy Vance noted that many documented hosts reported feeling healthier than normal during the incubation period, a fact attributed to heightened levels of endorphins and adrenaline in their blood stream, though at the cost of their immune system. [26]


Facehuggers do not appear to possess any higher form of intelligence like their adult Xenomorph counterparts, which is especially evident in their single-mindedness and relentlessness while in pursuit of a host, even when at obvious risk of death. However, at the very least they seem to possess a sense of cunning, and have been known to ambush their victims at opportune moments, such as when they are distracted, alone or otherwise vulnerable. They also seem to possess an ability to gauge how much acid to use when melting through helmets or other obstructions to reach a victim’s face without causing the host itself physical harm, given that victims never seem to be harmed or have any acid burns upon their faces after implantation. It is also possible that the acid secreted by Facehuggers neutralizes at a much faster rate than typical Xenomorph blood, considering the lack of damage to hosts.

Facehuggers also seem to have at least some ability to analyze the threat a host may pose to their own safety, and will adjust their methods of attack as a result. For instance, they will move aggressively when attacking hosts that can defend themselves, [27] but are more nonchalant and methodical when their victim is cocooned or otherwise immobilized, [5] or even willingly allowing themselves to be impregnated.

Alternate Forms

Royal Facehugger

The Royal Facehugger has the ability to lay a Queen embryo inside a host, as well as a further standard embryo inside a second host, a tactic designed to give the unborn Queen an immediate «bodyguard» in the form of a normal Drone. The necessity of a Royal Facehugger in creating a Queen has never been definitive — many sources show standard Facehuggers to be capable of creating a Queen. Given that the Xenomorph species is adaptive in so many ways, this may well be plausible.

Praetorian Facehugger

As with the Royal Facehugger, Praetorian Facehuggers play a part in creating Queens by implanting Praetorian Chestbursters. These Praetorians can subsequently develop into a Queen. Should a Queen already be present, the resulting Praetorian can develop into a bodyguard — either a Ravager or a Carrier depending on the circumstances. Like regular Facehuggers, they die after implanting one embryo, making them distinct from Royal Facehuggers.

Engineered Facehugger

These genetically engineered Facehuggers will attach to a host as usual, but then parasitically fuse with it, linking it to the Hive mind, thus creating an Infectoid. The Infected move in a zombie-like fashion. If one infects a Yautja Hunter, it will attack anything unlinked to the Hive that moves.

Queen Face Hugger

Not to be confused with the Royal Facehugger from the films, the Queen Face Hugger was a toy created by Kenner Products as part of the company’s Aliens toy line. The packaging variously referred to them as Queen Face Huggers or Giant Face Huggers.

Planet 4 Facehugger

These Facehuggers come from the eggs created by the android David. They possess similar traits to their later counterparts but seem to lack the ability to chemically sedate their hosts along with inferior grip. To make up such shortcomings, they possess greater speed and agility along with last resort ability to infect a host within seconds of attachment should forced removal become imminent.

Non-canon Depictions

The 1995 crossover Superman vs. Aliens, Superman is infected with the embryo of an alien queen by a Royal Facehugger during a time when his powers are diminished from lack of sunlight. When his powers return due to close proximity from a yellow sun, his core muscles are able to crush the egg and then he is able to regurgitate it.

The 1997 crossover Batman/Aliens had a Crocodile Alien, implying a Facehugger was able to overpower a crocodile despite its larger stronger jaw and longer breath-holding abilities. In 2002 Superman vs. Aliens II: God War depicts Darkseid able to crush a Facehugger one-handed. At the end, Parademons are shown infected by Facehuggers.

A testament to a Facehugger’s strength can be seen in issue 1 (page 18) of the 6-part 2015 crossover Aliens/Vampirella, where the eponymous main character Vampirella (a vampire) is overpowered and subdued by a Facehugger despite catching the creature in mid-air with an outstretched arm, meaning the creature would have had no leverage. She survives the Chestburster resulting in a Vampiric Queen due to her regeneration abilities.

In the 2015 Fighting game Mortal Kombat X The Facehugger was a part of the Tarkaten Xenomorph’s Move set and Outro.

In a 2017 Rick and Morty promo for Alien: Covenant, a Facehugger attacks main character Rick Sanchez as he and Morty Smith investigate a ship resembling the Space Jockey’s vessel. Before it can subdue and impregnate him, however, it dies from the massive amount of toxins (drugs, alcohol, etc.) in Rick’s body. Nothing prior to this implied that Facehuggers absorb anything from their victims.

Behind the Scenes


Giger’s initial Facehugger design, showing a larger creature.

The Facehugger was the first design completed by H. R. Giger for Alien. [28] His original Facehugger was a much larger creature with eyes and a spring-loaded tail. Later, in response to comments from the filmmakers, Giger reduced the creature’s size substantially. [29] At first Giger assumed that the Facehugger would wrap around the outside of Kane’s helmet, but Scott decided that it would have far more impact if the Facehugger were revealed once the helmet was removed. Scott and Giger realised that the Facehugger could burn through the helmet’s faceplate with its acid blood; subsequent redesigns of the space helmet included a far larger faceplate to allow for this. [30]

Dan O’Bannon initially conceived the Facehugger as somewhat resembling an octopus, possessing tentacles. However, when he received Giger’s designs, which substituted tentacles with fingerlike digits, he thought Giger’s design concept superior. Since no one was available at the time, special effects creator Roger Dicken created the Facehugger prop himself. [29] The technical elements of the musculature and bone were added by Ron Cobb. Giger’s initial design for the smaller Facehugger had the fingers facing forward, but Dicken’s redesign shifted the legs to the side. When the foam rubber sculpture of the Facehugger was produced, O’Bannon asked that it should remain unpainted, believing the rubber, which resembled human skin, was more plausible. [31]

Five Facehuggers were built for the film — a fully articulated «hero» puppet with wire controls for the legs, a puppeted tail and air bladders to animate the sacs on either side of the body, a single Facehugger used solely for shots of the creature’s understudy, and three stunt Facehuggers with poseable fingers. [32] For the scene where the creature leaps from its Egg and attacks Kane, sheep’s intestine was propelled directly towards the camera using high-pressure air hoses. [29] The shot of the Facehugger latching onto Kane’s face was acted out and filmed backwards, then reversed in editing. A final shot showed the creature inserting its proboscis through Kane’s melted helmet visor. All three shots were edited together with quick cuts in rapid succession so that the final sequence lasts barely a second on film. [29] For the scene in which the dead Facehugger is examined, Scott dressed a cup-shaped body with pieces of fish and shellfish to create its viscera. [29]


For Aliens, where the Facehugger took a more active role, numerous different models were constructed to give the creatures a far greater range of movements. Effects supervisor Stan Winston said of the production, «We have — including states of decay and dead ones, dissected ones and living ones that do different things — approximately 15 Facehuggers, to make it look like one lives.» [33]

Among the various Facehugger proper constructed were two principle «hero» puppets that were cable-operated and capable of fully articulated movement. [34] These required as many as nine operators to control their performance. [35] An additional cable-operated Facehugger was built solely for the scene where the survivors encounter the live creature inside a preservative tank. This puppet had to be waterproofed against the liquid in which it was suspended, with the control cables emerging from its back (out of shot) and through watertight seals in the rear of the tank. [36] It also featured a cable-operated proboscis for the shots where it attempts to attack Burke. Winston’s studio also designed and built a running Facehugger that could operate without any need for external puppeteers. Described as a «sophisticated pull toy», the puppet moved along a thin wire, which in turn rotated a spindle within that operated the creature’s legs and tail; [33] this Facehugger is memorably seen charging towards Ripley across the med lab floor. Alongside these animatronic Facehuggers, an array of static foam and rubber dummies were also used, with various features such as magnetised legs for sticking to walls or spring-loaded tails to perform leaps. [37]


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