Dandruff does not itself cause hair loss, but the two may be related. This is because some diseases and medical conditions can cause both hair loss and dandruff.
Dandruff is commonplace. People with dandruff and symptoms similar to dandruff could lose hair, especially if the dandruff is severe.
The hair loss causes aren’t the dandruff itself. Rather it is the cause of the dandruff that leads to hair loss as well.
Having said that, extreme dandruff can damage the follicles of the scalp or hair causing hair to thin or stop growing.
Anyone who thinks that dandruff causes hair loss should see a dermatologist and make sure the issue isn’t something specific.
This article looks at the relationship between hair loss and dandruff, prevention and when to see a doctor.
Can dandruff cause hair loss?
Dandruff is a reference to the rough, itchy skin flakes that grow on the scalp. It’s not a specific diagnosis but a symptom.
Some factors, such as dry skin, diet, stress and some shampoos and hair products, can cause dandruff.
Dandruff isn’t itself causing hair loss. Severe dandruff, however, can cause a person to scratch his scalp so hard that they can injure him.
Repeated inflammation can cause damage and scarring in the hair follicles, slowing or stopping hair growth. This can cause hair to become fragile or thin. Twisting the hair, rubbing it vigorously or scratching the scalp may make it form of hair loss worse.
Many medical conditions, including seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, scalp psoriasis and scalp ringworm, can also cause dandruff or flaky skin on the scalp.
What can cause both dandruff and hair loss?
Dandruff can be caused by any condition that causes skin flakiness or makes the outer layer of skin shed at an extremely rapid rate.
Such conditions can also affect the scalp and cause hair loss if a person does not seek treatment.
The following conditions may trigger both hair loss and dandruff:
- Fungal infections: Tinea capitis, or ringworm, can cause intense itching on the scalp. Some people also notice dry flakes or blisters, and the hair may fall out in clumps. Some other fungal infections can also cause dandruff symptoms and lead to hair loss. Antifungal treatments can help treat these conditions.
- Scalp psoriasis: Psoriasis is a type of autoimmune condition that can affect the scalp, causing itchy, scaly patches to develop. Although it is not dandruff, it causes dandruff-like symptoms. A person may notice bald spots where the scaly patches develop.
- Folliculitis decalvans: This rare inflammatory condition destroys hair follicles. It also causes itchy red patches to develop on the scalp. A person may think that they have dandruff because of the itching that this condition causes.
- Lichen planopilaris: More common in women, lichen planopilaris causes a dry, flaky rash to develop on the scalp. It can also cause the hair to fall out in clumps. Dandruff treatments will not treat this condition, but the symptoms are similar to those of dandruff.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis can affect any part of the body. It commonly affects the scalp, where it may cause a red or grayish scaly rash that itches, as well as greasy patches. Left untreated, it may damage the hair follicles. Aggressively scratching the area may intensify the damage.
Any condition that causes scratching or burning of the scalp can cause hair loss if a person scratches his scalp or twists his hair. Especially children can respond to scalp pain by pulling the hair.
There is no assurance that the two are related in persons with both dandruff and hair loss. Some people may have dandruff, perhaps because of dry skin, and a condition that causes hair loss, like:
- male pattern baldness, a hormonal type of hair loss that both men and women can develop
- telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss caused by infection, injury, or stress
- alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition
- inflammation or scarring of the scalp
- scalp infections
People with a dandruff history can experience occasional dandruff flares, even after successful treatment of it.
Several techniques which can avoid hair loss due to dandruff are as follows:
- See a dermatologist or other healthcare provider for dandruff that does not respond to dandruff shampoo or other treatments.
- If the hair comes out in clumps, see a doctor, as this may signal another scalp or hair issue.
- Shampoo the hair regularly. Infrequent washing may increase the risk of dandruff. The American Academy of Dermatology recommend that Caucasian and Asian people wash their hair daily, and that African American people wash their hair weekly.
- Carefully follow the instructions on the bottle of dandruff shampoo. Some shampoos may need to remain on the scalp for several minutes to be effective.
- Avoid aggressively brushing or twisting the hair and massaging or scratching the scalp. If the itching is unbearable, ask a healthcare provider about medication to help with itching.
- Avoid very tight hairstyles. These may damage the scalp and hair follicles, slowing hair growth. Tight hairstyles may also break the hair.
- Do not delay dandruff treatment. Use a dandruff shampoo at the first sign of dandruff and seek medical advice if symptoms do not improve within a week or two.
Some people might find their dandruff shampoo leaving the hair dry or dull. Dry, damaged hair breaks and may fall out more easily. After treatment with dandruff use a high quality conditioner.
Try alternating dandruff shampoos with another shampoo if the damage continues.
Dandruff is very common, and most people may manage the symptoms with care at home.
Dandruff sufferers are unlikely to lose their hair. Untreated dandruff, however, can be a hair loss culprit. Even if dandruff isn’t the primary cause, it can damage the scalp and hasten hair loss due to other causes.
Various conditions can mimic dandruff symptoms. See a dermatologist if dandruff doesn’t get better with home treatment, if scratching is unbearable, or if the hair keeps falling out.