What your scalp microbiome says about you

In recent years we have been inundated with findings revealing the major role our gut microbiome plays in a number of health conditions, from obesity to cancer and mental health. As our regular readers will know, research into the skin microbiome has since followed suit. But only recently has the composition of the scalp microbiome, and its effect on scalp health, been studied.

So, what microbes are living on our scalp? In a study of 140 Indian women, Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermis emerged as the core bacterial species (1) whilst Malassezia restricta and Malassezia globosa were the most common fungal colonisers.

A dysbiosis of any microbiome can have knock-on effects and this is also true of the scalp microbiome. What do the findings mean? Researchers of the study found that a high ratio of S. epidermis was associated with dandruff, whereas P. acnes was associated with a healthy scalp.

The composition of fungal species was also important, with a lower M. restricta to M. globosa ratio characteristic of a healthy scalp. These findings, which echo wider recent studies undertaken in different geographies, suggest that the antagonistic relationship between microbial species could be used as a biomarker to help diagnose and prevent dandruff. Say goodbye to those pesky white flakes!

scalp microbiome


[1] Department of Biological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research – Comparison of healthy and dandruff scalp microbiome reveals the role of commensals in scalp health

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