Differentiation of Malassezia Species: Selectivity of Cremophor EL, Castor Oil and Ricinoleic Acid for M. Furfur

Br J Dermatol. 1997 Aug;137(2):208-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.1997.18071890.x.


In recent years, the genus Malassezia has been reclassified based on molecular data. In addition to M. furfur, M. pachydermatis and M. sympodialis, four new species, M. globosa, M. obtusa, M. restricta and M. slooffiiae, have been described. However, apart from their lipid dependence, little is known about the metabolism and nutritional requirements of all the seven species. Further to recent studies, 10 hydrophilic emulsifiers (HLB > 10) were examined in an agar diffusion test to determine their growth-promoting effect on reference strains of the different Malassezia species. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) 7 glyceryl monoalcanoate (Cetiol HE). PEG-glyceryl stearate (Tagat S2) and macrogol-50 stearate (Myrj 53) were metabolized by all strains, while PEG-35 castor oil (Cremophor EL) was metabolized only by M. furfur. The latter observation is due to a different metabolism of castor oil and its main component, ricinoleic acid (12-hydroxy oleic acid), which may also give an insight into the pathogenesis of diseases that are associated with Malassezia spp. As hydroxy fatty acids are important in maintaining the epidermal structure and function, their metabolism specifically by M. furfur might clarify some clinical aspects of pityriasis versicolor. Apart from this speculation, use of Cremophor EL, with splitting of esculin as an additional key character, improves the distinction of the species M. furfur, M. slooffiae and M. sympodialis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Castor Oil / pharmacology
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Emulsions
  • Esculin / metabolism
  • Excipients / metabolism
  • Excipients / pharmacology*
  • Glycerol / analogs & derivatives
  • Glycerol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Malassezia / classification*
  • Malassezia / drug effects*
  • Malassezia / growth & development
  • Mycological Typing Techniques
  • Ricinoleic Acids / pharmacology
  • Species Specificity


  • Emulsions
  • Excipients
  • Ricinoleic Acids
  • Esculin
  • cremophor EL
  • Castor Oil
  • ricinoleic acid
  • Glycerol