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Dandruff: The Ultimate Guide To Its Causes & Treatments

Dandruff is a common and often frustrating scalp condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is not a serious health issue, but can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for those who suffer from it. In this guide, we will explore what dandruff is, what causes it, and the various treatment options available to help you get relief and maintain a healthy scalp.

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff is a mild, non-inflammatory form of seborrheic dermatitis and can affect people of all ages and hair types. Dandruff is not contagious, and although it can be persistent, it is generally manageable with the right treatments and care.

Dandruff typically presents as white or yellowish flakes on the scalp and in the hair. The most common symptoms include an itchy scalp, redness, and irritation. In more severe cases, such as seborrheic dermatitis, you may also notice oily, scaly patches on the scalp or other areas of the skin.

Dandruff (left), seborrheic dermatitis (right)

If you're experiencing these symptoms and suspect you have dandruff, it's usually possible to self-diagnose based on these visible signs. However, if your symptoms are severe, persistent, or if you're unsure whether you have dandruff or another scalp condition, it's important to consult a healthcare professional that can provide a thorough examination and rule out other possible conditions.

What Are The Causes Of Dandruff? (Dandruff Cause)

Understanding what causes dandruff is crucial for finding the most effective treatment options. Several factors, both internal and external, can cause dandruff. Some of the most common causes of dandruff include:

While dandruff can affect almost anyone, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing this scalp condition:

  • Age: Dandruff typically starts in young adulthood and persists through middle age, although it can also affect older adults and, for some, last a lifetime.

  • Gender: Males are more likely to experience dandruff than females.

  • Specific illnesses: Certain medical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders, have been linked to an increased risk of dandruff. Individuals with HIV or weakened immune systems are also more susceptible to dandruff.

  • Hair care products and routines: Using ill-formulated shampoos and washing your hair in frequently can also cause dandruff as sebum, microbes, dead skin cells and hair care products build up in your scalp

Common Myths and Misconceptions About Dandruff

Dandruff is a widely misunderstood condition, and many misconceptions persist despite advances in our understanding of its causes and treatments. In this section, we will debunk some of the most common myths and misconceptions about dandruff, helping you gain a clearer understanding of this scalp condition.

Myth: Dandruff is a sign of poor hygiene

Fact: While dandruff can often be exacerbated by poor scalp hygiene, it is not directly caused by it, as even individuals with the most meticulous grooming habits can suffer from it. While maintaining a proper hair care routine can help control dandruff, factors such as genetics, hormonal imbalances, and the presence of the Malassezia fungus play a more significant role in its development.

Myth: Dandruff is contagious

Fact: Dandruff is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person through contact, sharing combs, or using the same pillow. The primary factors contributing to dandruff are unique to each individual, such as genetics and skin type.

Myth: Only people with dry scalps get dandruff

Fact: Dandruff can affect people with both dry and oily scalps. In fact, seborrheic dermatitis, a more severe form of dandruff, is characterised by an oily scalp with red, scaly patches.

Myth: Using anti-dandruff shampoos regularly can damage your hair

Fact: Many anti-dandruff shampoos are formulated for daily use and are safe for most hair types. However, some medicated shampoos containing stronger ingredients may be recommended for use only a few times a week. Follow the instructions that are given on the product label.

Dandruff Treatment Options

Managing dandruff effectively requires a combination of treatments and lifestyle changes tailored to your specific needs. In this section, we will cover a wide range of dandruff treatment options, from home remedies and over-the-counter solutions to prescription medications.

  • Wash your hair everyday, or every second day if your scalp is dry, to help remove built-up oil, hair product residue and dead skin cells. Going for several days without a wash is not healthy for your scalp. Our Clarify & Rebalance Shampoo is suitable for all scalp and hair types, is gentle enough for daily use and protects the health of both your hair, and your scalp. It helps balance scalp pH as well which when unbalanced can cause increased growth of microbes.

  • When washing your hair, gently massage the shampoo into your scalp using your fingertips rather than your nails. This can help avoid irritation and prevent exacerbating dandruff symptoms. Also ensure that you rinse your hair thoroughly to remove all shampoo and residual hair product, as residue can build up on the scalp and contribute to dandruff.

  • Several over-the-counter shampoos are formulated to treat dandruff. These shampoos often contain active ingredients like salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulphide, coal tar, or ketoconazole, which can help control the Malassezia fungus and reduce flaking. Salicylic acid is our ingredient of choice in our anti-dandruff shampoo; it helps control the overgrowth of the yeast that contributes to dandruff in oily scalps, but also has anti-inflammatory and exfoliating properties that promote scalp health. Regardless of what shampoo you’re using, read the product's instructions around how to and how frequently to use, and adjust usage based on your needs.

  • Look for fragrance-free hair products. Fragrance can further irritate the scalp and exacerbate dandruff.

  • Limit styling products. Excessive use of styling products, such as gels, hairsprays, and creams, can cause buildup on the scalp and contribute to dandruff. Use these products sparingly and opt for non-greasy formulas when possible.

  • Eat less sugar and simple carbohydrates. These lead to increased blood insulin levels which stimulates the oil, or sebaceous glands, in the skin, to ramp up sebum production. This allows the Malassezia yeast, which feeds on sebum, to proliferate, often making dandruff worse. Stay hydrated and consume a balanced, mostly plant-based diet rich in vitamins and minerals and avoid processed foods.

  • Manage stress. Stress can trigger or worsen dandruff, so it's important to find healthy ways to manage stress, such as regular exercise, meditation, or engaging in hobbies and activities that you enjoy.


Dandruff is a common scalp condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be frustrating and uncomfortable, but understanding its causes and implementing the right treatments can make a significant difference in managing and preventing this condition. In this guide, we've discussed the internal and external factors that contribute to dandruff, debunked common myths, and explored a variety of tips related to its treatment.

By following these tips you can minimise the occurrence of dandruff and maintain a healthy scalp. Remember that consistency is key, and it may take some time to see improvements. If your dandruff persists or worsens despite trying various treatments, consult a healthcare professional for further guidance. As always, you can also WhatsApp us for a free skin and hair care consultation: 0302-2228349.


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