Can Dandruff Be the Cause of Hair Loss?

Dandruff is a common scalp condition that many of us have experienced at some point in our lives. This article will discuss whether dandruff can cause hair loss and provide practical tips on preventing hair loss from dandruff.

Key takeaways:

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is scaly white flakes of dead skin cells on the scalp. It causes excessive shedding and can make your scalp itchy. While dandruff is not a serious medical condition, it can be embarrassing and negatively affect your self-esteem, which is why it is vital to get proper treatment.

Can dandruff cause hair loss?

In most cases, dandruff doesn't directly cause hair loss. However, the underlying conditions that cause dandruff can lead to hair loss.

The underlying medical conditions include seborrheic dermatitis, scalp psoriasis, scalp ringworm, and eczema. These medical conditions often result in flakiness or dandruff on the scalp.

What can cause both dandruff and hair loss?

Any condition that causes flaky skin or makes the outer layer of your skin shed unusually fast can cause dandruff. If you don't seek treatment, these conditions can also damage your scalp and cause hair loss.

Here are conditions that can cause both dandruff and hair loss:

  • Scalp psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects the scalp, causing itchy and scaly patches to form. Although not dandruff, it can produce dandruff-like symptoms. Bald spots may develop where these scaly patches occur.
  • Fungal infections. Fungal infections, like ringworm (tinea capitis), can make your scalp intensely itchy. You might notice swollen red patches or dry flakes and experience clumps of hair falling out. Other fungal infections can also lead to dandruff and hair loss. Using antifungal treatments can help address these issues.
  • Lichen planopilaris. This condition is more common in women. It causes itchy, dry, and flaky skin on the scalp and can lead to clumps of hair falling out. Its symptoms are similar to dandruff.

Dandruff alone can be due to one of the following:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis. This condition can affect any part of the body, but it often affects the scalp. It leads to a grayish, itchy, scaly rash, along with greasy patches. If left untreated, it can damage hair follicles, and aggressive scratching may worsen the damage.
  • Malassezia. A fungus commonly found on the scalp. It can sometimes irritate and trigger the growth of excess skin cells, leading to dandruff.
  • Contact dermatitis. This is sensitivity to certain ingredients in hair products, like shampoo or hair dye, which can result in red and flaky skin on the scalp.
  • Dry skin. A dry scalp occurs when the scalp does not produce or retain enough moisture. A dry scalp can make it more difficult for dead skin cells to shed, which can lead to dandruff. However, a dry scalp itself does not typically cause hair loss.

When you figure out the underlying cause of the dandruff, you can treat it more effectively.

Tips to prevent hair loss from dandruff

In order to prevent dandruff-related hair loss, you need to focus on eliminating an itchy scalp as much as possible. A less itchy scalp will reduce your urge to scratch, protecting your hair follicles from further damage.

Here are some tips to help prevent dandruff-related hair loss:

Use a medicated shampoo

Using a medicated shampoo is one of the best ways to treat dandruff. Look for shampoos containing the following ingredients.

  • Pyrithione zinc
  • Ketoconazole
  • Salicylic acid
  • Selenium sulfide

While using the anti-dandruff shampoo, ensure you follow the instructions. Some shampoos may require a few minutes on the scalp in order to be effective.

Note that selenium sulfide can cause hair discoloration. Consult your doctor before you try any new product.


It is important to moisturize your scalp with conditioner regardless of the underlying cause of your dandruff. This is even more essential when using medicated shampoos, particularly those containing salicylic acid. They can cause dryness if you use them regularly.

For extra benefits, consider massaging your scalp with coconut oil and then rinsing it out. Coconut oil not only moisturizes but also has antifungal properties.

Stay away from harsh products

Sulfates, fragrances, dyes, and preservatives in your hair products can irritate your scalp and cause contact dermatitis. Avoid using such products and switch to gentle hair care products.

Manage stress

While stress can't directly cause dandruff, it can weaken your immune system with time. This makes your scalp more prone to fungus.

You can manage your stress with relaxing techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.

In addition, mental health apps can be valuable tools for managing stress. These apps offer a wide range of resources, including guided meditations, mindfulness exercises, and stress-reducing activities that can be easily accessed on your smartphone or tablet.

Use home remedies

Although home remedies for dandruff hair loss aren't scientific, many people have found them beneficial.

  • Tea tree oil. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil and apply it to your scalp and hair. Wait 15–30 minutes, then wash thoroughly with a mild shampoo. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties.
  • Aloe vera. Aloe vera is very soothing and anti-inflammatory for the scalp. Extract the juice from an aloe vera leaf, then apply it to your scalp, leaving it on for 15 minutes before washing it off.
  • Apple cider vinegar. It promotes the shedding of dead skin cells, fights fungus, and balances the scalp's pH. Mix it with your oil or shampoo, or dilute it with water for a final rinse after shampooing.

When to seek professional help

Seeking professional help from a dermatologist is essential in certain situations. While you can manage mild cases of dandruff with home remedies and over-the-counter products, severe or persistent cases may require expert evaluation and treatment. If you experience symptoms like swelling or pain on your scalp, it could indicate skin conditions other than dandruff, such as psoriasis, contact dermatitis, or fungal infection. In such cases, it's important to seek immediate medical attention from your doctor. If you notice hair loss, consult your doctor immediately to prevent any further damage.

It is crucial to address dandruff immediately and prevent further damage. Utilize medicated shampoos, moisturize your scalp, avoid harsh hair products, and manage stress to reduce dandruff-related hair loss. For persistent or severe cases, seek professional help from a dermatologist. Early treatment and proper care will help maintain a healthy scalp and beautiful hair, boosting self-esteem and overall well-being. Remember, a healthy scalp is vital for healthy hair, so prioritize proper treatment to keep dandruff and hair loss at bay!

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