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Does Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 09/17/2017

Updated 05/24/2021

Dandruff is a common form of skin flaking that can affect your scalp, causing itching, discomfort and a negative effect on your appearance. 

Many cases of dandruff are caused by the skin condition seborrheic dermatitis, which can affect the scalp and cause a range of symptoms. 

Most of the time, dandruff doesn’t cause hair loss on its own. However, itching your scalp, which is a common behavior for people with dandruff, can affect your hair follicles and cause your hair to shed.

Below, we’ve explained what dandruff is, what causes it and how dandruff may affect your hair’s health and appearance.

We’ve also explained what you can do to treat and prevent dandruff using over-the-counter hair care products and good habits.

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff is a form of skin flaking that affects your scalp. If you have dandruff, you may spot thin flakes of skin on your scalp that are yellow or white in color. 

These skin flakes may loosen and fall from your scalp onto your shoulders and clothing. 

Although dandruff can affect men and women, it’s more common in men and typically develops after puberty.

Most cases of dandruff are caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a chronic form of eczema that can develop in areas of your skin with lots of sebaceous glands (glands that produce oil).

Seborrheic dermatitis develops due to several factors, including your genes, overall health and the effects of the Malassezia yeast that grows on your skin.

Dandruff from seborrheic dermatitis can vary in severity. Some people notice a small amount of fine, powdery dandruff, while others develop severe dandruff that’s often accompanied by a skin rash.

In addition to dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis may cause other symptoms, such as redness and scaly patches that develop on the skin.

Can Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

Before we get into the specifics of dandruff and hair loss, it’s important to discuss how and why male hair loss occurs.

Most hair loss in men is the result of androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. This type of hair loss leads to the classic M-shaped receding hairline or bald patch at the crown that many men develop as they grow older.

Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of your genes and the effects of an androgen hormone (male sex hormone) called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

You can learn more about this process and its root causes in our detailed guide to DHT and hair loss in men

Dandruff doesn’t directly cause male pattern baldness, nor does it appear to have any effect on your production of DHT.

Dandruff has no effect on other forms of hair loss, such as telogen effluvium (hair loss that can occur after a physiological shock or severe stress), anagen effluvium, traction alopecia or tinea capitis (scalp ringworm).

Although dandruff doesn’t cause hair loss, it may cause your scalp to feel itchy. 

If you scratch at your scalp aggressively, you may weaken your skin’s protective barrier and increase your risk of developing a bacterial or fungal infection.

Some infections, such as tinea capitis, can affect your hair follicles and contribute to temporary or permanent hair loss.

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Some Hair Loss Treatment Can Dry Out Your Scalp

Hair loss from male pattern baldness is treated using two medications. The first is a prescription medication called finasteride that’s sold in tablet form. 

The second is a topical medication called minoxidil that’s available as a liquid or foam that’s applied directly to your scalp.

We offer finasteride, minoxidil and other hair loss treatments online, with prescription treatments available after an online consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. 

If you’re losing your hair, you’ll likely benefit from these treatments. However, some people who use hair loss medications -- minoxidil, in particular -- report developing a dry, itchy scalp during the first few weeks of treatment.

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.

Itchiness and dryness from minoxidil may be caused by the product’s formula. Some versions of minoxidil contain ingredients such as propylene glycol and alcohol, which can dry the skin. 

If you have a sensitive scalp or already have dandruff, there’s a risk that using minoxidil to treat your hair loss could worsen your dandruff. 

The risk isn’t large -- most people that use minoxidil don't experience any scalp issues -- but it’s important to know that it’s there.

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

Scratching Your Scalp and Hair Loss

As we briefly mentioned earlier, dandruff can cause your scalp to become itchy -- a factor that could lead to hair loss if you scratch your scalp aggressively.

Scratching your scalp can damage your skin, increasing your risk of developing infections that can cause follicular damage and hair loss, such as tinea capitis. 

Scratching aggressively may also pull on your hair, causing temporary hair shedding that gives your hair a thin appearance. 

In addition to dandruff, a variety of other issues may cause you to develop an itchy scalp, such as hives, psoriasis, head lice, neuropathy (a form of damage to your nerves that can result in a tingling or uncomfortable feeling) and allergic reactions to certain hair care products.

Many of these conditions can be treated and prevented with topical or oral medications, helping you to avoid scratching and damaging your scalp. 

If you have an itchy scalp and feel tempted to scratch it, it’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider for assistance.

How to Treat Dandruff

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. We’ve listed several options below.

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Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product.

Use an Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

The most effective way to clear up dandruff is by washing with anti-dandruff shampoo. You can buy shampoos formulated to treat and prevent dandruff online or from your local supermarket or drugstore.

When you're comparing shampoos, look for science-based active ingredients such as pyrithione zinc, ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, coal tar and salicylic acid.

Make sure to follow the instructions provided with your shampoo. Be careful when using coal tar shampoo, as this ingredient can discolor blonde, white or gray hair and make your skin become more sensitive to sunlight.

If you’re Asian or Caucasion, wash your hair daily with a regular shampoo and use anti-dandruff shampoo two times per week.

If you’re African-American, it’s best to shampoo your hair once per week using an anti-dandruff shampoo.

Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet

Although there’s no direct link between diet and dandruff, some research in women has found that eating a diet that’s rich in fruit and low in high-fat, high-sugar processed foods may help to reduce the severity of seborrheic dermatitis.

Our guide to foods to eat for hair growth lists specific ingredients to prioritize for a healthy scalp and hair.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

If your dandruff doesn’t improve with regular use of an anti-dandruff shampoo, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.

Although most cases of dandruff are associated with seborrheic dermatitis, other conditions that affect your scalp can also cause skin flaking. 

Some of these conditions may only disappear with the use of medication.

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Dandruff and Hair Loss

Although dandruff can be unsightly and annoying, there’s no scientific evidence that it directly causes hair loss.

With this said, some conditions that can affect your scalp and cause dry skin, such as fungal infections, may also cause temporary hair shedding or hair loss. 

Although it’s uncommon, it’s also possible to damage your hair if you scratch your scalp very aggressively. 

If you’re starting to lose your hair and it’s not related to dandruff or infections, you’ll get the best results with proven, science-based medications such as finasteride and minoxidil.

If you have dandruff, you can find out more about treating and preventing it in our full guide to getting rid of dandruff for good.

9 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Dandruff, Cradle Cap, and Other Scalp Conditions. (2020, November 12). Retrieved from
  2. Johnson, B.A. Nunley, J.R. (2000, May 1). Treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis. American Family Physician. 61 (9), 2703-2710. Retrieved from
  3. Hereditary-Patterned Baldness. (2019, April). Retrieved from
  4. What Makes Us Itch? (2020, September 28). Retrieved from
  5. Panahi, Y., Taghizadeh, M., Marzony, E.T. Sahebkar, A. (2015, January-February). Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2 percent for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. Skinmed. 13 (1), 15-21. Retrieved from
  6. 10 Reasons Your Scalp Itches and How to Get Relief. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  7. How to Treat Dandruff. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  8. Dandruff. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  9. Sanders, M.G., Pardo, L.M., Ginger, R.S., Kiefte-de Jong, J.C. Nijsten, T. (2019, January). Association between Diet and Seborrheic Dermatitis: A Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 139 (1), 108-114. Retrieved from
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

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. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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