Hair loss (alopecia) and dandruff are two of the most common scalp problems affecting men and women. People who suffer from both conditions simultaneously may wonder whether one condition can lead to the other, in particular, whether severe dandruff can be the cause of hair loss.
To understand this, we need to first understand dandruff, its causes and its effects.
Dandruff is a condition caused by an over-accumulation of dead cells that are dying off at a faster rate than normal. This creates a flaky, itchy scalp. Under normal conditions, skin cells die off gradually and are replaced by new cells over a period of several weeks. When the skin cells on the scalp are renewed, the old ones are pushed to the surface and out of the scalp. Following a bacterial or fungal infection or other factors that irritate the scalp, this process can be sped up, resulting in the familiar flaking skin we know as dandruff.
Alopecia (hair loss) on the other hand, can be caused by genes, hormonal factors, emotional stress or consistent hair pulling over time (traction alopecia). Dandruff in itself cannot cause hair loss, but there are several ways in which it can aggravate it or make it worse.
The effect of scratching
Tests have shown that even a relatively small amount of scratching, if repeated on a regular basis, can negatively affect the follicles and result in inflammation of the scalp. Inflammation can aggravate and stop healthy hair growth and thus contribute to hair loss and thinning.
Clogged pores and damaged follicles
Dandruff is a build-up of excessive dead cells on the scalp, and this build up can badly affect follicles already suffering from traction alopecia or another kind of hair loss. Follicles affected by the traction alopecia in particular are traumatised and often remain in the dormant phase of growth, thus failing to produce new hairs once the old hairs have been shed. As dandruff can be a sign of an oily scalp, it can also be an indication that the follicles are being clogged with excessive sebum, which can also have the same damaging effect on follicles in the dormant phase.
A very common misconception about dandruff is that it is caused by the scalp being too dry. People who believe this, tend to either rub oils into their scalps, wash their hair less frequently, or stop using shampoo altogether, believing that washing will strip the scalp of further moisture.
This is simply a myth, as dandruff differs from a dry scalp in that it gets better when the hair and scalp are shampooed more frequently with the right shampoo like Nizoral shampoo which can minimize any scalp inflammation.
There are many hair loss treatments on the market today that also target dandruff, such as Alpecin Double Effect Shampoo and dandruff shampoos like Nizoral. They are also said to slow down the rate of hair loss by reducing inflammation of the scalp. Dandruff sufferers should use one of these shampoos several times a week.
Many herbal treatments, like Neem oil, which treat dandruff by clearing infections and removing excess dead cells, also act by directly stimulating the hair follicles and scalp, which can actually increase the rate of hair growth.
Medical studies have shown that diets consisting of high amounts of salt, sugar or spices, and accompanied by excessive alcohol, may make dandruff worse.