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 was reviewed by Ho Anh, MD.
Important Safety Information
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Finasteride is for use by MEN ONLY and should NOT be used by women or children.
Read this Patient Information before you start taking Finasteride and each time you get a refill. There may be new information. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or treatment.
What is Finasteride?
Finasteride is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia).
It is not known if Finasteride works for a receding hairline on either side of and above your forehead (temporal area).
Finasteride is not for use by women and children.
Who should not take Finasteride?
Do not take Finasteride if you:
- are pregnant or may become pregnant. Finasteride may harm your unborn baby.
- Finasteride tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the medicine during handling, as long as the tablets are not broken or crushed. Females who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not come in contact with broken or crushed Finasteride tablets.
- If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
are allergic to any of the ingredients in Finasteride. See the end of this leaflet for a complete list of ingredients in Finasteride.
What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking Finasteride? Before taking Finasteride, tell your healthcare provider if you:
have any other medical conditions, including problems with your prostate or liver
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.
How should I take Finasteride?
- Take Finasteride exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
- You may take Finasteride with or without food.
If you forget to take Finasteride, do not take an extra tablet. Just take the next tablet as usual.
Finasteride will not work faster or better if you take it more than once a day.
What are the possible side effects of Finasteride?
decrease in your blood Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Finasteride can affect a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done you should tell your healthcare provider that you are taking Finasteride because Finasteride decreases PSA levels. Changes in PSA levels will need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Any increase in follow-up PSA levels from their lowest point may signal the presence of prostate cancer and should be evaluated, even if the test results are still within the normal range for men not taking Finasteride. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have not been taking Finasteride as prescribed because this may affect the PSA test results. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.
There may be an increased risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer in men taking finasteride at 5 times the dose of Finasteride.
The most common side effects of Finasteride include:
- decrease in sex drive
- trouble getting or keeping an erection
a decrease in the amount of semen
The following have been reported in general use with Finasteride:
- breast tenderness and enlargement. Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your breasts such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge.
- decrease in sex drive that continued after stopping the medication;
- allergic reactions including rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, and face;
- problems with ejaculation that continued after stopping medication;
- testicular pain;
- difficulty in achieving an erection that continued after stopping the medication;
- male infertility and/or poor quality of semen.
in rare cases, male breast cancer.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
These are not all the possible side effects of Finasteride. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA1088.
How should I store Finasteride?
- Store Finasteride at room temperature between 59˚F to 86˚F (15˚C to 30˚C).
Keep Finasteride in a closed container and keep Finasteride tablets dry (protect from moisture).
Keep Finasteride and all medicines out of the reach of children.
General information about the safe and effective use of Finasteride.
Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in this Patient Information. Do not use Finasteride for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give Finasteride to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them.