The role of the microbiome in scalp hair follicle biology and disease

Exp Dermatol. 2020 Mar;29(3):286-294. doi: 10.1111/exd.13935. Epub 2019 May 15.


The skin surface microbiome and its role in skin diseases have received increasing attention over the past years. Beyond, there is evidence for a continuous exchange with the cutaneous immune system in healthy skin, where hair follicles (HFs) provide unique anatomical niches. Especially, scalp HFs form large tubular invaginations, which extend deeply into the skin and harbour a variety of microorganisms. The distinct immunology of HFs with enhanced immune cell trafficking in superficial compartments in juxtaposition to immune-privileged sites crucial for hair follicle cycling and regeneration makes this organ a highly susceptible structure. Depending on composition and penetration depth, microbiota may cause typical infections, but may also contribute to pro-inflammatory environment in chronic inflammatory scalp diseases. Involvement in hair cycle regulation and immune cell maturation has been postulated. Herein, we review recent insights in hair follicle microbiome, immunology and penetration research and discuss clinical implications for scalp health and disease.

Keywords: alopecia; bacteria; immune system; inflammation; nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia
  • Alopecia Areata / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic / metabolism
  • Hair
  • Hair Follicle / immunology
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism*
  • Hair Follicle / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Inflammation
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Mice
  • Microbiota*
  • Psoriasis
  • Scalp / immunology*
  • Scalp / metabolism*
  • Scalp / pathology
  • Scalp / physiology*
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Diseases / metabolism