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DANDRUFF 101: WHAT CAUSES DANDRUFF?

Girl inspects hairline in the mirror for dandruff with her hand.

When we think of dandruff, we automatically think dry, flaky skin. The truth is there’s only one culprit behind dandruff, and dry skin and flakiness are typically just the symptoms.

Four Most Common Causes for Dandruff

Yeast-Like Fungus

It may sound gross, but a fungus called Malassezia globosa lives on everyone’s scalp and skin – and half of the population is sensitive to it. It’s this sensitivity to Malassezia, or rather, the oleic acid it produces that causes actual dandruff. To get rid of this irritant, your body overproduces new skin cells. Eventually, the dead skin cells begin to pile up, and flake off your scalp. Itchiness, dryness, inflammation, and redness on the scalp are also symptoms of irritation caused by Malassezia.

Dry skin

A lot of things can dry out your scalp; some hair products, eating habits, environmental factors – the list goes on, reinforcing the dandruff-dryness connection.
The upside is that dandruff triggered by dryness can be treated by introducing more moisture to the skin. Try a shampoo or treatment that helps replenish moisture to your scalp. We recommend Head & Shoulders Aloe Vera Dandruff Shampoo to help hydrate and soothe an itchy, dry scalp.

Oily skin

When your scalp produces excess oil, or sebum, Malassezia globosa present on your scalp creates an imbalance that may cause oily dandruff – or Seborrhoeic Dermatitis. Oily dandruff is different than dry dandruff; it produces yellow-hued flakes that become sticky and cling to your strands when mixed with your scalp’s excess sebum. Oily dandruff is a germ-magnet that can clog your scalp, so finding the right solution for an oily scalp is key. Our Deep Scalp Cleanse 2 in 1 Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner removes buildup and controls oiliness without stripping your scalp of its natural oils.

Product sensitivity

While certain hair products may not be the cause of dandruff, they can contribute to it. Ingredients in a new shampoo, conditioner, or treatment can irritate the skin, causing itchiness, dryness, or flaking, especially if you have sensitive skin. Even if you don’t have a reaction to certain products, using them regularly can create a build-up of residue, dirt, and oil that can irritate your scalp and make dandruff worse. To prevent build-up, look for a clarifying shampoo. We recommend Head & Shoulders Supreme Sulfate Free Clarify & Volumize Shampoo for a clean that’s free from sulfates, parabens, dyes, phosphates, phthalates, silicones and sulfated surfactants.

Other factors like infrequent hair washing that leads to excess oils on the scalp and product build up and can directly affect existing dandruff. To find relieve from the itchiness associated with dandruff, look for anti-dandruff products that won’t further irritate your scalp. We have a variety of options ranging from gentle to clinical strength. Find the one that’s right for you by shopping our products page.