Is Dandruff (Seborrhea) Contagious?

Reviewed on 12/22/2020

What Is Dandruff (Seborrhea)?

Dandruff (seborrhea) is not contagious. It is believed to be due to an inflammatory reaction to a type of yeast (Malassezia globosa) that naturally lives on the skin and it cannot be transmitted from person-to-person.
Dandruff (seborrhea) is not contagious. It is believed to be due to an inflammatory reaction to a type of yeast (Malassezia globosa) that naturally lives on the skin and it cannot be transmitted from person-to-person.

Dandruff is a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that can cause redness, scaly or flaky patches, and itching. It typically affects areas of the skin that have many oil glands such as the scalp, face, upper chest, and back. 

What Are Symptoms of Dandruff (Seborrhea)?

Symptoms of dandruff (seborrhea) occur on the scalp and include:

  • White flakes or scales on the head or in the hair 
  • Itching
  • Dry scalp
  • Redness
  • Redness and greasy scales, usually on the scalp in infants (“cradle cap”)

What Are Symptoms of Dandruff (Seborrhea)?

Symptoms of dandruff (seborrhea) occur on the scalp and include:

  • White flakes or scales on the head or in the hair 
  • Itching
  • Dry scalp
  • Redness
  • Redness and greasy scales, usually on the scalp in infants (“cradle cap”)

What Causes Dandruff (Seborrhea)?

The exact cause of dandruff (seborrhea) is believed to be due to an inflammatory reaction to a type of yeast (Malassezia globosa) that naturally lives on the skin. Most people have this microbe on their skin, and about half of all people are sensitive to it. 

Risk factors for developing dandruff include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Dry skin
  • Sensitivity to hair products
  • Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis 
  • Genetics 
  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and diseases that affect the immune system, such as HIV or AIDS

Dandruff is not caused by allergies or poor hygiene.

Is Dandruff (Seborrhea) Contagious?

Dandruff (seborrhea) is not contagious. Dandruff is believed to be due to an inflammatory reaction to a type of yeast (Malassezia globosa) that naturally lives on the skin and it cannot be transmitted from person-to-person.

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How Is Dandruff (Seborrhea) Diagnosed?

Dandruff (seborrhea) is usually diagnosed with a physical examination of the scalp. 

If the diagnosis is uncertain, a skin biopsy may be recommended to help confirm the diagnoses or to help rule out other conditions.

What Is the Treatment for Dandruff (Seborrhea)?

Treatment of dandruff (seborrhea) includes:

  • Frequent shampooing or longer lathering
  • Avoiding use of hair spray or hair pomades
  • Dandruff hair care
    • Use of shampoos with antifungal or antiseptic properties containing salicylic acid, coal tar, sulfur, or zinc; selenium sulfide (2.5%), ketoconazole, and ciclopirox 
      • Follow instructions on the dandruff shampoo bottle because each type of active ingredient may require different application
      • Note that coal tar shampoos can discolor blonde, grey, or white hair, and can also make the scalp sensitive to sunlight so it is important to wear a hat if using this type of dandruff shampoo
    • Use of conditioner with zinc, 0.01% fluocinolone, and acetonide topical oil
    • Applying tar, bath oil, Baker’s P&S solution, or Derma-Smoothe F/S oil overnight to loosen scales may be helpful 

How Do You Prevent Dandruff (Seborrhea)?

Over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos and conditioners can help manage dandruff (seborrhea) and prevent symptoms from occurring.

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Reviewed on 12/22/2020
References
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1108312-overview

https://www.headandshoulders.com/en-us/healthy-hair-and-scalp/dandruff

https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/hair-scalp-care/scalp/treat-dandruff