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What Is the Connection between Dandruff and Hair Loss?

By Marlene de Wilde
Updated: May 17, 2024

There seems to be a connection between dandruff and hair loss, but it is not necessarily a causal one. Many people who suffer from dandruff also report hair loss, but it may be that what causes one condition also causes the other. Some of the ingredients in dandruff shampoos seem to also have an effect on treating hair loss. Also, scratching the head in cases where chronic and severe dandruff causes itching may result in some hair loss due to trauma of the hair follicles.

There are several types of dandruff, each caused by a different medical condition. The most common type is caused by a fungus called malassezia. This fungus normally resides peacefully in the scalp, and the reasons why it may suddenly proliferate are not entirely known, but the result is a flakiness of the skin.

Another type of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, which results in greasy flakes of skin and a red, inflamed scalp. Known as cradle cap in infants, it can also affect other parts of the face and armpits. Psoriasis can also affect the scalp and cause an overgrowth of skin cells, which then thicken and flake. Not much is known about the causes of dandruff, but some factors, such as oily scalp, stress, hormonal changes, autoimmune disorders and heart disease, seem to be involved.

Treating dandruff requires using an anti-dandruff shampoo. Different shampoos work for different people, and the efficacy of each would depend on the condition causing the problem. Some common ingredients in these specialist shampoos include salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc pyrithione, sulphur and ketoconazole.

Ketoconazole reduces dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which, when overactive, causes an overproduction of oil from the sebaceous gland resulting in dandruff. DHT is also responsible for the majority of hair thinning and hair loss, so using one shampoo can treat both dandruff and hair loss. DHT causes a shrinking of the hair follicle and also prevents nourishment from reaching it, thus causing it to reproduce at a slower rate. There seems to be a genetic predisposition to the overproduction of DHT.

Caffeine is another ingredient that fights both dandruff and hair loss. It is thought to protect the roots of the hair from DHT so that the follicle is able to get the nutrients it needs to grow and remain strong. Dandruff and hair loss may seem to be causal, but it could be that the two conditions are connected by the same causal agent.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By rachelsjulia — On Jul 05, 2013

Dandruff is dry scalp. Personally, I fought it from the inside and out. I put more healthy oils into my diet, like olive oil and coconut oil. Regarding thinning hair and brittle nails, Deluxe is a product that I bought to help with hair loss. It helped grow back my hair and even made my nails stronger and skin more vibrant!

By stoneMason — On Jun 23, 2013

@ankara-- Do you have an oily scalp? Do you scratch your scalp more when you have dandruff?

I personally tend to touch my hair and scalp a lot more when I have dandruff because it makes my scalp itch. I also had a scalp fungal infection for a short while that gave me dandruff and I lost a lot of hair then.

So you might be touching your scalp more and causing more hair to fall out. Or your dandruff could be caused by an infection, dry skin or some kind of a vitamin deficiency which can also cause hair loss. I recommend taking some multi-vitamins, drinking plenty of water and seeing a doctor if the symptoms don't go away.

By bluedolphin — On Jun 23, 2013

Whenever I get dandruff, I lose more hair than usual. I don't have any scalp condition so I don't understand the connection between hair loss and dandruff. I just find it very annoying.

By donasmrs — On Jun 22, 2013

My dad has psoriasis. The scales, dandruff and itching came first. After a few months, he also started to lose hair. He was very scared of having bald spots on his head. Thankfully, his doctor prescribed a medicated shampoo that helped a lot. He doesn't have as much hair loss and dandruff now. I hope the shampoo will keep working for him.

Does anyone else here have psoriasis caused dandruff and hair loss?

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