Does Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

By Paul Taylor

No, is the simple answer. But the opposite can sometimes be true - hair loss can cause dandruff. And high DHT levels are largely to blame.

This article answers the following questions:

  • How does hair loss cause dandruff?

  • Why does dandruff and hair loss only develop in scalp hair and nowhere else?

It also explains how to treat both conditions at the same time using either a drug-based or natural approach.

Heavy dandruff in thick brown hair

How Does Hair Loss Cause Dandruff?

The type of hair loss that causes dandruff is androgenetic alopecia - a condition which progressively reduces the blood supply to hair follicles in the infamous "male pattern baldness" region of the scalp. And because the high density of hair in the scalp places a high demand for nutrients, this is what causes the hair loss to develop.

The hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) contributes to the hair loss process. But, despite this, the body increases (upregulates) DHT levels to the scalp in an attempt to restore hair growth back to normal.

The reason why the body does this is because DHT is a steroid hormone - it has an anabolic effect and so, should help speed up hair growth. However, DHT upregulation does not work.

The previous page revealed two ways in which I believe DHT is involved in the hair loss process, and why DHT upregulation is unsuccessful. But, very briefly, DHT can't stimulate hair regrowth because the blood supply to the hair follicles is insufficient.

DHT then affects the germinating layer of the epidermis, causing rapid cell division. This forces cells to rise up towards the surface of the skin faster than usual, speeding up skin shedding and forming dandruff (as illustrated in the dandruff diagram below).

Diagram of DHT and dandruff in a hair follicle

Very bad dandruff can develop from hair loss in this way and can persist, becoming a chronic condition alongside the hair loss that caused it.

But to make matters even worse

From all this increased rate of shedding, the skin layer can become thinner (i.e, because it's being lost at the surface faster than it can be replaced from below). And if the skin is thinner and flaking off, this might suggest that it’s even easier for hair to fall out. However, this shouldn't necessarily be the case.

High DHT levels will also stimulate an increase in the amount of sebum (oil) produced by the sebaceous glands within each hair follicle. And high sebum levels have been associated with seborrhea (seborrheic dermatitis) - a skin disorder which can cause even more greasy, severe dandruff to form. And this explains why it's often thick, heavy dandruff that coincides with hair loss.

No dandruff but total baldness instead

If your hair loss continues and extensive baldness develops, any related dandruff problem you have should subside.

That's because, by that stage, the hair follicles are only producing tiny (vellus) hairs, or even no hair at all, which means that there will be less demand for a strong blood supply. And when hair growth has all but stopped, the body should recognize this and then reduce (downregulate) both DHT and sebum production, causing the rate of dandruff formation to slow down and eventually stop.

Summary: Hair loss and dandruff - cause and effect

So that’s how dandruff and hair loss can be connected - Dandruff can't cause hair loss, but the opposite can sometimes be true.

However, it is worth mentioning that, since dandruff can often be itchy, any excessive scratching of the scalp might cause some hair to dislodge. And that could give the impression that dandruff can cause hair loss.

Why Does Dandruff and Hair Loss Only Develop in Scalp Hair?

A number of factors can explain why the combination of dandruff and hair loss only affects the scalp and no other part of the body:

1. The main reason is the underlying cause of hair loss in the first place - skull expansion. And, obviously, skull expansion can only affect the head and nowhere else!

2. Scalp hair density is much greater than in any other region of the body. And so, the sheer number of scalp hair follicles means that more DHT can accumulate there than anywhere else, causing more dandruff to develop.

3. The high hair density of the scalp also means that any dandruff formed will be much more noticeable than anywhere else - Skin does still flake off the rest the body, but since hair density and DHT levels elsewhere are much lower, you really shouldn't notice any skin shedding.*

* There is an exception to this: if your skin is not adjusted to strong sun (perhaps you're fair skinned?) and you spend too long sunbathing unprotected (i.e., without wearing a high SPF cream) it's quite likely that you’ll experience sunburn and your skin will start to peel after a few days. This process is not too dissimilar to what DHT does on the scalp: essentially, the rate of skin cell division increases (due to the damage caused by the sun) and flakes off the surface as it gets replaced by new skin below.

A strong sun can cause skin damage and skin peeling

Drug Treatment for Dandruff and Hair Loss

Dandruff is usually caused by one of the following culprits:

  • Dry skin

  • Adverse reaction to hair and skin lotions and medications

  • Skin disorders (e.g., psoriasis, seborrhea)

  • Head lice infestation

  • Poor diet

  • Yeast sensitivity

All these potential causes can be treated using medicated shampoos. But, conventional treatment for dandruff won't be effective against hair loss.

So if you’ve got very bad dandruff and hair loss, and suspect both conditions are connected, instead of using a standard dandruff shampoo (which will probably contain zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide) it might be a better idea to get some help for your hair loss at the same time using the same product.

That way, if you successfully manage to address your hair loss problem, you might be able to control or even cure your dandruff as well.

Nizoral shampoo is one such product. This is a dedicated medicated dandruff shampoo containing the drug ketoconazole which can also be used for hair loss. Learn more about Nizoral shampoo?

Natural Treatment for Dandruff and Hair Loss

Essential oils can be used to treat many conditions, including dandruff. So, since they're very easy, safe and natural to use, it might be an idea worth trying. Simply add a few drops of one or more of the following essential oils to water and then use it to rinse the scalp:

  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Cedarwood

Additionally, the following essential oils can help with very greasy hair:

  • Clary Sage
  • Lemon

If you suffer thick, heavy dandruff caused by seborrhea, one or both of these essential oils can be added to the rinse as well. Bear in mind though that clary sage has a very powerful smell, whereas lemon is much more pleasant and tolerable.

Note: I've selected these five essential oils because they can also be used to treat hair loss. To learn more about this natural form of hair loss treatment, read: Essential oils for hair loss.

I believe the most effective way to treat hair loss is to treat the underlying cause - skull expansion. And, to do this, many men and women are now using the same method I used myself to restore strong hair regrowth. Learn about my methods?

This is page 3 of 3.

Read previous page? Thinking about finasteride for hair loss? Think again!

Note: Always consult with a doctor to identify and then treat which dandruff and hair loss conditions you have.

Reference used: Kusmirek J. Aromatherapy for the Family. Wigmore Publications Ltd, UK. 1997 ISBN 0 946982 06 6

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