Skip to contentSkip to search

Malassezia – How The Cause Of Dandruff Works

Dandruff is actually caused by a microbe. It’s 100% natural and it’s found on everyone’s scalp. But how does it work?

Malassezia globosa exists on nearly all warm-blooded mammals, so we’re not alone in having to deal with its effects.

And it doesn’t just cause dandruff – it’s also been found to cause a host of other problems from allergies and infections in humans to ear infections in cats.

Watch the video below to learn more about Malassezia globosa (the fungus on your scalp) with Veritasium.

The major culprit in causing dandruff 

The root cause of dandruff is the single-celled microbe Malassezia globosa, which exists on everyone’s scalp.

Around 50% of people’s bodies have a negative reaction to the presence of this fungus, causing dandruff.

It feeds on scalp oils…

The natural oils on your scalp, known as sebum, are key requirements to fuel the dandruff-causing microbe.

Malassezia globosa feeds off these oils, breaking it down into by-products, including oleic acid.

That’s where dandruff starts.

Half the world is sensitive to oleic acid

If you’re one of the 50% of people in the world sensitive to oleic acid, you’ll probably experience dandruff.

The body reacts to the presence of oleic acid by increasing the speed at which your skin cells renew.

It’s an attempt to “shed” the irritant and is the mechanism that causes flakes. Dead skin
cells accumulate on the scalp
 and become visible in your hair and fall off onto your shoulders too.

It’s not just flakes either

There’s more to the body’s response to Malassezia globosa and oleic acid than just flaking.

If you suffer from dandruff you’re likely to experience:

These are all symptoms caused by the body’s response to irritation caused by Malassezia globosa.

Research into Malassezia globosa means better treatments for dandruff

At Head & Shoulders, we’ve been on Malassezia globosa’s case for decades and in 2007 our scientists sequenced its 4,285 genes.

By understanding how it works, we’re better able to identify the irritants it produces and work to develop anti-dandruff shampoos which can tackle these irritants and help get rid of dandruff.

But it doesn’t stop there. We’re still researching and working hard to not only improve our shampoos, but to also investigate the biochemical changes in skin caused by Malassezia globosa stress.

More about dandruff

More tips and advice from the experts:

Join our community on social media