Hair Loss and Dandruff - Are They Related?
Dandruff can be quite difficult to manage, especially if it has been left untreated for a long period. In most cases, dandruff does not cause a lot of problems, and with the right hair care products, it resolves on its own. However, that does not mean it can't adversely affect hair health.
The question of the hour is - Can dandruff cause hair loss? Well, yes, and no. Dandruff is a skin condition that takes place when there's an excess build-up of oils on the scalp. This build-up hardens into a white scaly layer which breaks and falls off.
The white particles you may see on your hair or clothes are the flakes that we call dandruff. Dandruff leads to scalp irritation, which can make it difficult for people to control the urge to scratch the surface of the scalp.
The thick layer that develops on the scalp can be so prominent that the individual can't help but scratch the itch. However, vigorous scratching can put a lot of pressure on the scalp and the hair follicles. This can lead to breakage, which may lead to hair loss.
But, there is no direct causal link between dandruff and hair loss. That being said, dandruff can often increase hair loss in people who have androgenetic alopecia. This is because scratching the scalp over and over again can damage the hair follicles.
Conditions Responsible for Both Dandruff and Hair Loss
While dandruff isn't always the cause of hair loss, there are cases wherein dandruff can't be chalked up to bad weather or a dry scalp. Sometimes, dandruff can be the result of an underlying medical condition.
That's why it is crucial to get a diagnosis, especially if the dandruff is accompanied by severe pain, itching, and redness and does not get better with time. If you notice no improvement after switching to an anti-dandruff hair care regime, it's time to consult a doctor.
Let's have a look at some conditions that cause both dandruff and hair loss.
Fungal infections like tinea capitis, also known as ringworm, are infamous for causing hair loss. A fungal infection like ringworm is caused by fungal overgrowth on the scalp. This leads to itching, pain, redness, and inflammation.
During the infection, people mistake the white, dry flakes that fall off the hair for dandruff. But, fungal infections cause red circular blisters on the scalp that end up harming the hair follicles. Also, such infections lead to heavy hair fall.
Fungal infections are treated by antifungal medication. Scalp infections like ringworm can feel painful and difficult to deal with, but medical attention can relieve your symptoms. Furthermore, if you're on a proper course of medication prescribed by your doctor, the infection is likely to clear up in two to three weeks.
Remember that fungal infections are highly contagious. So if you're suffering from a scalp infection, make sure you don't let anybody else use your hair grooming essentials. It's important to take extra special care of your hygiene to prevent infection from spreading and ensure that it doesn't get worse.
Scalp psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that leads to the heightened reproduction of skin cells in the body. This causes the surface of the scalp to become extremely tight, creating abrasions that may look dry and scaly.
These discolored, scaly patches are called plaques and make the affected area of the scalp rough and thick. These patches can be extremely painful at times. Eventually, these patches turn bald, making it impossible for new hair to grow.
Scalp psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that can't be cured, but its symptoms can be managed. People with scalp psoriasis often undergo long periods of stress because of hair loss and how it affects their appearance.
Apart from physical appearance, a condition that causes heavy hair loss and visible scaly patches can make the individual lose all their confidence. Furthermore, the anguish of not being able to do anything about it only adds to their struggle. This amount of stress can only increase hair loss.
Folliculitis decalvans is a condition where the body is prone to inflammation. This makes the scalp flare up, which destroys the hair follicles and slows down hair growth. Hair may stop growing altogether because of the extensive damage suffered by the hair follicles.
This is an extremely rare condition that causes red, itchy patches on the scalp. People with folliculitis decalvans may not realize that they have this condition and instead go on to think that it's just dandruff. This is because itching is a common symptom of dandruff.
In any case, if you suspect that you may be experiencing isolated symptoms of dandruff, remember not to jump to conclusions. Many underlying skin conditions that affect the scalp have the same symptoms as dandruff and end up causing hair loss.
Lichen planopilaris is a rare inflammatory condition that mostly affects women. The inflammation caused by the disease damages the scalp and the hair follicles so much that it leaves scarring on the scalp. It also causes bald patches, leading to permanent hair loss.
This condition is found in about 1% of cases related to hair loss. In hindsight, that number is not as small as it may seem. It causes scalp burning, itching, pain, and red abrasions.
Lichen planopilaris is treated with anti-inflammatory medication. If caught early, treatment can help prevent dire consequences. The course of treatment for lichen planopilaris often includes antibiotics, corticosteroids, retinoids, and low-level laser therapy.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that can affect any and all parts of the body, including the scalp. On the scalp, it leads to red or gray rashes that can cause people to itch aggressively. In some cases, the patches are even greasy.
If this condition is not treated in time, it can damage the hair follicles. Remember that severe scalp conditions and infections can cause intense itching, which may lead to pulling and twisting of hair. This makes the hair fall off, and the infection can spread to other areas of the scalp.
Uncontrollable itching due to such conditions is very common in children, so they are at higher risk for developing serious hair loss and scarring. Furthermore, any kind of scalp condition that causes pain and hair loss can seriously harm the individual's mental health.
This is because not only does it have a direct effect on their self-esteem, but if the condition is long-term, it may be difficult for them to deal with it mentally.
As we know, dandruff and hair loss can coexist, but they aren't related. In most cases, dandruff is a result of a dry scalp and bad weather. But, conditions often responsible for hair loss can lead to dandruff. Some of these are as follows:
- Alopecia areata
- Telogen effluvium
- Traction alopecia
- Inflammation of the scalp
- Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections that affect the scalp.
Preventing Hair Loss from Dandruff
Dealing with dandruff can be difficult, especially if it goes untreated without a diagnosis. If you're experiencing dandruff and hair loss simultaneously, it's important to consult a specialist and get a diagnosis.
Once you share your hair and scalp concerns with your doctor, they may use several diagnostic tests depending on the severity of your symptoms. They will likely check for fungal infections, allergies, and other skin conditions.
Once you've received a diagnosis, you should follow your doctor's instructions religiously. Depending on your hair and scalp health, they might prescribe you certain hair products to use.
Apart from consulting a specialist, there are several preventive measures you can take, in case you are experiencing dandruff and hair loss.
Shampoos created by beauty brands often include substances that can harm your hair. If you notice that your scalp is aggravated after using certain products, make sure to note the substances that may be irritating.
In such cases, the safest thing to do is to switch to a medicated shampoo. While choosing a medicated shampoo, look for the following substances:
- Salicylic acid
- Selenium sulfide
- Pyrinthione zinc
The secret to maintaining hair health is proper moisture. Shampoos with substances like parabens, sulfates, silicones, and other harsh ingredients can leave your hair and scalp feeling dry. Instead, change your shampoo with a gentle clarifying shampoo, like HAIRFINITY Gentle Cleanse Shampoo, so it doesn't strip away the natural oils from the scalp.
Make sure you condition your hair regularly with a mositure-rich formula, like HAIRFINITY Balanced Moisture Conditioner. Remember to apply the conditioner to your mids and ends. Applying conditioner to the scalp can lead to hair fall. Furthermore, look for products with salicylic acid. Such products are mild and will be better suited for a sensitive scalp.
It's okay to switch up your look with color every once in a while. But, using too much of it can damage the hair cuticles beyond repair. And if you want to color your hair anyway, go to a professional hair colorist. They can assess the current condition of your hair and move ahead accordingly.
Stay away from bleach. Both color and bleach contain ingredients that might irritate the scalp and lead to contact dermatitis. Avoid products with artificial fragrances, formaldehyde, peroxide, and detergents.
A little bit of stress is natural. But, if you suffer from conditions like depression, anxiety, and hormonal imbalance, it would be good to engage in practices that help with regulating stress levels. For example, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and psychotherapy can help manage stress effectively.
Don't spend too much time inside the house, avoiding the sun. Go out in the sun at least once a day. However, remember to protect your hair from sun damage by using products that protect the hair from heat.
Speaking of vitamins, it's important to include healthy nutrients in your diet. Vitamin deficiency can lead to poor hair health and elevated levels of stress. You can start by regulating your consumption of fried foods and eating foods rich in minerals, vitamins, and protein.
A healthy diet will not only improve your gut health but will also help you manage stress.
Tips for Scalp and Hair Care
You will be surprised to learn just how much basic hair care practices can prevent hair loss and dandruff. The first thing to consider while switching up your hair care routine is to understand the kind of hair you have and choose products accordingly.
For example, frizzy hair may benefit from conditioners and hair masks that can help seal the moisture into your locks. This is important in preventing hair loss because moisturized strands tend to detangle easily. If your hair is heavily tangled, you will lose hair faster.
Damage control can be beneficial if you're in the early stages of losing hair from androgenetic alopecia. However, when you start losing hair due to genetics, PCOS, or stress, the way you treat your hair becomes essential. This includes taking precautions such as:
- Don't pull on your hair aggressively with combs. This can lead to breakage, especially if you start combing from the roots. Instead, begin at the bottom by sorting out your ends first to reduce friction and release your scalp from pressure.
- Don't put your hair up in tight hairstyles that pull your hair up. Not only will this lead to tangles and hair fall, but it also increases your chance of suffering from dandruff. This is because keeping your hair in tight headgear and hairstyles can lead to moisture buildup.
In a nutshell, don't ignore your hair health. Maintain a healthy scalp. If you notice dandruff and dry flakes, start using an antidandruff shampoo with hair-friendly ingredients. In case dandruff does not improve, seek medical attention immediately.
If you notice itching, pain, burning, and flakes, and your hair starts falling out in clumps, consult a doctor for treatment. This can help early detection of serious skin conditions and prevent major hair loss in the future.