Malassezia Globosa

Malassezia Globosa is the scientific name given to the fungus which is most commonly responsible for dandruff. It is a single-celled microbe which lives on the scalp, and feeds on the natural oils secreted by the skin.

What is Malassezia Globosa?

Malassezia Globosa is a type of fungal microbe which is found on the skin of the majority of warm-blooded mammals, including humans. The average adult human has up to ten million Malassezia Globosa microbes living on their head at any one time. These microbes have been proven to cause a wide range of minor skin conditions, such as infections and allergies, however, it is most commonly associated with being the main cause of dandruff.

Malassezia Globosa is a perfectly natural single-celled microbe which is present on the scalp of all humans. It lives on the scalp because it feeds on the natural oil (sebum) secreted by the skin. In the process of digesting these oils, the microbes break down the sebum into byproducts, one of which being oleic acid.

Why is Malassezia Globosa a problem?

When this microbe feeds on the sebum produced by glands under the skin’s surface, it breaks down the oil into different substances. One of these substances is known as oleic acid, and it is this acid which causes the problem.

Half of the world’s population are sensitive to oleic acid. 50% of people’s bodies react to the presence of the acid by rapidly increasing the rate at which our skin cells grow and replace themselves. The skin cells try to shed this irritant substance, and this is what causes the flakes of dead skin cells to start building up on the surface of the scalp. These clusters of dead skin cells build up to become visible in the hair, and often fall out onto the shoulders and clothing throughout the day.

In most cases, dandruff is not a serious condition and can be easily treated with medicated shampoos, which are available in most pharmacies and supermarkets. There is no need to go to your doctor unless your dandruff is particularly severe or persistent.

Symptoms of Dandruff

In addition to the build up of flakes on the scalp and in the hair, dandruff can cause additional symptoms to develop. These include:

  • Itchy scalp
  • Inflammation of the hair follicles
  • Red scalp
  • Dry scalp
  • Greasy hair
  • Oily scalp

The itchiness of the scalp can drive sufferers to scratch their scalp regularly and vigorously which can lead to further complications, such as cuts, grazes, pimples, scabs and infection.

Although the scalp is the most common place on the body to be associated with dandruff, the Malassezia Globosa microbe is actually present all over the body. This means that most parts of the body are susceptible to dandruff, and the most common places (other than the scalp) to be affected include:

  • Hairline
  • Ears
  • Nose
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Eyebrows

The symptoms of dandruff elsewhere on the body are exactly the same as they are on the scalp, however, flaking skin can be harder to identify on body parts with a smaller surface area, such as the eyebrows or inside of the nose.


Although Malassezia Globosa is one of the most common causes of dandruff, it is not the only culprit. Allergy tests are available from pharmacies, clinics and medical institutions to confirm whether a person is allergic to oleic acid, and therefore likely to be suffering from dandruff as a result of Malassezia Globosa. If the results come back confirming that the person is not allergic to this type of acid, it is most likely that the dandruff is being caused by something else.

Other causes of dandruff include:

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Allergic reactions to shampoos, conditioners, hair oils and hair sprays
  • Scalp ringworm

If your dandruff is particularly severe or persistent, your pharmacist or doctor will be able to help diagnose the cause. Understanding the cause of the dandruff will make subsequent treatment easier and more effective.

Treatment for Malassezia Globosa

In cases of dandruff caused by Malassezia Globosa, it is not the Malassezia Globosa itself which requires treatment, but the reaction that the body has to its production of oleic acid. The microbe will need to be stopped from feeding and breaking down the skin’s natural oils, so that the oleic acid is not produced at all.

There are lists of potential natural antifungal remedies which have, in some cases, been proven effective against Malassezia Globosa. These include:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tea tree oil
  • Honey
  • Coconut oil
  • Cinnamic acid
  • Onions
  • Garlic

These home remedies have proven effective for some people suffering from Malassezia Globosa. Their antifungal properties inhibit the microbes’ ability to feed and reproduce and therefore stop the production of oleic acid on the scalp.

The advantage of these remedies is that most of them are affordable, natural and very easy to obtain. The downside is that most of them either have a powerful smell or are sticky and viscous. This makes them unpleasant and often uncomfortable to use in the hair, and in order to be effective, they need to be left in for a reasonable amount of time.

For these reasons, medicated shampoos are often favourable. They are easy to use, do not have to be left in, and are designed to be used on the hair. They smell nice and leave the hair cleaner than it was before.

How do anti-dandruff shampoos work?

Many anti-dandruff shampoos designed to combat Malassezia Globosa work by targeting specific proteins. Malassezia Globosa uses a number of different proteins, 11 to be precise, to break down the sebum on the scalp in order to feed on it. If just one of these proteins is wiped out on the scalp, the microbes are unable to complete the breaking down of the oil, and therefore cannot produce oleic acid. If no oleic acid is produced, the skin cannot react to it and skin cells return to renewing themselves at a normal rate.

Most anti-dandruff shampoos will include one of three active ingredients:

  • Selenium disulfide
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Ketoconazole

Replacing your normal shampoo with a medicated one, and using as per the instructions on the packaging, should help you to see a vast improvement in your dandruff. If the problem persists following a month of continued use of medicated shampoos, or your skin has become red and swollen on your scalp, make an appointment with your doctor to establish the best course of treatment going forward.