There seems to be a connection between dandruff and hair loss, but it is not necessarily a causal one. Many people who suffer from dandruff also report hair loss, but it may be that what causes one condition also causes the other. Some of the ingredients in dandruff shampoos seem to also have an effect on treating hair loss. Also, scratching the head in cases where chronic and severe dandruff causes itching may result in some hair loss due to trauma of the hair follicles.
There are several types of dandruff, each caused by a different medical condition. The most common type is caused by a fungus called malassezia. This fungus normally resides peacefully in the scalp, and the reasons why it may suddenly proliferate are not entirely known, but the result is a flakiness of the skin.
Another type of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, which results in greasy flakes of skin and a red, inflamed scalp. Known as cradle cap in infants, it can also affect other parts of the face and armpits. Psoriasis can also affect the scalp and cause an overgrowth of skin cells, which then thicken and flake. Not much is known about the causes of dandruff, but some factors, such as oily scalp, stress, hormonal changes, autoimmune disorders and heart disease, seem to be involved.
Treating dandruff requires using an anti-dandruff shampoo. Different shampoos work for different people, and the efficacy of each would depend on the condition causing the problem. Some common ingredients in these specialist shampoos include salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc pyrithione, sulphur and ketoconazole.
Ketoconazole reduces dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which, when overactive, causes an overproduction of oil from the sebaceous gland resulting in dandruff. DHT is also responsible for the majority of hair thinning and hair loss, so using one shampoo can treat both dandruff and hair loss. DHT causes a shrinking of the hair follicle and also prevents nourishment from reaching it, thus causing it to reproduce at a slower rate. There seems to be a genetic predisposition to the overproduction of DHT.
Caffeine is another ingredient that fights both dandruff and hair loss. It is thought to protect the roots of the hair from DHT so that the follicle is able to get the nutrients it needs to grow and remain strong. Dandruff and hair loss may seem to be causal, but it could be that the two conditions are connected by the same causal agent.