Malassezia has everything it might possibly need here in this rich land.
It’s as if it’s in heaven, endlessly feasting. But wait, what exactly is this? Malassezia is a form of yeast that lives on our scalps and feeds on it.
It also induces dandruff in about half of the human population. Why are some people more prone to dandruff than others? What should be done about it, and how can it be treated?
We may think of ourselves as individuals, but in fact, we are colonies. Hundreds of billions of microbes live on our skin. Shortly after we are born, Malassezia yeasts create a home on our skin.
Follicles, the tiny cavities that produce hairs all over our bodies, are particularly common places to live. Malassezia likes to hide in these places because they contain glands that secrete a lubricating and strengthening oil called Sebum.
Malassezia has evolved to feed on the proteins and oils in our blood. Our scalp is one of the oiliest areas on our bodies, thanks to its many sebum-secreting follicles, and hence one of the yeastiest. Dandruff can develop as a result of these fungi feasting on our scalp’s oils.
This is due to the fact that sebum contains both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fats clump together neatly.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, have double bonds in their structure that cause an irregular kink.
Malassezia consumes sebum by secreting an enzyme that breaks down all of the fatty acids in the oil. However, they only eat saturated fats and ignore unsaturated fats.
These irregularly shaped scraps soak into the skin and pry open the skin’s barrier, allowing water to escape. When the body senses these violations, it defends itself, resulting in the inflammation that causes dandruff to itch.
It also causes skin cells to multiply in order to rebuild the weakened barrier. Every two to three weeks, our skin’s outer layer, or epidermis, renews entirely. Epidermal cells divide, migrate outwards, die, and form the skin’s strong outer layer, which eventually sheds off in single cells far too small to see.
Dandruff, on the other hand, causes cells to churn out rapidly in order to repair the damaged barrier, preventing them from maturing and differentiating properly.
Instead, they clump together in big, greasy clumps around the hair follicle, which are then shed as visible flakes. Dandruff is caused by Malassezia’s voracious appetite and our bodies’ response to its by-products.
The most powerful way to get rid of dandruff right now is to use antifungals in shampoos and apply them directly to the scalp to suppress Malassezia.
For those that suffer from dandruff, it normally comes and goes as sebum secretions fluctuate due to hormonal changes during one’s existence.
However, not everybody gets dandruff, despite the fact that Malassezia colonises everyone to the same degree. Some people are more vulnerable than others. It’s unclear why this is the case.
Do people who have dandruff have a hereditary predisposition to it? Is it true that their skin layer is more permeable? Scientists are currently looking into whether people with dandruff lose more water through their scalps, and whether this is what causes their skin cells to proliferate.
Malassezia communicates with our immune system through small, oily molecules called Oxylipins, which control inflammation, according to researchers.
They may be able to create new therapies if they can find a way to suppress inflammatory Oxylipins while increasing anti-inflammatory ones.
Scientists are also looking at whether our relationship with Malassezia has any benefits.
They believe that dandruff, which can be bothersome and humiliating for us, provides the yeast with a consistent, oily food supply. However, dandruff is not infectious and poses no significant health risk.
And Malassezia appears to be particularly good at protecting their turf, our skin, from more dangerous microbes like Staphylococcus Aureus.
So, while scientists have uncovered many of the mysteries surrounding this disease, it must be said that dandruff is still a mystery.