What Causes Dandruff on Scalp?

Dandruff on hair

Dandruff is a common scalp condition characterized by the flaking of dead skin cells from the scalp. It can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Malassezia Yeast: One of the most common causes of dandruff is the presence of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia on the scalp. This fungus feeds on the natural oils produced by the hair follicles and produces substances that can irritate the scalp, leading to increased shedding of skin cells.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis: This is a chronic skin condition characterized by red, greasy, and scaly patches on the scalp and other areas of the body. It is believed to be related to an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast and an inflammatory response in the skin.
  • Dry Scalp: Dryness of the scalp can lead to flaking and the appearance of dandruff. Factors such as cold weather, low humidity, excessive shampooing, or the use of harsh hair products can contribute to dry scalp.
  • Excess Oil Production: On the other end of the spectrum, excessive oil (sebum) production by the sebaceous glands can also contribute to dandruff. This excess oil can provide a breeding ground for Malassezia yeast.
  • Sensitivity to Hair Care Products: Some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to certain hair care products, such as shampoos, conditioners, or hair dyes. The use of these products can lead to scalp irritation and dandruff.
  • Infrequent Shampooing: Not washing the hair regularly or thoroughly enough can allow oil and dead skin cells to accumulate on the scalp, potentially leading to dandruff.
  • Certain Medical Conditions: Dandruff can sometimes be associated with other medical conditions, such as psoriasis (a chronic skin condition), eczema (atopic dermatitis), or fungal infections.
  • Stress: Stress can weaken the immune system and may exacerbate skin conditions like dandruff.
  • Diet: While diet alone is not a direct cause of dandruff, a diet lacking in certain nutrients may contribute to scalp dryness or skin conditions that can increase the risk of dandruff.

Dandruff is typically characterized by white or yellowish flakes of dead skin that can be itchy and may fall from the scalp onto the hair and clothing. It is usually a harmless condition but can be bothersome and embarrassing. Over-the-counter shampoos containing active ingredients like pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide are often effective in managing dandruff. For more severe cases or when dandruff is associated with another skin condition, a healthcare provider or dermatologist may recommend prescription-strength treatments or further evaluation. Additionally, maintaining good scalp hygiene, avoiding harsh hair products, and managing stress can help prevent or manage dandruff.

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