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Malassezia folliculitis pathology

Author: Assoc Prof Patrick Emanuel, Dermatopathologist, Auckland, New Zealand, 2014.

Table of contents

Malassezia folliculitis is likely caused by Malassezia globosa in the majority of cases. Follicular occlusion may be the primary pathology. Overgrowth of yeast probably follows as a secondary process.

Histology of malassezia folliculitis

The follicles are often plugged but there is minimal other epidermal change. There is a suppurative folliculitis, primarily involving the infundibular portions of the hair follicle (figures 1, 2, 3 show the same process at progressively higher magnification). PAS stain reveals numerous oval yeast-like organisms within the follicle and often in the surrounding dermis (figure 1, inset). The yeasts have been compared to a “clown with clown nose” as there is often small budding of the yeast-like forms (figure 1, arrow). The surrounding dermis shows a reactive inflammatory reaction which may be exuberant if there is follicular rupture.

Malassezia folliculitis pathology

Special studies for malassezia folliculitis

PAS or GMS is typically required to demonstrate the malassezia yeast. The morphology of the organism can be seen in figure 1.

Differential diagnosis of malassezia folliculitis pathology

Bacterial folliculitisMorphologically identical, but without the causative organisms. Malassezia folliculitis is likely under-diagnosed as it will only be recognised if stains are done on all cases of suppurative folliculitis

Majocci granuloma – Rather than yeast-like forms, dermatophytes will be seen within follicular structures with special stains. The process is typically a deep folliculitis rather than the superficial process seen with malassezia folliculitis.



  • Weedon’s Skin Pathology (Third edition, 2010). David Weedon
  • Pathology of the Skin (Fourth edition, 2012). McKee PH, J. Calonje JE, Granter SR

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