a man wondering what causes dandruff

What Causes Dandruff?

Dandruff is a common but embarrassing condition that leaves people with an itchy, flaking scalp. While in most cases it is treatable, the form treatment takes depends largely on what is causing it. Here is a look at some of the more frequent causes of dandruff.

Dry Skin

One of the most prevalent causes of dandruff is simply dry skin. If people struggle with flaky skin on other parts of their bodies, there’s a good chance that it’s the culprit. In cases such as these, the dandruff may worsen due to certain environmental factors, such as cold weather or windy conditions.

Skin Irritation

Some cases of dandruff may be caused by irritation due to an overproduction of skin oil, often referred to as seborrheic dermatitis. This condition produces dandruff flakes that are oilier and more yellow than those caused by other factors such as dry skin. For most people, treating seborrheic dermatitis and eliminating the dandruff it causes will be quite easy—most doctors will recommend home remedies or using an anti-dandruff shampoo. However, for more serious cases, prescription medication or creams may be necessary.

Not Enough Shampooing

Regular hair washing is important for removing the buildup of oils and dead skin cells on the scalp, and when it’s neglected, they can begin to accumulate and cause dandruff problems.

Hair Care Allergies

Certain people can develop sensitivities or even full-blown allergies to various hair care products, including shampoos, conditioners, and dyes. These allergies can cause excess scalp dryness or irritation than can lead to the production of dandruff.


Malassezia is a form of fungus that can be naturally found on the skin of most humans. While it is generally harmless, some people may be allergic to it, which can cause scalp irritation. This irritation signals to the body to produce more skin cells, and as these excess cells die off, they can cause dandruff. It’s still unknown why some people react negatively to malassezia and others don’t.


There is some research that indicates dandruff may also be caused by dietary factors. People who don’t consume enough vitamin B or zinc may be predisposed to the condition. 

Last Updated: March 29, 2016