Dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis is a common scalp condition that causes itchiness and scaling. It is not directly linked to hair loss. However, the discomfort caused by the condition may make you scratch the scalp that can damage the hair follicles and cause hair loss.
The condition may worsen if left untreated. Scroll through this article to understand the causes of seborrheic dermatitis, its connection with hair loss, and ways to treat it.
Table Of Contents
Seborrheic Dermatitis: What Is It And What Are The Causes?
Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory condition that causes itchy and scaly inflammatory patches on the skin. It can occur in the body’s oil-producing areas, like the face, upper chest, scalp, and back. Seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp is known as dandruff (1)
Despite its prevalence, the causes of seborrheic dermatitis are not well understood. Experts believe that it may be caused by a combination of factors like environmental conditions, fungal colonization (Malassezia), and genetic susceptibility.
Research showed a strong association between dandruff and the overgrowth of Malassezia. This yeast-like fungus naturally occurs on the scalp and other sebum-producing areas. It feeds on the oil and sebum, leaving behind some unsaturates on the skin. Increased sebum production triggers high fungal activity on the scalp, leading to inflammation, irritability, and flaking (3)
Seborrheic dermatitis is prevalent in people with immune-compromised conditions like (1):
- Organ transplant recipients
It also affects those with neurological disorders like:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic alcoholic pancreatitis
- Mood depression
- Spinal cord injury
Seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff has several symptoms. Let’s take a look at them.
Symptoms Of Seborrheic Dermatitis
- White or yellow greasy flakes on the scalp
- Red and itchy patches on ears, eyebrows, hairline, nose, and the chest
- Sensitive skin that is sore to touch
Severe dandruff may lead to hair loss. The following sections answer common questions related to seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss. Scroll down.
Can Seborrheic Dermatitis Cause Hair Loss?
Seborrheic dermatitis does not cause hair loss. However, it affects scalp health, and the extreme itchiness can trigger the urge to scratch. This may damage the hair follicles, causing hair loss.
Moreover, an irritated scalp does not support healthy hair growth. Severe seborrheic dermatitis may lead to hair thinning. However, the hair loss is not permanent.
Is Seborrheic Dermatitis Hair Loss Permanent?
No. It is temporary if treated in a timely and proper manner. If you notice dandruff that does not go away with topical anti-dandruff shampoos and products, it might be a severe case of seborrheic dermatitis that demands aggressive treatment. Consult a dermatologist immediately for proper treatment. After diagnosis, your doctor may suggest any or a combination of treatments mentioned below.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: What Are The Treatment Options?
Treating seborrheic dermatitis focuses on reducing the proliferation of Malassezia and minimizing inflammation and irritation. The doctor may use topical and systemic therapy (1)
1. Antifungal Products And Ointments
The doctor may prescribe antifungal shampoos, gels, creams, and lotions containing ingredients like 2% ketoconazole, 1% bifonazole, miconazole, 1.5% ciclopirox olamine, 2.5% selenium sulfide, and 1% zinc pyrithione.
2. Corticosteroids And Immunomodulators
Topical corticosteroids like hydrocortisone, betamethasone dipropionate, desonide, fluocinolone reduce inflammation and skin irritation. However, prolonged use of steroids may cause hypopigmentation, folliculitis, and skin atrophy (skin thinning).
Immunomodulators like 1% pimecrolimus cream and 0.1% tacrolimus ointment inhibit cytokine (group of proteins and peptides) production by the T-cells. They help maintain the skin. However, prolonged use may increase the risk of lymphoma and malignancy. Always use these medications under the doctor’s supervision.
3. Oral Medications
Oral medicines like itraconazole and terbinafine have an anti-inflammatory effect and inhibit the fungal cell wall synthesis. This soothes your skin. However, abuse of itraconazole may cause liver toxicity, and terbinafine may cause insomnia.
4. Other Topical Treatments
The doctor may also suggest shampoos and products containing coal tar, lithium gluconate, and metronidazole and phototherapy (UVB) to inhibit cell proliferation and free radicals and reduce inflammation.
If you have mild dandruff, you may also try home remedies to manage the condition.
Natural Remedies To Manage Seborrheic Dermatitis
- Lemon: You can mix lemon peel powder with white wine, alum, fresh turmeric, and salt and apply it to inflamed skin for relief (5).
- Aloe Vera: Aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory properties, and rubbing it on the skin can soothe itching and irritation (5).
- Honey: Honey is used in traditional medicine to soothe swelling and irritation caused by seborrheic dermatitis. Mix honey with water and apply it to the affected area and wash it off (5).
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is often used to treat seborrheic dermatitis due to its antifungal benefits. You can use shampoo containing tea tree oil (2), (5). However, essential oils may irritate the skin. Hence, do a patch test before using it.
Taking care of your scalp and hair and a few other lifestyle changes may speed up the healing process. Follow the tips below for faster healing.
Lifestyle Changes For Fast Healing
1. Reduce The Use Of Styling Products
Go slow with styling products like hair sprays and gels. Avoid them while undergoing treatment. Even after recovery, avoid exposing the scalp to the chemicals and preservatives in the hairstyling products.
2. Avoid Harsh Shampoos
Excess use of harsh shampoos can dry out the scalp and promote excess sebum production. Use mild and herbal shampoos without drying alcohols. Also, avoid frequent shampooing.
3. Maintain Hygiene
Keep your scalp clean and dry. Use a clarifying shampoo once in a while to clean excess dirt and product buildup. This may help avoid flare-ups.
In A Nutshell
Seborrheic dermatitis may not cause hair loss. However, it may affect scalp health and affect the overall hair health. The good news is, this is temporary, and with the right treatment, seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff can be managed. Talk to a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment, and follow a thorough hair care routine to keep your scalp and hair healthy.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Does weather conditions worsen seborrheic dermatitis?
Yes, dry weather conditions during winters can worsen seborrheic dermatitis.
Do certain foods trigger or reduce seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis has no connection with your dietary habits. However, it is best to avoid processed foods and consume foods that support your immune system. This will maintain your overall health.
What is the difference between seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that triggers excessive and rapid skin cell growth to form scaly patches. Seborrheic dermatitis is triggered by excessive proliferation of Malassezia fungus on the scalp, causing flaking and itching. Both conditions often mimic each other.
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