The exact cause of dandruff, also known as scurf or Pityriasis simplex capillitii is unknown. However, most experts do agree that dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene.
Dandruff is a condition of the scalp that causes flakes of skin to appear. Dandruff is a common condition, which is marked by itching. In some cases it can be embarrassing and not easy to treat. If you would like to read more about what dandruff is, read our article here.
In this MNT article, we look at the possible causes of dandruff as well as potential treatment options.
Causes of dandruff
The following are factors that may contribute to dandruff:
1) Not enough hair brushing
People who do not comb or brush their hair regularly have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff - this is because they are not aiding the shedding of skin that combing or brushing provides.
People who are sensitive to yeast have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff, so it is logical to assume that yeast may play a part. Yeast-sensitive people who get dandruff often find that it gets better during the warmer months and worse during the winter. UVA light from the sun counteracts the yeast. Some say, that during winter the skin is drier because of cold air and overheated rooms (exposure to extreme temperatures), making dandruff more likely. So, it is sometimes not that easy to know whether it is yeast or just dry skin.
People with dry skin tend to get dandruff more often. Winter cold air, combined with overheated rooms is a common cause of itchy, flaking skin.
3) Dry skin
People with dry skin tend to get dandruff more often. Winter cold air, combined with overheated rooms is a common cause of itchy, flaking skin. People with dandruff caused by dry skin tend to have small flakes of dandruff; the flakes are not oily.
4) Seborrheic dermatitis (irritated, oily skin)
People with seborrheic dermatitis are very prone to dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis affects many areas of the skin, including the backs of the ears, the breastbone, eyebrows, and the sides of the nose, not just the scalp. The patient will have red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.
5) Not enough shampooing
Some people say that if you don't shampoo enough there can be a buildup of oil and dead skin cells, causing dandruff. However, many experts doubt this is true.
6) Certain skin conditions
7) Some illnesses
Adults with Parkinson's disease and some other neurological illnesses are more prone to having dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Patients recovering from heart attacks and strokes and some people with weak immune systems may have dandruff more often than other people.
8) Reaction to hair or skin care products
Some people react to some hair care products with a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Many experts say that shampooing too often may cause dandruff as it can irritate the scalp.
Malassezia is a fungus that lives on everybody's scalp. Generally, it will cause no problems at all. However, it can grow out of control. It feeds on the oils our hair follicles secrete. When this happens, the scalp can become irritated and produce extra skin cells. These extra skin cells die and falloff; they mix with the oil from the hair and scalp, and turn into what we see as dandruff.
Some experts say that people who do not consume enough foods that contain zinc, B vitamins, and some types of fats are more prone to dandruff.
11) Mental stress
Experts believe there may be a link between stress and many skin problems.
You do not need a doctor to diagnose dandruff. You can do this yourself. If you see the characteristic white flakes on your scalp, you have dandruff.
If you still want to see a doctor, no special preparations are needed to help the doctor diagnose dandruff. Diagnosis will be confirmed by looking at the scalp and skin. Anybody who has started using some new hair care product may find it useful if they bring the bottles with them.
If your dandruff gets no better after some weeks of self-treatment, you should then consider seeing your doctor, especially if there are red, swollen patches on the scalp.
On the next page we look at the treatments for dandruff and the possible complications caused by the condition.