Does Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

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Medically reviewed by Ho Anh, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 9/18/2017

From discomfort to unsightly flakes of skin that catch on your neck and shoulders, dandruff has a lot of downsides.

Dandruff can occur for a variety of reasons, from oil buildup caused by not washing your hair as often as you should, to medical conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.

One of the most common questions related to dandruff is whether or not dandruff can potentially cause you to lose hair. The answer is a little complicated: while dandruff doesn’t directly result in hair loss, some of the conditions that cause dandruff can also cause temporary hair loss.

This hair loss isn’t the same as male pattern baldness, meaning it will usually reverse once you fix the underlying problem.

Sound complicated? Below, we’ll explain how common causes of dandruff can also cause hair loss, as well as the steps you can take to get rid of dandruff and prevent your hair from thinning due to scalp problems.

Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dandruff and Hair Loss

While dandruff itself doesn’t cause hair loss, many of the health conditions that cause dandruff can also damage your hair follicles and result in shedding.

One of the most common dandruff-related health issues that can lead to hair loss is seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a flaky, scaly rash that can form on your scalp and face. If it develops on your scalp, it can cause dandruff while also creating temporary hair loss.

The hair loss caused by skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis isn’t the same as male pattern baldness, meaning medication like finasteride (which blocks the DHT that causes hair follicles to miniaturize and stop growing) isn’t effective.

Most of the time, seborrheic dermatitis can be treated using an anti-dandruff shampoo with coal tar, ketoconazole or selenium sulfide as active ingredients. Sometimes, you’ll need to try several different shampoos before finding one that completely gets rid of seborrheic dermatitis.

Since hair loss from seborrheic dermatitis is temporary, it will usually reverse itself once you’ve solved the underlying problem. Keep in mind that it can take several months for hair to regrow, meaning you’ll probably need to be patient to see any lasting results.

Some Hair Loss Treatment Can Dry Out Your Scalp

Although studies show that minoxidil doesn’t result in a significant increase in dandruff, there are lots of anecdotal reports out there of people using minoxidil and experiencing dry, itchy and flaky skin around the scalp after several weeks.

This is somewhat backed up by scientific study data, with one study from 2015 showing that use of minoxidil results in higher rates of scalp itching than a placebo.

If you have a sensitive scalp or already have dandruff, there’s a risk that using minoxidil to help keep your hair could worsen dandruff. The risk isn’t large -- most people that use minoxidil doesn’t get any scalp issues -- but it’s important to know that it’s there.

The most likely cause of this scalp itching problem is the alcohol that’s used in some minoxidil products, such as minoxidil spray. Since alcohol is known to strip away natural scalp sebum, it can cause itching and flaking, leading to discomfort and dandruff.

If you’ve noticed an increase in dandruff since you started using minoxidil, this could be the key reason.

How to Eliminate Dandruff for Good

While dandruff doesn’t cause hair loss, it’s still a major annoyance that can ruin your confidence and negatively affect your life. Luckily, there are numerous ways to deal with dandruff, almost all of which are effective over the long term.

Our How to Get Rid of Dandruff For Good guide covers the most common causes of dandruff, with simple and effective treatments to help you eliminate dandruff and improve your hair health for the long term.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.