Dandruff and Hair Loss - How to Treat it

Many people never consider that dandruff can lead to hair loss, but what if you have severe dandruff, will this lead to hair loss? Dandruff is an abnormal condition also known as seborrheic dermatitis which causes dry and oily skin. Sebaceous glands are responsible for creating an oily substance called sebum which is meant to protect the skin from excessive dryness.

Dandruff is a widely reported skin disorder which leads to shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. However the exact cause of hair loss is unknown, it could be a fungus called Malassezia furfur which grows rapidly near the sebaceous glands on the scalp.

What does Malassezia furfur do to the scalp? If the fungus grows rapidly on the face, and scalp the normal growth of cells is agitated which leads to seborrhoeic dermatitis or dandruff.

What is the cause of severe dandruff?

The cause is not well known, however, dandruff is sometimes linked to the Malassezia fungus. A study using with took samples of 145 patients with dandruff found that 90.3% were positive for Malassezia species. Secondly, people with overactive sebaceous glands often cause dandruff formation, this creates fungi and keratin accumulation in the cells. These cells clump together to form large flakes known as dandruff.

Dandruff usually starts at puberty, and peaks at age 20 but will become less severe in people over 50. It is also more common in African Americans where it affects nearly 80 percent of people.

Comparison of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff

We wanted to analyze some statistics in order to compare seborrheic dermatitis with dandruff, the main difference would be its appearance since dandruff does not cause inflammation but rather fine white flakes. The list below describes the main differences:

  • Population: Seborrheic Dermatitis affects 40 percent of babies in the first 3 months, and only affects 1 percent of the adult population. Dandruff, on the other hand, affects 50 percent of adults.
  • Location: Seborrheic Dermatitis affects the face, upper lip, eyelids, scalp, and chest whereas dandruff only affects the scalp.
  • Apperance:: Seborrheic Dermatitis causes red, inflamed patches with large oily scales, whereas dandruff causes smaller whiter flakes.
  • Treatment: Antifungal shampoos and topical creams can be used to treat both however Seborrheic Dermatitis can also be treated using Topical corticosteroids
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are different conditions but they share similar mechanisms, both affect the seborrheic areas of the body, and they respond to similar treatments. Their cause is linked to environmental factors like including the Malassezia yeast, sebaceous secretion, and the reaction of the immune system.

Can seborrheic dermatitis make your hair fall out?

Even though hair thinning is uncommon with seborrheic dermatitis, some individuals may experience mild hair loss. In most patients, hair growth will resume once the inflammation is treated.

Can Dandruff make your hair fall out?

Studies have shown that even though dandruff does not cause hair loss, people with the condition loose around 50 more hairs per day. The Malassezia infection causes a fungus to grow rapidly. Patients will often develop itching, and scaling with leads to excessive scratching of the scalp and therefore hair loss. If you suffer from dandruff it is worth seeing your doctor to treat the condition.

In some cases people with dandruff also develop telogen effluvium, which is hair thinning related to stress. The link between the conditions is unknown, but hair often grows back when the stress passes

How do you get rid of dandruff in your hair?

Here are a few treatment options that are commonly used to treat dandruff, as always visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

  • Shampoo: Change to a shampoo specifically meant for dandruff relief.
  • Tea Tree Oil: This will help relieve itchiness and dryness in the scalp. You may add a few drops to your conditioner or shampoo.
  • Pyrithione zinc: This is one of the best-known treatments for dandruff, it is mostly found in shampoos
  • Selenium sulfide: This helps treat dandruff and certain scalp infections including seborrheic dermatitis, it should reduce inflammation and itching
  • Ketoconazole: This is an antifungal medicine but is often used to treat dandruff
  • Antifungals: These medications may include Ketoconazole or Bifonazole which are prescribed by doctors and applied to the scalp twice a week.

Which is the best shampoo for dandruff?

If you look at the ingredients you should find items like Selenium sulfide, or ketoconazole which are used to target the excessive yeast known as Malassezia. You are expected to leave it in your scalp for 3 - 5 minutes and only used it twice a week.

When I was suffering from dandruff, I used to notice small flaky specs on my collar. Having tried a few different shampoos I think head & shoulders was the best option. 82 percent of users have given this shampoo 4.4 stars out of 5.

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Can hair loss due to dandruff grow back?
Dandruff is not seen as a cause of hair loss, you may experience a few more hairs than usual falling out, but nothing worth worrying about. If you experience any kind of balding consult your doctor since this could be related to something else. Having said that treatment for dandruff will result in a healthier scalp and as a result a better environment for hair growth.

Other disorders of the scalp

Just because you have flaking on the scalp does not mean its dandruff, here are some other disorders that could cause scaling or flaking:

  • Contact dermatitis: An allergic reaction that irritates the skin which can cause itchy, dry and flaking skin.
  • Dry skin: Often causes silver-white smaller scales, which often leads to larger flakes known as dandruff
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis: Inflammation causing flaky, white or yellow scales on the eyebrows, behind the ears, nose, chest, or groin.
  • Cradle cap : Crusting and white to yellow scales affecting a babies scalp.
  • Psoriasis: A scaly rash and red bumps which can lead to rashes which affect the scalp, knees, elbows and trunk
  • Tinea of the scalp: Can lead to patchy hair loss, also known as ringworm of the scalp
When to consult your doctor about dandruff?
  • If you notice any bleeding or painful blisters on your scalp
  • You have patchy hair loss
  • The anti-dandruff shampoo does not help

Revisiting dandruff: Pierard, Franchimont

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