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7 Causes of Dandruff

Avatar • Nov 25, 2011

Via MayoClinic.com

Dandruff is a common chronic scalp condition marked by itching and flaking of the skin on your scalp. Although dandruff isn’t contagious and is rarely serious, it can be embarrassing and sometimes difficult to treat.

The good news is that dandruff usually can be controlled. Mild cases of dandruff may need nothing more than daily shampooing with a gentle cleanser. More stubborn cases of dandruff often respond to medicated shampoos. Dandruff can have several causes, including:

1. Dry skin

Simple dry skin — the kind you get during winter when the air is cold and rooms are overheated — is the most common cause of itchy, flaking dandruff. Flakes from dry skin are generally smaller and less oily than those from other causes of dandruff, and you’ll likely have symptoms and signs of dry skin on other parts of the body, such as your legs and arms.

2. Irritated, oily skin (seborrheic dermatitis)

This condition, one of the most frequent causes of dandruff, is marked by red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales. Seborrheic dermatitis may affect not only your scalp, but also other areas rich in oil glands, such as your eyebrows, the sides of your nose and the backs of your ears, your breastbone, your groin area, and sometimes your armpits.

3. Not shampooing often enough

If you don’t regularly wash your hair, oils and skin cells from your scalp can build up, causing dandruff.

4. Sensitivity to hair care products (contact dermatitis)

Sometimes sensitivities to certain ingredients in hair care products or hair dyes, especially paraphenylene diamine (PPD), can cause a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Shampooing too often or using too many styling products also may irritate your scalp, causing dandruff.

5. Psoriasis

This skin disorder causes an accumulation of dead skin cells that form thick, silvery scales. Psoriasis commonly occurs on your knees, elbows and trunk, but it can also affect your scalp. It may be difficult to differentiate from seborrheic dermatitis if only the scalp is involved.

6. Eczema

If you have eczema anywhere on your body, it could also be on your scalp, possibly leading to the development of dandruff.

7. A yeast-like fungus (malassezia)

Malassezia lives on the scalps of most healthy adults without causing problems. But sometimes it grows out of control, feeding on the oils secreted by your hair follicles. This can irritate the skin on your scalp and cause more skin cells to grow. The extra skin cells die and fall off, clumping with oil from your hair and scalp, making them appear white and flaky in your hair or on your clothes. Most often this eruption is identical to or closely resembles seborrheic dermatitis.

Exactly what causes an overgrowth of malassezia isn’t known, although having too much oil on your scalp; changes in your hormones; stress; illness; neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease; a suppressed immune system; not shampooing often enough; and extra sensitivity to the malassezia fungus may contribute to the development of dandruff.

Almost anyone can have dandruff, but certain factors can make you more susceptible:

Age

Dandruff usually begins in young adulthood and continues through middle age. That doesn’t mean older adults don’t get dandruff, however. For some people, the problem can be lifelong.

Being male

Because more men have dandruff, some researchers think male hormones may play a role in dandruff. Men also have larger oil-producing glands on their scalps, which can contribute to dandruff.

Oily hair and scalp

Malassezia feeds on oils in your scalp. For that reason, having excessively oily skin and hair makes you more prone to dandruff.

Poor diet

If your diet lacks foods high in zinc, B vitamins or certain types of fats, you may be more likely to have dandruff.

Certain illnesses

For reasons that aren’t clear, adults with neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, are more likely to develop seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. So are people recovering from stressful conditions, particularly heart attack and stroke, and those with compromised immune systems.

Ladies, do you have dandruff? What are your causes or risk factors?

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Crystal
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Crystal

I have had psoriasis since I was nine and it results in thick flakes on my scalp. It’s terrible. I have used every dandruff shampoo known to man and it always comes back. Even the prescription stuff is only temporary. I have to wash my hair at least weekly to keep the flakes and itching down. I have less in the summer, but it comes back. I don’t even wear styles with a lot of parts or braids because i don’t want to show a white scalp. I just ordered some shampoo bars with neem oil from henna sooq and… Read more »

Delphi
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I have been to the dermatologist, had the prescriptions (ketoconazole, salicylic acid creams, etc) and I can only say that these treated my condition for a short while, but left my scalp and hair sooo dry. I can only tell you what has worked for me and a few other people I know. I now use bentonite clay (aztec secret kind from vitamin shoppe), and bragg’s apple cider vinegar. If I do a mask on my hair and face, I have no itchy flaky scaly patches! Good luck to you all.

Sherilyn
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Sherilyn

Try using extra virgin coconut oil. Use it as a pre wash. Oil scalp and hair with the coconut oil. Leave in hair for about 30 minutes to an hour or for serious dandruff issues, leave in overnight with a plastic cap on your head. Wash oil out in the morning. Continue this process everytime you wash your hair for awhile. You should start seeing changes after the first time use.

Tina
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Tina

I want to give my 2 cents in this discussion.…(long story short) Long time ago I went to a beauty salon for a relaxer touch up, like a week after or so my head start to itch so bad also had a dandruff flakes looking like scalp and I couln’t control it with NOTHING over the counter so I went to the doctor. What a surprise when I found out that I had ring worms (is a HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS fungus)on my scalp! My doctor told me (also you can google it) that this fungus is everywhere pretty much but to… Read more »

pamela
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pamela

Wow. I appreciate this.

Delphi
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wow- I had no idea how common this is, or how much people would not recognize it! A quick google search reveals literature from the mayo clinic and PubMed health. Thanks for sharing this!!!

Crystal
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Crystal

@ Sherilyn. I will try the coconut oil before washes and see if it makes a difference. I have some Vatika oil as well as pure coconut oil that I hadn’t applied to my scalp.

@ Tina. I have a dermatologist and primary doctor and it is definitely psoriasis and not ringworm, but I totally agree with going to see a doctor if you’ve never had a problem before.

Thanks

OlivOil
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OlivOil

Well, I was waiting for such an article! I wanted to share about it and get some stories about women who are in the same situation. I basically stopped relaxing because I thought the relaxer could be the cause of my scalp condition: I started to have more and more dandruffs but the itching was the worse part. I would scratch my scalp so bad! I used so many different things to stop it from dandruff shampoo to sulfurate pomade but they always came back.During my transition, I went to see a dermatologist in a medical center specialized in black… Read more »

Cherry
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Cherry

I’m a pharm tech, I live in DRY Colorado and like a lot of ladies that come to the pharm with dry skin/scalp concerns, my daughter & I have flaky scalp issues especially this timer of year. I just wanted to re-iterate the fact that there is adifference between dry skin and fungi & out here there aren’t a lot of ‘black’ skin dermatologists but its not a bad idea to check an opinion before treating with all the ‘wonder otc’s”. A humidifier is great to have as well in this type of climate & dry scalp is my heads… Read more »

Jackie
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Jackie

THank you! I realize this was 5 years ago but your comment is still here and I appreciate it! I’m going to get a humidifier!

Morg
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Morg

i’ve noticed that i only get dandruff when i straighten my hair…

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