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Malassezia (Pityrosporum) Folliculitis Treatment & Management

  • Author: Sarah Sweeney Pinney, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 12, 2016

Medical Care

Both topical and oral antifungals are effective agents in the treatment of Pityrosporum folliculitis (PF). Oral antifungals have the advantage of dramatic, immediate clearing of the lesions and are the most effective treatment.[31]

Patients have been successfully treated with oral pulse itraconazole and weekly fluconazole. M sympodialis is highly sensitive to terbinafine, while other species are more resistant to treatment with this medication.[32]

A course of oral ketoconazole[33] and topical ketoconazole shampoo is currently the recommended treatment.[34] Oral medication should be discontinued when the lesions resolve. Because relapse almost always occurs when treatment is withdrawn, topical ketoconazole is indefinitely continued after successful initial treatment with oral medication.  

Other topicals that are used to treat Pityrosporum folliculitis are ciclopirox olamine cream, econazole cream, alcohol and salicylic acid solution (with or without benzoic acid 5%), propylene glycol 50% in water, and selenium sulfide shampoo.[35] Other topical treatments with some reported success include tea tree oil, honey, tacrolimus, and cinnamic acid.[36]

In cases associated with antibiotic use, discontinuing the antibiotic may be helpful.

Retinoids, which are used for comedones in acne, have no effect because no comedones are present in Pityrosporum folliculitis.[37, 38]

Tetracycline does not help in Pityrosporum folliculitis, and it may exacerbate the condition by further destroying the normal bacterial skin flora and allowing further spread of Malassezia yeasts.

Other studies suggest topical photodynamic therapy with methyl aminolevulinate may be a potential therapy for recalcitrant Malassezia folliculitis.[39]



No consultations are necessary in Pityrosporum folliculitis.



Advise patients with Pityrosporum folliculitis to avoid predisposing factors such as emollients, occlusive topicals, occlusive nylon clothing, immunosuppressants, steroids, and antibiotics.


Long-Term Monitoring

Regular clinical follow-up may be necessary in Pityrosporum folliculitis (PF) to monitor the patient's condition and refill prescriptions.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Sarah Sweeney Pinney, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Sarah Sweeney Pinney, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Dermatological Society, Texas Medical Association, Women's Dermatologic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Ronald P Rapini, MD Professor and Chair, Department of Dermatology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Distinguished Chernosky Professor and Chair of Dermatology, Professor of Pathology, University of Texas McGovern Medical School at Houston

Ronald P Rapini, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for MOHS Surgery, Society for Investigative Dermatology, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Received royalty from Elsevier publishers for independent contractor; May receive consulting fee from FDA panel for consulting in future, since I am on one of their committees, but at this time so far have received zero from FDA.

Rashid M Rashid, MD, PhD Director, Mosaic Clinic Hair Transplant Center of Houston

Rashid M Rashid, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Medical Association, Texas Dermatological Society, International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, Council for Nail Disorders, Houston Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Lester F Libow, MD Dermatopathologist, South Texas Dermatopathology Laboratory

Lester F Libow, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Sciences, Director of Dermatology Residency Program, University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, Canadian Medical Association, Pacific Dermatologic Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Canadian Medical Protective Association, Canadian Dermatology Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Daniel J Hogan, MD Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine (Dermatology), Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine; Investigator, Hill Top Research, Florida Research Center

Daniel J Hogan, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Contact Dermatitis Society, and Canadian Dermatology Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Siobahn M Hruby, MD Internal Medicine Physician, Boys Town National Research Hospital

Siobahn M Hruby, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians and American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Stephen H Mason, MD

Stephen H Mason is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Skin Cancer Foundation, and Women's Dermatologic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Brittany J Oswald, MD Resident Physician, Department of Internal Medicine, Ochsner Clinic Foundation Hospital

Brittany J Oswald is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association and American Medical Student Association/Foundation

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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This photo is high-power hematoxylin and eosin staining of a biopsy confirming Pityrosporum folliculitis. There is a hair shaft within a hair follicle with scattered amphophilic staining circular Pityrosporum yeast. Photo courtesy of Ronald Rapini, MD.
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