Hair care specialists get many questions relating to hair loss. One of the commonest of those relates to potential links between dandruff and thinning hair.
If you’re thinking “is there a correlation between dandruff and thinning hair?” then read on.
What is dandruff?
Dandruff is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin meaning, roughly, “itch dirt”.
The condition results in usually small, dry and dead pieces of skin from the scalp, becoming visible in the hair or sometimes on clothing.
Medically, it is regarded as a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis. Although that term sounds alarming, it simply means that it is a type of eczema that affects parts of the skin that are rich in sebaceous glands – typically the scalp, although other areas of the body can also be affected.
Dandruff is rarely ‘serious’ as a medical condition even if it can be distressing to sufferers and it doesn’t usually justify a visit to the doctor. It can often be very successfully treated through the use of medicated shampoos that are available over the counter.
Conditions masquerading as dandruff
There are some other scalp-affecting conditions (e.g., some forms of bacterial infection) that may generate identical or very similar symptoms to dandruff.
As a broad rule, if you’ve been treating your dandruff with a commercial product over some weeks and without visible success, it might be advisable to speak to your pharmacist, doctor or hair care specialist for an examination and further advice.
Many different circumstances can lead to dandruff even if sometimes the exact cause-and-effect chain is poorly understood. They include:
- some forms of fungus.
- oily or paradoxically, very dry skin.
- allergies (to shampoos or cosmetics etc.).
- some illnesses that affect the immune system.
- suffering from other skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis.
Typically, males suffer far more from this condition than females.
Is there a correlation between dandruff and thinning hair?
The good news is that there is no medical evidence to suggest a direct causal link between dandruff and hair loss.
However, there may be a consequential ‘knock-on’ effect that may hasten hair loss in men. This arises because for some, dandruff is accompanied by an itchy scalp. Inevitably, even if sometimes subconsciously, that can lead to scratching of the affected area which might in turn lead to damage to surrounding hair follicles – meaning further potential hair loss.
There is some medical evidence that suggests dandruff may increase the rate of hair loss where such is due to being caused by androgenic alopecia, in other words, typical male or female pattern baldness. That though is not to say that dandruff causes the condition. It does not.
What can be done?
Most hair care specialists will recommend initial treatment through specialist shampoos. As mentioned above, these are often effective but be aware, dandruff commonly re-appears after it has been dealt with.
If your hair and scalp are dry, a moisturiser might help. Conversely, there are products available that can help with very oily hair.
It’s also a very good idea to take advice about your hair care products. Some may be irritating your scalp and causing the condition. Again, a good hair care specialist can offer further advice on that one.
Finally, some experts recommend ensuring that you get at least some sunlight onto your scalp rather than permanently staying in the shade or wearing caps and hats etc. Controlled and limited exposure to UV light may be beneficial in helping to control some infections of the scalp that may be contributing to or causing dandruff – but do remember the best skin cancer protection advice too.