What Causes Dandruff in Hair?

Dandruff is a serious problem for many people around the world, many of whom suffer from serious shedding. Dandruff can be irritating and embarrassing, and many people find that their dandruff problem can actually cause more serious issues in their personal and professional lives. In order to know how to eliminate dandruff effectively, it is important to know what causes dandruff in hair in the first place.

There are several causes of dandruff:

Dry Skin

dandruff-in-hairWhen the skin of the scalp becomes very dry, dandruff is very likely to occur. The cold weather of winter often causes the scalp to dry out, which causes the skin cells of the scalp to die much faster than normal. These dead skin cells tend to form large flakes of dead skin that appears as dandruff. If dry skin is the cause of dandruff, it is likely that other parts of the body will be experiencing problems with dry skin as well. A sign that dandruff has been caused by dry skin is small, dry flakes falling from the scalp.


Oily Skin

oily-hair-with-dandruffOily and irritated skin is usually the most common cause of dandruff. The skin will usually appear red and covered in a thin sheen of oil. The flakes that fall from the scalp tend to be yellow or white, and are much larger than the flakes caused by dry skin. The cause of this type of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, an infection or irritation of the skin. An indication that this is the problem will be a similar appearance around the eyebrows, armpits, groin, breastbone, the back of the ears, and on either side of the nose.

Dirty Scalp

shampoo-hairWhen shampoo is not applied often enough to the scalp, the skin cells tend to accumulate on the scalp. The purpose of shampoo is to wash all of the excess dead skin cells and skin oils from the scalp, which helps to keep the scalp clean. When the hair is not washed enough, the oil and skin cells accumulate into large flakes that appear as dandruff. This can usually be eliminated simply by regularly washing one’s scalp with shampoo.


psoriasis-in-hairPsoriasis is a skin disease that appears similar to dandruff, thanks to the fact that it causes dead skin cells to accumulate. It can be difficult to differentiate between psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, but the flakes will only appear large and silvery. An indication that psoriasis is the problem is when the same dead skin cell accumulation appears near the elbows, knees, and midsection.


eczema-on-headEczema is a skin condition similar to psoriasis, and it can also be a cause of dandruff. When there is eczema anywhere on the body, there is a great risk of it spreading to the scalp and causing serious dandruff problems. Eczema is not usually present on the scalp, but there is always the chance that it could spread.

Allergic or Sensitive Reaction to Hair Care Products

Certain shampoos and hair care products contain a number of ingredients that can cause an allergic or strong reaction when applied to someone with sensitive skin. The scalp appears very red, feels incredibly itchy, and flakes or scales fall from the scalp. If shampoo is applied too often, there is a risk of the skin having a reaction to the strong ingredients in the product. The same is true for hair styling products, which is why it is important to test each product before applying it and keeping the application of hair care products to a minimum.


Malassezia is a fungus that is present on the heads of every adult around the world, but most people have no problems with the fungus. When the fungus grows too fast or spreads too much, it tends to sustain itself by consuming the sebum produced by the skin. This can irritate the skin, and cause the production rate of new skin cells to increase. Old skin cells are sloughed off much faster than normal, and they clump together to fall as white flakes that appear as dandruff. There is little known about the causes of the malassezia fungus suddenly growing too much, but there are certain hormonal, emotional, and physiological factors that have been proven to affect the growth rate of this fungus.

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