Exploration of scalp surface lipids reveals squalene peroxide as a potential actor in dandruff condition

Arch Dermatol Res. 2016 Apr;308(3):153-63. doi: 10.1007/s00403-016-1623-1. Epub 2016 Feb 3.


Dandruff is a common but complex disorder with three major contributing factors: (1) individual predisposition, (2) scalp sebum and (3) Malassezia yeast colonization. To obtain further insights into the role of sebum in dandruff biogenesis, we analyzed scalp lipid species in a cohort of ten dandruff-free (control) and ten dandruff-afflicted volunteers by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Lipid peroxidation levels and biochemical markers of oxidative stress were also assessed. Squalene, a major sebum component, was significantly more peroxidized in dandruff-affected scalps, resulting in significantly higher ratios of squalene monohydroperoxide (SQOOH)/squalene. This was observed when comparing dandruff-affected zones of dandruff subjects to both their non-affected zones and control subjects. In addition, other biomarkers such as malondialdehyde indicated that oxidative stress levels were raised on dandruff scalps. Surprisingly, differences regarding either free or bound fatty acids were fairly rare and minor. Certain novel findings, especially squalene peroxidation levels, were then confirmed in a validation cohort of 24 dandruff-affected subjects, by comparing dandruff-affected and non-dandruff zones from the same individuals. As SQOOH can induce both keratinocyte inflammatory responses and hyperproliferation in vitro, we hypothesized that increased SQOOH could be considered as a new etiological dandruff factor via its ability to impair scalp barrier function. Our results also indicated that Malassezia could be a major source of squalene peroxidation on the scalp.

Keywords: Dandruff scalp; Lipids; Malassezia; Oxidative stress; Sebum; Squalene peroxide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dandruff / etiology
  • Dandruff / metabolism*
  • Dandruff / microbiology
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation*
  • Malassezia / isolation & purification
  • Malassezia / metabolism
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / analysis
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Scalp / metabolism*
  • Scalp / microbiology
  • Sebum / chemistry
  • Sebum / metabolism*
  • Squalene / analogs & derivatives*
  • Squalene / analysis
  • Squalene / metabolism


  • 2,3-oxidosqualene
  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Squalene