What Causes Dandruff


Dandruff is one of the most annoying scalp problems to have and it’s important to understand what causes dandruff to know how to get rid of it. It is a common chronic scalp condition. If you have it, you know that it’s the dry white flakes that fall off your hair or sometimes, they just stick to your head. They can get really itchy and not to mention, quite embarrassing in public.

It can be difficult to treat but when you know what causes dandruff, you can get a head start and control them before they get out of hand. For mild cases, you may just need a special shampoo. Otherwise, there are medical options.

Is Dandruff Harmful?

Before we get to the actual causes of dandruff, take some time to breathe because you’d be glad to know that dandruff is not really harmful.

Of course, you don’t want to exacerbate the situation by scratching too hard on your scalp which may cause wounds and bleeding. Other than that, the only real harm that dandruff may cause is the embarrassment and perhaps, the pain of getting those white flakes off your nice black shirts.

Symptoms of Dandruff

For most teens and young adults, the symptoms of dandruff are easily recognizable. They are white and oily-looking flakes of dead skin. You can find them sticking out of your hair and you can see them falling on your shoulders. Other times, they just really pile up in your head and they become hard and difficult to remove.

Other people may find that it is itchy on the scalp while others don’t feel anything. Dandruff may become worse during the colder seasons from fall to winter. This could be because you are using indoor heating which contributes to dry skin so you get more dandruff but it usually improves during the summer.

Dandruff on Babies

It’s not very common but dandruff can occur in babies sometimes. It’s a type of dandruff, referred to as cradle cap. It causes a scaly and crusty scalp in infants, usually among newborns but it could happen at any time during infancy. If you’re a parent and notice these symptoms on your child, don’t worry because cradle cap is not necessarily dangerous. Over time, it would more often than not, clear up on its own.

For babies that have sensitive skin, these shampoos for sensitive skin might help.

What Causes Dandruff in Adults?

So, what causes these annoying flakes that can get really pesky? Is there a way to avoid having dandruff? Here are some of the things about what causes dandruff.

  • Irritated Oily Skin

    This condition is called in medical terms as seborrheic dermatitis. It is one of the most frequent causes of dandruff. You may notice the red and greasy skin on your scalp which is covered by flaky white or yellowish scales.

    If your skin is oily and irritated, it would affect your scalp as well as other areas of your body that produce a lot of oil glands like your eyebrows. You’ll also notice dry patches of skin on your nose and the back of your ears.

    If this is the case, it’s important to determine what causes the irritation on your skin and control the oiliness.

  • Not Shampooing Regularly

    You may also not be shampooing your hair as often as you should. If you don’t practice proper hygiene or don’t wash your hair regularly, the oils and the skin cells on your scalp would eventually build up and that’s one of the critical things about what causes dandruff. But take note that it’s also not healthy to shampoo too much as it could cause your scalp to get too dry.

    It’s also important to use the right shampoo. If you have oily hair, you need to choose shampoo that is suitable for oily hair. It doesn’t have to be expensive and if your hair has other problems, there are affordable drugstore shampoos that you can use as well.

  • Fungus

    Sometimes, what causes dandruff is a more serious reason like a fungus. The yeast-like fungus called Malassezia lives on the scalp of most adults. It could irritate your scalp and cause more skin cells to grow. These extra skin cells would eventually die and fall off. That’s when they appear as white flakes in your scalp, hair, and clothes. It isn’t exactly clear why this fungus irritates some scalps but not others.

  • Dry Skin

    Aside from having oily skin and too much skin cells, what causes dandruff could also be dry skin. If your dandruff is due to dry skin, the flakes are usually smaller. They are not oily as compared to dandruff that was caused by other conditions. Dandruff due to the dry skin does not cause redness in the scalp or inflammation. You may also notice the dry skin on other parts of your body like your legs and your arms, and sometimes on your face.

  • Sensitivity to Hair Products

    It could also be that what causes dandruff for you is that your scalp is sensitive to hair care products. There may be some ingredients that irritate your skin with your favorite shampoo or conditioner. It could also be from your hair gel, mousse or just about any product you apply to your hair. So be careful when choosing your hair products and find out what your skin is sensitive to because it could be what causes dandruff on your scalp.

Risk Factors for Having Dandruff

We have made it clear that dandruff is not really dangerous and is pretty harmless but there are risk factors that may make some people more susceptible to dandruff than others.

  • Age

    Dandruff is more common in young adults up to those who are middle-aged. Older adults may also get dandruff and for some, it could be lifelong.

  • Being Male

    Men are also more susceptible to dandruff than women. Some researchers think it’s because of certain hormones in men.

  • Oily Hair and Scalp

    If you have really oily skin and hair, you are more prone to dandruff.

As a final note, certain illnesses are also some of what causes dandruff. Those with neurological diseases like Parkinson’s are more likely to have it as well as those with weakened immune systems.