Dandruff: Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Dandruff is a common skin condition which mainly affects the scalp, but which may also affect eyebrows, beard and moustache. Appearing as white, off-white or grey flakes, dandruff causes severe itchiness and affects a person’s self-esteem and public image. Although it’s not contagious and it’s also not a very serious health issue, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed before it evolves into a more serious condition called seborrheic dermatitis

What causes dandruff?

dandruff causes and preventionAs common as dandruff is, it’s cause is not exactly known. It is a common misconception that it is caused by unhygienic practices, but in truth the most commonly observed factors and causes which initiate and/or worsen it are: 

  1. Age 

Dandruff appears at the age of puberty and continues throughout middle age and sometimes into old age as well, although it tends to be more severe in younger individuals. Men in particular tend to suffer from it more in comparison to women, due to hormonal interferences. 

  1. Nutritional deficiency

Eating an improper or unbalanced diet introduces the body to certain nutritional deficiencies which lead to dandruff. Deficiency of zinc, niacin (vitamin B3), riboflavin (vitamin B2), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and some types of fats, have also shown to promote its development. 

Skin conditions

Since we are dealing with a skin condition in itself, it is only normal that dandruff be affected by other skin disorders, for example chronic illnesses such as psoriasis and eczema, as well as Tinea capitis (also called scalp ringworm).

Dry skin

Dry skin is the most common target for dandruff, with the condition worsening in cold weather, when dry skin becomes even drier. Moreover, overheated rooms in cold weather produce non-oily and smaller flakes. 

Insufficient brushing of hair

Brushing hair does much more than just untangle hair, it also allows dead scalp cells to shed normally. In case of infrequent combing of hair, the dead cells accumulate on the scalp causing the appearance of white, off-white or grey flakes. 

Mental stress

When an individual undergoes an episode of stress the body heats up and sweating begins. This provides an ideal environment to the scalp microbe Malassezia globosa. This micro-organism breaks down scalp oil, called sebum, which initiates the cycle of producing dandruff. Keep in mind that stress increases sebum production, so more sebum, equals a more evident dandruff reaction.


Many individuals are sensitive to yeast and suffer an allergic reaction when they come in contact with this fungus. In certain people, this reaction appears in the form of dandruff, which worsens in the winter and becomes better in summer season. The reason for this is the effect of UV light which resists the effects of yeast.

Hair care products 

Not every hair care product is suitable for everyone, and some products may often cause a person’s scalp to itch or become red and scaly. As we said at the beginning there is a general misconception that not washing your hair regularly facilitates the development of this unwanted hair condition, but what we didn’t say, is that frequent washing of hair IS known to irritate the scalp, which in turn could lead to dandruff. 

Other medical conditions

Patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and HIV, or people who have suffered a cardiac arrest or a stroke often experience dandruff due to their weak immune system. 


Is it possible to prevent dandruff?

Dandruff is an unwanted and undesired condition which nobody appreciates, but which can be prevented, here is how:

  • Avoid scratching your scalp when washing your hair with shampoo. A gentle massage through the lather is sufficient.
  • Use shampoos with tea tree oil. It has antifungal and antiseptic properties which prevent dandruff.
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly to get all the shampoo out.
  • Brush your hair daily.
  • Wash your hair 3 times per week.
  • Use hair products with caution. Hair gels and sprays trap the scalp oils and cause irritation. 
  • Spend some time outdoors under the sun. Sunlight helps to reduce dandruff.
  • Control your anxiety and stress levels.
  • Eat foods rich in zinc and vitamin B2, B3 and B6. 

How can it be treated?

This unwelcomed condition is commonly treated with anti-dandruff shampoos which cleanse your scalp, but as we always say when talking about hair loss and the reasons behind hair loss, to stop this condition from coming back you must also discover and address its cause(s).  



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  1. Dandruff: Causes and treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/152844
  1. Prevention of dandruff. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/d/dandruff/prevention-of-dandruff.html
  1. Dandruff. (2019, September 11). Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dandruff/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353854