4 Main Causes of Dandruff and What You Can Do to Prevent Them

girl with dandruff

Dandruff—that annoying, sometimes itchy problem that has us constantly brushing off our shoulders. Ever find yourself wondering what causes dandruff in hair? Why do some of us struggle with it more than others?

You’re in the right place. We’re here to uncover the main reasons behind those irritating flakes. From straightforward explanations to surprising factors, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the causes of dandruff.

How Do You Get Dandruff?

Learning how to get rid of dandruff starts with knowing how it forms and what causes the condition.

Dandruff frequently originates from Malassezia globosa, a microscopic organism residing on the scalp. Interestingly, while this microbe is present on all scalps, it provokes symptoms in only approximately half of individuals.

So, what’s happening under there? Malassezia globosa feeds on the natural oils (sebum) that your scalp produces to keep your hair shiny and soft. But, when it digests this oil, it leaves behind something called oleic acid.

Here’s where things get interesting – or irritating, to be more precise. About half of us are sensitive to oleic acid. If you’re one of the lucky ones, your scalp throws a bit of a fit. It gets inflamed, turns red, and starts to itch.

Your body, trying to get rid of the irritant, kicks skin cells, shedding them into overdrive way faster than the usual pace. This rapid turnover leads to those pesky flakes you notice on your shoulders. So, in a nutshell, a common scalp resident can become quite the troublemaker, leading to the dandruff drama many of us experience.

Although the root cause of dandruff remains constant, specific factors can either worsen the issue or amplify its appearance. The causes of dandruff are varied and sometimes complex, ranging from lifestyle habits to the products you use. Let’s break down the key factors contributing to dandruff, helping you understand how you get it and pave the way for effective solutions.

dandruff in hair

Dry Scalp

The most frequent reason for dandruff is simply a dry scalp. When your scalp sheds its dry skin, it results in those flaky particles we know all too well as dandruff.

Several factors can dry out your scalp:

overwashing hair


Washing your hair too often strips it of its natural oils, leading to dryness. Consider washing them once or twice per week.

Weather Changes

Cold, dry air can sap moisture from your scalp, as can prolonged exposure to air conditioning or heaters. Make sure to keep your head covered and moisturize your scalp during extreme weather conditions.


Not drinking enough water can lead to skin dryness, affecting your scalp. Ensure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (about two liters) throughout the day.

Unhealthy Habits

Certain habits, particularly those related to your hygiene and diet, are known causes of dandruff:

Infrequent Shampooing

Skipping regular hair washes allows oils and skin cells to build up, causing flakes. Aim to shampoo your hair at least twice a week.

Poor Diet

A diet lacking essential nutrients, such as zinc, B vitamins, and healthy fats, can be a reason why you have dandruff. Add nuts, salmon, and avocados to your meals for healthier hair and skin.


Stress-induced hormonal imbalances can cause dandruff by triggering an imbalance that triggers shedding. To reduce stress levels, engage in relaxation techniques, such as meditation or exercise.

junk food

Chemical Reactions to Hair Products

The path to perfect hair might be what causes dandruff in your hair. Here’s how some ingredients in hair care products can become dandruff triggers:

shampoo with fragrance


Fragrances in shampoos and conditioners, often derived from a mix of chemicals, can irritate sensitive scalps, leading to dryness and flaking. Look for fragrance-free or natural hair care products to avoid this potential trigger.


Sulfates create the rich lather we love in shampoos, but they can be harsh on the scalp, stripping away moisture and protective oils. This can lead to an itchy, flaky scalp and dandruff. For dandruff prevention, consider using sulfate-free shampoos or ones with gentler sulfates.

Preservatives and Reactions

Chemicals like parabens and formaldehyde, used to prolong shelf life, can irritate the scalp or trigger allergic reactions, manifesting as dandruff. Seek out hair care products without preservatives or opt for natural alternatives, such as essential oils.

Underlying Health Issues

Sometimes, dandruff is a symptom rather than a problem. This may indicate underlying health conditions affecting the scalp. If you’re unsure, we recommend consulting with a hair treatment clinic to see if what you experience is a symptom of a medical issue.

Apart from that, here are some causes of dandruff due to underlying health problems:

Nutrient Deficiency

A lack of biotin (vitamin B7) impacts more than just your energy levels; it can also cause dandruff-like symptoms, highlighting the importance of a well-balanced diet. To ensure your scalp remains healthy and flake-free, consider incorporating biotin-rich foods such as eggs, almonds, and sweet potatoes into your meals as a proactive measure against dandruff.

Microbial Matters

Conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, linked to the Malassezia globosa microbe, highlight the delicate balance of the scalp microbiota and its impact on skin renewal rates and dandruff formation. Maintaining a healthy scalp environment can help prevent rapid skin shedding and the subsequent appearance of dandruff.

Psoriasis and Fungal Infections

Skin conditions like psoriasis can impact the skin’s appearance and health, affecting the scalp as well. Likewise, fungal infections such as Tinea Capitis can disturb scalp health, resulting in dandruff. Seeking medical advice for skin disorders like this can clarify whether this issue requires attention.

psoriasis or fungal infection

Prevent the Causes of Dandruff Today

Understanding the answer to the question, “Why do I have dandruff?” is essential to preventing its recurrence. So, take this as a sign to pause and check in with our scalp and health habits. By maintaining a healthy diet, managing stress levels, and using appropriate hair care products, we can take proactive steps toward preventing dandruff.

Need more information on other causes of dandruff? Contact us today and one of our experts will be there to help you.

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