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Can Dandruff Cause Hair Loss? What You Need To Know

Can Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

Untreated dandruff and an itchy scalp could indirectly be causing your hair loss. On the flip side, hair regrowing medication like minoxidil may cause you to get dandruff in the first place. Fixing your dandruff problem may even alleviate hair loss, so it may be time to get to the root of the matter!

Dandruff is bad enough without also having to deal with patchy hair growth or higher than normal hair fall. But is your dandruff causing the hair loss? While there may not be a direct connection, the two problems are closely linked enough to matter. And remember, if you’re struggling to cope, some remedies like onion juice, garlic paste, lemongrass or tea tree oil can be beneficial for both. Read on to find out more.

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff affects about 50% of people the world over, so you are certainly not alone in this problem.1 This skin condition may cause your scalp to start flaking, leaving your hair dotted with gray or white flakes. It could also cause your scalp to feel itchy and dry. For some people, the scalp may even become red or swollen. Thankfully, it isn’t contagious, but it can be embarrassing to be caught with hair that people may interpret as dirty or unsightly. It can be caused by:

  • Yeast overgrowth on your skin – seborrhoeic dermatitis in adults and cradle cap in babies
  • Scalp ringworm/fungal infection like tinea capitis
  • Eczema
  • An allergic reaction to hairspray, mousse, gel, or dye
  • Skin conditions like psoriasis

Stress and exposure to cold weather can make dandruff worse.2 Often, the fungus implicated in the condition causes skin growth on the scalp to increase, resulting in higher than usual dead cells. This is what flakes off your scalp along with the oils in your skin.3 In addition, you may notice hair loss, thinning hair, reduced density of growth of hair, bald patches or even complete baldness – all signs of a hair loss issue that may or may not be linked to dandruff.4

Dandruff May Indirectly Cause Hair Loss

A dandruff problem on its own is not directly responsible for your hair falling out. However, issues with your scalp do sometimes cause your hair to fall out. For instance, telogen effluvium, a temporary hair loss usually due to some form of shock or stress, may result in thinning of the hair on top of your head.5 Similarly, certain dandruff-related problems like itchy scalp or scaling can impair hair growth or cause more hair to fall.

Chronic, Untreated Dandruff May Cause Hair Fall

Chronic scaling conditions of your scalp may increase hair loss and even bring on a temporary reduction in the hairs per square centimeter of your scalp – what is called reduced hair density.6 So if you have a long-term untreated dandruff problem, which means your scalp has been scaling for a while, it may start taking its toll on your hair and result in hair loss.7 Researchers even note that a scalp that has dandruff may see greater hair fall than a normal scalp.8

Constant Scratching May Weaken Roots

Hair loss may also be brought on due to associated problems. For instance, constantly scratching at a dandruff-laden scalp can cause mechanical hair loss – that is you end up inadvertently pulling your hair from its shaft. The dryness can also leave your hair undernourished as skin oils stick to the flaking skin of your scalp, contributing to poor nutrition for your hair.

Constant Use Of Antifungal Shampoo May Damage Hair And Cause Breakage

You may be using antifungal shampoos or even regular shampoos multiple times a week to deal with dandruff. Unfortunately, this can leave your hair dry and frizzy. Worse yet, it may also damage the hair cuticles, affecting the quality and look of your hair overall. Hair becomes harder to comb through and may break. And this can cause that much-dreaded hair loss. Smoothening the cuticles and coating the hair shafts can help mitigate this problem.9

Hair Loss Medication Can Also Cause You To Develop Dandruff

Interestingly, hair loss itself may be the cause of your dandruff! If you’re treating your hair loss with certain medication, that could be why you have dandruff, rather than your dandruff causing hair loss.

Hair loss medications like minoxidil, which are topical treatments for stimulating hair growth, have some unwanted side effects including scalp irritation and dermatitis. It may also cause some dryness. This may lead some people to develop dandruff and others to experience a worsening of the dryness associated with dandruff. There is some evidence of such flaking and dermatitis occurring as a result of using minoxidil.10 The saving grace? There is some research into treatments that simultaneously combine minoxidil for hair regrowth with antifungal drugs like ketoconazole. Such topical treatments may offer hope for those plagued by these twin problems.11 An alternative is to simply switch to a different haircare remedy instead of minoxidil.

Treating Dandruff Naturally Could Alleviate Hair Loss

Dandruff is associated with a dry, itchy, flaky scalp. Which is why you’ll typically be told to moisturize and condition your scalp and hair so that you can soothe the itching. Doing this also helps nourish your hair from the root to tip. And there’s some good news, too. Some remedies meant to help treat your dandruff problem could also help with hair loss. Here’s a look at some such remedies:

  • Raw onion juice is an antifungal agent, making it useful for treating dandruff.12 But it is also a known natural remedy for alopecia areata which causes patchy hair loss.13
  • Garlic paste or gel applied to the scalp is another such remedy that is beneficial for both hair loss and dandruff.14 15
  • Lemongrass oil is a great hair tonic and could significantly reduce dandruff in your hair.16

Remember, whether it is dandruff or hair loss that you are grappling with, taking care of your scalp health can go a long way in keeping your hair from falling and restoring its luster.

Your Hair Loss Could Be Linked To Other Causes Too

What if dandruff has nothing to do with your hair loss? What are the other reasons you could be losing hair? Hair loss may be caused as a result of certain factors like stress, inadequate nutrition, a thyroid or hormone imbalance, or may be male or female pattern baldness or alopecia. Certain medication like chemotherapy may also cause you to experience hair fall or loss. Using too many treatments on your hair – like chemical or heat treatments for color or texture – can also bring on hair loss. Traction alopecia is another avoidable trigger – the tugging and pulling of your hair too tightly for hair weaving and cornrows can cause this kind of hair loss. In addition, there are disorders like trichotillomania which can bring on an irresistible urge to pull out your own hair.17

So if your hair loss and dandruff are making life uncomfortable for you, it is well worth the extra effort to dig deeper and find out if they’re connected somehow or there’s another underlying reason that you can address. It will be well worth it for that gorgeous head of hair you’ve been missing!

References   [ + ]

1. Sommer, Bettina, David P. Overy, and Russell G. Kerr. “Identification and characterization of lipases from Malassezia restricta, a causative agent of dandruff.” FEMS yeast research 15, no. 7 (2015).
2. Dandruff. National Health Service.
3. Dandruff. Women’s and Children’s Health Network, Government of South Australia.
4. Hair loss: Signs and symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology.
5, 17. Understanding Hair Loss in Men & Women. American Hair Loss Council.
6. Rushton, D. H. “Nutritional factors and hair loss.” Clinical and experimental dermatology 27, no. 5 (2002): 396-404.
7. Dandruff.The Nemours Foundation.
8, 11. Singh, Mahima, A. G. Hariharan, C. K. Sudhakar, and Sanjay Jain. “A NEW PERSPECTIVE FOR THE TREATMENT OF DANDRUFF & ASSOCIATED ALOPECIA WITH EMULSION BASED GEL CONTAINING KETOCONAZOLE AND MINOXIDIL.” International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research 7, no. 9 (2016): 3899-3906.
9. Draelos, Zoe Diana, Dianna Chute Kenneally, Lauren Thaman Hodges, Ward Billhimer, Megan Copas, and Carl Margraf. “A comparison of hair quality and cosmetic acceptance following the use of two anti-dandruff shampoos.” In Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 201-204. Elsevier, 2005.
10. Gupta, Aditya K., and Kelly A. Foley. “5% Minoxidil: treatment for female pattern hair loss.” Skin Therapy Lett 19, no. 6 (2014): 5-7.
12, 15. Shams-Ghahfarokhi, Masoomeh, Mohammad-Reza Shokoohamiri, Nasrin Amirrajab, Behnaz Moghadasi, Ali Ghajari, Farideh Zeini, Golnar Sadeghi, and Mehdi Razzaghi-Abyaneh. “In vitro antifungal activities of Allium cepa, Allium sativum and ketoconazole against some pathogenic yeasts and dermatophytes.” Fitoterapia 77, no. 4 (2006): 321-323.
13. Sharquie, Khalifa E., and Hala K. Al‐Obaidi. “Onion juice (Allium cepa L.), a new topical treatment for alopecia areata.” The Journal of dermatology 29, no. 6 (2002): 343-346.
14. Hajheydari, Zohreh, Mojgan Jamshidi, Jafar Akbari, and Rezaali Mohammadpour. “Combination of topical garlic gel and betamethasone valerate cream in the treatment of localized alopecia areata: a double-blind randomized controlled study.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology 73, no. 1 (2007): 29.
16. Chaisripipat, Wannee, Nattaya Lourith, and Mayuree Kanlayavattanakul. “Anti-dandruff Hair Tonic Containing Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) Oil.” Complementary Medicine Research 22, no. 4 (2015): 226-229.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.