Dandruff is one of the most common types of scalp conditions and affects millions of people worldwide. It’s normal for skin on the scalp to shed old cells when new ones are created. If the skin attempts to shed old skin cells too frequently, however, they are not shed effectively. Instead, dead skin cells may adhere to the scalp and present as dry, flaky skin.
Known as dandruff, these flakes of skin are often white or grey in color and can be visible to the naked eye. As well as appearing on the scalp, these flakes can become entangled in hair and may be visible on people’s shoulders or neckline. As a result, many people are self-conscious when they’re suffering from the condition and may feel embarrassed by dandruff.
In addition to this, dandruff has been associated with hair loss and this is a significant concern for many people. Although hair loss is natural to some extent, excessive hair loss can result in thinning hair, bald patches or complete baldness.
As many people want to avoid losing their hair, they may address existing scalp conditions in order to prevent dandruff hair loss.
When people experience dandruff hair loss, they may have a number of symptoms, including:
Dry flakes of skin on the scalp and in the hair are classic symptoms of dandruff and may occur whether hair loss is present or not. Similarly, dandruff often causes the scalp to itch and people may struggle not to scratch the affected area. Unfortunately, scratching may exacerbate the problem and cause more flakes of skin to appear on the scalp.
When people scratch their scalps, they may experience broken hair and hair loss. If excessive scratching damages the hair or the hair follicle, it may affect how the hair grows. This can lead to dandruff hair loss.
Tinea capitis is one of the most common fungal infections to affect the scalp. Also known as scalp ringworm, the condition can cause the skin on the scalp to become dry and flaky, leading to dandruff hair loss.
Alternatively, psoriasis or eczema may affect the scalp, as well as other parts of the body. Eczema is typically characterized by flaky, dry, red skin and can cause intense itching and discomfort. Psoriasis is identifiable because it causes the skin to form in crusty, flaky, red patches. In some cases, silvery scales may be visible on the skin when patients are suffering from psoriasis. As both of these conditions result in dry skin and itching, they are a common cause of dandruff hair loss.
If patients are sensitive to products or chemicals, allergic contact dermatitis may be causing their dandruff hair loss. If the skin on the scalp is irritated by a particular product or chemical, it can become dry and subsequently begin to flake. When this happens, the process of dandruff hair loss begins and individuals may notice they are losing hair more quickly than usual.
In fact, a build-up of products on the scalp can also lead to dry skin, even if the individual doesn’t have an allergy. Many people use a plethora or products on their hair; shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, waxes, gels and mousse, for example. If the hair isn’t cleansed thoroughly between applications, these products can build up in the hair and on the scalp. When this happens, the skin can become dry and irritated. As a result, dandruff may occur and dandruff hair loss will often follow.
Seborrheic dermatitis is another common cause of dandruff hair loss, although it does affect other parts of the body too. When there is an excess of yeast on the skin, it can result in redness and itching. In many cases, seborrheic dermatitis causes the skin to take on a scaly appearance and, when the skin flakes, dandruff occurs. As a direct result of this, dandruff hair loss may occur.
Patients with existing health conditions or low immunity may be more prone to dandruff hair loss. In addition to this, certain medications can cause dry skin as a side effect. If the scalp is affected, dandruff hair loss can be a subsequent side effect.
When people begin to experience dandruff hair loss, they often notice that they are losing hair when they are washing their hair. In order to try and reduce the hair loss, people may wash their hair less frequently. In fact, this can cause dandruff hair loss to worsen. If the dry flakes of skin are not removed via hair washing, itching on the scalp will intensify and further hair loss will occur.
Reducing dandruff hair loss depends on the cause of the patient’s condition. If an existing health problem is causing dandruff, remedying the problem should also reduce dandruff hair loss, without the need for additional treatment. In other cases, however, further treatments may be required. These may include:
If a fungal infection is causing temporary dandruff hair loss, treating the infection with anti-fungal medication should reduce dandruff and prevent further hair loss.
Alternatively, medicated shampoos may be used by patients with seborrheic dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis. Hair products containing salicylic acid, tar or zinc pyrithione are often recommended as a treatment for dandruff hair loss. Although these products are often available over-the-counter, they may not be appropriate for all patients. Skin conditions, such as eczema, can affect people differently and patients may be more receptive to different treatments. If over-the-counter medicated shampoos are ineffective, a stronger medication shampoo may be prescribed by a physician.
If the patient’s symptoms are caused by psoriasis, topical or oral corticosteroids may also be used. These treat the skin condition, thus reducing the amount of dry, scaly skin on the scalp. As the dandruff is eliminated, the dandruff hair loss is also reduced.
In some cases, patients may also find tea tree oil to be helpful in the management of dandruff hair loss. Patients may be advised to add one or two drops of the oil to their shampoo, as it has anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiseptic properties. However, patients should always obtain medical advice before beginning any new treatments or combining one medication with another.
When people first begin losing their hair, they may start using products designed to thicken or retain their hair. Although these can be effective, they may actually exacerbate dandruff hair loss. As these products can be fairly strong, they may irritate the skin, leading to further dryness. If patients have not found these products to be effective, it may be advisable for them to stop using them as they are unlikely to prevent dandruff hair loss.
Instead, individuals should be sure to wash and cleanse their hair regularly, in order to remove any flakes of skin which may be present. In addition to this, patients may wish to obtain long-term treatments from their physician so that they can prevent dandruff hair loss, as well as treating flare-ups of the condition.