More yeast, more problems?: reevaluating the role of Malassezia in seborrheic dermatitis

Arch Dermatol Res. 2024 Mar 12;316(4):100. doi: 10.1007/s00403-024-02830-7.


Seborrheic dermatitis (SD) is an inflammatory skin disorder and eczema subtype increasingly recognized to be associated with significant physical, psychosocial, and financial burden. The full spectrum of SD, including dandruff localized to the scalp, is estimated to affect half of the world's population. Despite such high prevalence, the exact etiopathogenesis of SD remains unclear. Historically, many researchers have theorized a central, causative role of Malassezia spp. based on prior studies including the proliferation of Malassezia yeast on lesional skin of some SD patients and empiric clinical response to antifungal therapy. However, upon closer examination, many of these findings have not been reproducible nor consistent. Emerging data from novel, targeted anti-inflammatory therapeutics, as well as evidence from genome-wide association studies and murine models, should prompt a reevaluation of the popular yeast-centered hypothesis. Here, through focused review of the literature, including laboratory studies, clinical trials, and expert consensus, we examine and synthesize the data arguing for and against a primary role for Malassezia in SD. We propose an expansion of SD pathogenesis and suggest reframing our view of SD to be based primarily on dysregulation of the host immune system and skin epidermal barrier, like other eczemas.

Keywords: Malassezia; Barrier; Inflammation; Microbiome; Seborrheic dermatitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Malassezia*
  • Mice
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Skin / pathology