Different Types Of Dandruff And How To Stop Them

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Dandruff is mainly characterized by white flakes in hair and is also accompanied by symptoms like inflammation and an itchy scalp (1). Although it is a frustrating hair condition, it is treatable.

There could be several causes of dandruff. It could develop in different types, and it is important to understand those before one can start treatment. In this article, we have discussed the different types of dandruff and how you can treat each.

Different Types Of Dandruff

1. Dry Skin-Related Dandruff

Dandruff often develops in people who generally have a dry scalp (2). Dry skin on the scalp can be caused due to extreme cold weather (as in winter months) or irregular hair shampooing.

People with curly hair may have a scalp drier than those with other hair types (3). Using sulfate shampoos that create a lot of foam can also cause and aggravate dry skin-related dandruff.

Symptoms: A feeling of tightness on your scalp and small, round, white dry flakes in hair.

2. Oily Scalp-Related Dandruff

This condition is characterized by an oily scalp. Sometimes, your body can start producing excess sebum (the natural oil produced by sebaceous glands) (1). Sebum, in normal quantities, can help moisturize your hair and skin and keep them from drying. It may also help delay certain signs of aging.

However, overproduction of this sebum, which could occur due to puberty, pregnancy, stress, or irregular shampooing, can cause problems. When the excess sebum mixes with dirt and dead skin cells, it forms dandruff.

Symptoms: Yellow patches on the scalp, yellowish large dandruff flakes on the scalp, itching, and greasy hair.

3. Fungal Dandruff

Fungal dandruff is a result of a scalp infection caused by the Malassezia globosa fungus. This fungal infection spreads quite rapidly when your scalp is excessively oily or has a pH imbalance (1).

It is also highly contagious and can spread when individuals share their combs, towels, or hats with someone with the infection. Malassezia produces oleic acid that increases the turnover of skin cells. This causes dandruff.

Symptoms: White or yellowish dandruff flakes and itchiness.

4. Dandruff Caused By Product Build-up

Using too many styling products (including leave-in conditioners, gels, serums, pomades, mousses or hair sprays) can cause them to accumulate on your scalp. This build-up can combine with dirt and dead skin cells to form dandruff. It could also lead to hair loss.

Symptoms: Big whitish or yellowish large flakes on the scalp, irritation, and hair fall.

5. Dandruff Caused By Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can develop on parts of your body with a higher concentration of sebaceous glands. This includes your scalp, neck, areas behind your ears, face, and eyebrows.

Studies show that it is usually caused by an inflammatory reaction to yeast that is naturally found on your skin’s surface. Stress and hormonal changes could trigger seborrheic dermatitis (4).

Symptoms: Huge, white or yellowish dandruff flakes, scaly patches, greasiness, redness, and irritation.

6. Dandruff Caused By Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition in which the immune system starts attacking healthy skin tissues. This leads to the rapid production of new skin cells before the old dead skin flakes off. The result is the formation of thick silver-colored scaly patches on your scalp, neck, knees, and back (4).

Symptoms: Silver-colored scaly patches, thick white big flakes on the scalp, redness, and mild itching.

Dandruff could be an all-consuming part of someone’s life. One may even feel embarrassed in a company. But it doesn’t have to be so. Dandruff can easily be treated with the help of a few products and other natural methods.

Tips To Prevent Dandruff

With Hair Products

  • There are several over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos that you can use to treat and prevent dandruff (3). Ensure you pick one that contains any of the following ingredients:
    • Ketoconazole
    • Salicylic acid
    • Selenium sulfide
    • Coal tar
    • Zinc pyrithione
  • Some vital nutrients that you need to include in your diet to prevent dandruff are zinc, B vitamins, and fats (5).
  • Avoid going in for chemical hair treatments like perms, hair colors, and relaxing (3).
  • Brush and wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo regularly.
  • Abstain from using too many hair styling products (3).

With Natural Methods

Note: These natural methods are based on anecdotal reports.

  • Fenugreek Seeds: Soak 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds overnight and grind them into a paste. Apply this paste all over your scalp and leave it on for 30 minutes. Wash it off with soapnut (reetha) and water.
  • Olive Oil: Massage your scalp with olive oil for 10 minutes and leave it on overnight. Wash it off with water and a mild shampoo the next morning.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Mix 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in 2 cups of water and pour it all over your scalp after shampooing it. Massage it in for a few minutes before washing it with water.
  • Baking Soda: Mix 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice into a bowl of apple cider vinegar. Apply this paste all over your scalp and leave it on for 10 minutes. Wash it off with water.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to coconut oil and massage it onto your scalp and hair. You can leave it on overnight before washing it off with a herbal shampoo.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to treat dandruff. Making a few simple changes to your hair care routine and following certain home remedies can help prevent this condition

Frequently Asked Questions

Does washing your hair with hot water cause dandruff?

Washing your hair with hot water may cause dandruff as it dries out your scalp.

Can washing your hair every day cause dandruff?

If your scalp is too dry, washing your hair every day can cause dandruff. Moderation is key. You may shampoo your hair once in two or three days. You can wash your hair with plain water every day.

How many times should I use dandruff shampoo in a week?

The frequency can vary from person to person. Check what suits you. Follow the directions given on the bottle.

How do I know if it’s lice or dandruff?

Dandruff just appears as white or yellow flakes on your scalp. Lice, on the other hand, can give rise to nits (tiny white specks on your hair shafts), nymphs (small, tan-colored lice), and adult louse.

Does dandruff spread from one person to another?

Dandruff can spread from person to person if it is caused by a Malassezia infection.


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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).