What Causes Dandruff?

What causes dandruff?
  • Malassezia: This fungus is the most common cause of dandruff, and is found naturally on the skin surface of almost everyone (including people who don’t have dandruff). It feeds on the oils and fatty secretions of the sebaceous glands in the skin and scalp. It doesn’t always cause problems, but sometimes it grows out of control. This can irritate the skin on your scalp and cause more skin cells to grow. The extra skin cells die and fall off, clumping together with oil from your hair and scalp, making them appear white, flaky and visible in your hair or on your clothes. The areas of skin with many sebaceous glands include the scalp, face, and upper part of the body. When Malassezia grows too rapidly, the natural renewal of cells is disturbed and dandruff appears along with irritation and itching. Exactly what causes an overgrowth of malassezia isn’t known, although many factors may contribute to the development of dandruff, such as having too much oil on your scalp, changes in your hormones, stress, illness, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, a suppressed immune system, not shampooing often enough, and extra sensitivity to the malassezia fungus.
  • Dry skin: Cold, dry winters are notorious for bringing on dandruff or making it worse. Dry, cold air often dries out the skin resulting in itching and flaking. Flakes from dry skin are generally smaller and less oily than those from other causes of dandruff.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis (Irritated, oily skin): This condition is a frequent cause of dandruff, and is marked by red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.
  • Psoriasis: This skin disorder causes an accumulation of dead skin cells that form thick, silvery scales.
  • Not shampooing often enough: If you don’t regularly wash your hair, oils and skin cells from your scalp can build up, causing dandruff.
  • Contact dermatitis (sensitivity to haircare products): Some people have individual sensitivities to certain haircare products or hair dyes that can cause a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Shampooing too often or using too many styling products may also irritate your scalp, causing dandruff.
  • Mild dandruff may be caused by overactive sebaceous glands, which are triggered by hormonal imbalance or stress.
  • Other causes include family history, food allergies, excessive perspiration, use of alkaline soaps and yeast infections. Even the season of the year can contribute to the problem. Symptoms of dandruff can also be aggravated by exposure to dust, UV light, harsh shampoos, and hair dyes.
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