Is Dandruff Contagious? And Other Dandruff Questions You May Be Having

You’re probably here because you spotted white flakes on your hair and/or shoulders, and are now stressing out about the fact you’re getting dandruff. If you’ve never dealt with dandruff before, it’s understandable why you might find it a cause for concern.

However, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Yes, it’s annoying, and it can cause embarrassment, but dandruff is generally harmless. 

But what is dandruff, why did you get it, and is it contagious? These may be some of the questions you’re wondering about now that you’ve noticed it. We’ve tried our best to answer them, so scroll down to find out.

 

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is a chronic skin condition, characterized by small, white flakes of skin that shed off your scalp and fall down and appear on your hair and shoulders. As I said, other than being potentially embarrassing for the person affected, it’s usually harmless.

is dandruff contagious
Image credit: Shutterstock

Dandruff is one of the most common skin conditions, affecting up to 1 in 5 people, mostly those between the ages of 10 and 20 which suggests it may be related to puberty. However, it can affect people of all ages, even babies, in which case it appears as oily, yellow scaly patches which usually clear up in a few weeks or a couple of months, and is known as cradle cap.

 

Is dandruff contagious?

No, dandruff is neither contagious nor infectious. You cannot catch it if you stand too close to someone or share hairbrushes, and neither will you give it to them. Dandruff results when microbes which are naturally occurring in your hair increase in number – since we all already have those organisms, you cannot give them to someone else.

Be careful though, because there is one skin condition known as “walking dandruff“, which is not related to dandruff we usually see on people’s scalps and hair. “Walking dandruff” is typically present in dogs, and is not actually dandruff at all, it’s small mites, and those can be passed on to both other animals and humans. Walking dandruff can be treated with mite-killing medication.

 

What causes dandruff?

There are many causes of dandruff, but if there’s one thing that doesn’t cause it, it’s poor hygiene even though that’s a common misconception. Infrequent brushing or washing can, however, enhance their appearance.

Dandruff is caused when the skin cells on our scalp die and shed off at a more accelerated rate than normal. Our scalp’s natural oils then combine with the skin cells, which makes them clump up and appear as white flakes. Our skin cells can die off faster due to the growth of a fungus in our scalp which can be caused by stress or hormone imbalance.

Other reasons for dandruff include skin conditions like saborherric dermatitis, tinea capitis, or scalp psoriasis, allergy to certain hair products, your diet, stress, and even your age.

For more about causes of dandruff, see here.

 

How can I get rid of dandruff?

If you struggle with dandruff, chances are you’re never going to be completely rid off it, as it will be a reoccurring issue. However, there are certain remedies and steps you can take in order to manage it.

The most important is naturally your diet. Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in zinc, B vitamins, proteins, iron, Omega-3 fatty acids, and other healthy fats. Learn to control stress, as it has linked to weakening of the body’s immune system which then makes it harder for our body to fight off the fungal infections and skin conditions that cause dandruff.

Other remedies include over-the-counter shampoos which contain ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithoine, salicylic acids, or coal tar, as well as a number of home remedies.

For more methods of dandruff treatment, see here.

 

Should I visit a doctor?

Normally, it should be pretty easy to treat dandruff with an over-the-counter shampoo or other remedies and no visit to the doctor is required. The cases you do need to visit a medical professional, however, include:

–  If your dandruff is very severe and doesn’t begin to clear up after a few weeks have passed.

–  If you notice an allergic reaction like hives, rashes, or difficulty breathing after using dandruff treatment, like shampoos.

–  If your dandruff is accompanied by redness, tenderness, swelling, and extreme itchiness – these may be signs of a more serious medical problem.

 


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.