Dandruff is an ubiquitous problem that most people suffer from at some point in their lives. Although minor in its effects, dandruff can drive people crazy as it causes itching and leaves embarrassing dry flakes of skin on clothes. But what are the causes of dandruff? Why does it affect even healthy people?
The causes of dandruff cannot be definitely pinned down, as many secondary conditions might contribute towards it. Right from the weather to the chemicals used in hair gels and other cosmetics, certain diseases, and the environment – there are so many reasons behind the problem.
Whatever the cause might be, dandruff can trigger other complications besides the usual physical discomfort. The falling flakes of skin can cause social embarrassment and even lead to problems with self-esteem in many people.
The Main Causes Of Dandruff
Before jumping to the causes of dandruff, it’s important to understand what the actual problem is, so that the reasons behind the same can be inferred in a better way.
What Is Dandruff?
Dandruff is the common term given to the dead skin cells along the scalp that are clumped together. People lose skin cells every day, and these cells are regularly shed. But because they are very small and almost unnoticeable, this shedding process mostly goes unnoticed.
The problem starts when the dead skin cells begin to accumulate fast and fall off in visible clumps that appear as flakes of skin, either in the scalp or on the clothes (mostly over the shoulder). Now that the actual problem has been established, here are the main causes of dandruff.
People who have dry skin can suffer from dandruff. Dry skin flakes that fall off are often small and are not greasy. This can also be caused due to low levels of humidity, which brings down the moisture content in the skin.
A condition called Seborrheic dermatitis can also lead to dandruff.
Under this condition, the skin produces an excess amount of skin oil (called sebum), which then holds together the dead skin cells that would normally fall off. After a while, these cells either fall in oily clumps, or can cause red patches on the skin.
This condition is not confined to the scalp. It can also occur in areas that have a lot of oil glands, like the sides of noses, and eyebrows.
Hair Care Practices
If you do not wash your hair enough, it can lead to dead cells accumulating and falling off as dandruff. If you wash your hair too much, you may fall prey to dry skin, which also leads to dandruff.
The chemicals present in shampoos, hair sprays, and hair gels also contribute to dandruff and its related problems.
Certain Skin Conditions And Other Diseases
Skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema can cause dandruff.
People with Parkinson’s disease and those who have suffered heart attacks or strokes are also susceptible to dandruff, as are people who have a weak immune system.
Environmental And Dietary Causes
Dust and other pollutants present in the the environment can cause skin irritation, leading to dandruff. Other common causes of dandruff include exposure to UV rays from the sun and prolonged exposure to cold and dry weather.
A diet that is deficient in the nutrients that are necessary for healthy skin can lead to dandruff in some instances. This is why it is important to follow a diet that is packed with enough B Vitamins and zinc.
The Role Of Malassezia
The human skin plays host to millions of microorganisms. Most of these microorganisms are harmless, and some even protect the skin against harmful pathogens. Sometimes though, even these harmless inhabitants of the skin can create problems.
A fungus called Malassezia lives on the human scalp and feeds on the skin oils secreted by the glands in the scalp. Mostly, this fungus does not cause any harm.
In rare cases, the fungus might experience a burst in growth, leading to skin irritation that triggers the growth of more skin cells. The fast growing skin cells die and clump together in the skin oil and are ultimately shed as dandruff.
It’s hard to pin down any one particular cause for dandruff, as many factors might contribute towards this condition, and these can also vary with each person.
A healthy diet, protection against harsh weather conditions and pollutants in the environment, and good hygiene and hair care practices can together protect you against the varied causes of dandruff.