Dandruff is the little white flakes that appear on someone’s hair and which are sometimes also be accompanied by an itchy, red, or scaly scalp.
Dandruff is one of the most common skin conditions, and other than the fact it may be embarrassing for the people who have it, it is harmless. The most common age during which dandruff appears is between 10 and 20, which suggests it may be related to puberty. However, it also affects nearly 40% of people above 30 years of age.
There’s a common misconception that dandruff comes as a result of bad hygiene; however, no link between the two has been drawn yet. Dandruff is actually related to your scalp, not your hair or how often or rarely you wash it. However, infrequent washing or brushing can enhance their appearance.
So, as we know the skin cells in our scalp are continuously being replaced, with the dead skin cells falling off and new ones forming. The process is a completely normal one. However, dandruff forms when the skin cells are replaced at a more accelerated rate than is usual and the scalp’s natural oil makes them clump up and gives them their white flaky appearance.
While a definite cause of dandruff has still not been identified, it has been linked to both genetic and environmental factors including different skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, as well as negative reactions to hair care products. So, scroll down to see some of the most common causes of dandruff.
1. Skin conditions
There are several skin conditions that can result in an irritated, flaky scalp, therefore dandruff:
Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the most common causes of dandruff. It affects any part of the body that has sebaceous glands (the glands that create sebum, the substance which lubricates our skin and hair), and it is characterized with skin that’s red and/or oily in appearance and contains flaky white or yellow scales. Other than the scalp it can also affect the face, chest, and body folds.
Tinea capitis is a fungal infection that appears in the scalp, most commonly in children but in some cases, in adults as well. It is also known as scalp ringworm and one of its symptoms is dandruff. However, tinea capitis also causes hair loss in addition to dandruff, as well as black dots and scalp inflammation.
Scalp psoriasis is a common skin disorder resulting in raised, reddish, and usually scaly patches in the scalp, forehead, back of the neck as well as behind and inside the ears. The patches can be as little as one, or as many as to cover the entire scalp. The symptoms also include itching, burning and soreness, hair loss, and dandruff.
2. Dry skin
People who have dry skin are also more prone to having dandruff. It comes as a result of the cold air in addition to an overheated room, leading to itchy and flaky skin. When dandruff is a result of dry skin, the flakes are smaller and non-oily and the scalp does not show redness or inflammation.
3. Infrequent brushing
If you brush your hair regularly, it will help your skin replace the dead skin cells at a normal pace, therefore reducing the risk of dandruff.
4. Your hair care products
If you are allergic to a certain product or ingredient, then it can cause allergic contact dermatitis, which is a condition that results in a red, itchy, and scaly scalp. Allergic contact dermatitis doesn’t just affect the scalp but any part of your body that comes into contact with a substance you have an allergy to, including soaps, makeup, perfume, shampoo, conditioner and hair dyes.
Keep in mind that shampooing too often can also irritate the scalp and lead to dandruff.
5. Your diet
As with most things, the health of your scalp also comes down to the food you consume. If you’re not taking in enough zinc, B vitamins, proteins, iron, and specific types of healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, then the risk of dandruff increases. So, eat more nuts, fish, turkey, potatoes, red and green peppers and any food rich in the ingredients we just mentioned.
6. Your age
You may have noticed that teenagers are more prone to dandruff, and it all comes down to their hormones. We all have a natural microbe in our scalp called the Malassezia globosa, that separates the oils in our scalp in different substances, one of which is oleic acid. Oleic acid is known to cause irritation for some people, even leading to dandruff.
Now, seeing as teenagers tend to produce more scalp oil, they will, in turn, produce more oleic acid, and therefore more dandruff. Yeah, teenage years really are tough.
While stress in itself is not a cause of dandruff, it can cause the overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus which leads to dandruff. According to New York City-based dermatologist Lotika Singh, MD, who spoke for Reader’s Digest, your immune system weakens during stressful times, and this may also lead to dandruff.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article: text, graphics, images, and other materials contained are strictly for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with all the questions that you have related to, or about, a medical condition.