Dandruff Under the Microscope: What Are Dandruff Symptoms and Causes?

dandruff look on a microscope | ungex

“There are only two things in life that come with no effort – failure and dandruff.”

Although scalp flakes come effortlessly, they don’t quickly go away. The American entrepreneur, Malcolm Stevenson, says: “Things there are no solutions to: Inflation, bureaucracy & dandruff.”

If you suffer from dandruff, you presumably agree with this sentiment. 

Regardless of the cause, a scaly scalp is bothersome and requires getting right down to the root to stop it. This article tries to acquaint you with the causes of dandruff and approaches to stop it. But in the first step, let’s refresh what we know about these pesky flakes.

Definition of Dandruff

Dandruff is among the most prevalent skin issues, affecting about half of the people before puberty. Indications include scaling that usually occurs on the scalp and sometimes includes mild itching.

Dandruff itself is not infectious and does not usually lead to critical complications. However, it can create social issues resulting from low self-esteem.

Cradle cap is what the dandruff in infancy is called, and is usually a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis which occurs in adulthood.

How Dandruff Forms

Where do these embarrassing scales come from?

Skin cells are regularly turning over. Old ones fall off, and new cells take their place. But, under certain conditions this turnover seems to accelerate. There is a hypothesis that in dandruff, skin cells may grow and be shed in 2-7 days, which is more like a month for individuals who are not experiencing dandruff. Cells are pushed outward where they die and flake off as dandruff.

What Does Dandruff Actually Look Like Under The Microscope?

The size and abundance of flakes may differ at different times and on various parts of the skin. No matter the size, dandruff scales are made-up of bunched corneocytes that have preserved a significant degree of attachment with one another and separated from the stratum corneum. They are usually white or grey when you look at them under a microscope, resembling a patch of tree bark detaching from the trunk.

Is It Normal for Dandruff to Itch?

Dandruff is not always itchy, but indications may involve mild itchiness and irritation. Although dandruff is not an inflammatory issue by itself, its causative factors, such as seborrheic dermatitis and Malassezia fungus, can lead to itching and dermatitis.

Let’s discuss dandruff risk factors and reasons and how they lead to irritated, itchy skin.

Dandruff Symptoms

Dandruff always involved flaky scales. These flakes usually arise from the scalp but may also occur on other parts of the skin. Dandruff symptoms are as follow:

  • Scaly skin
  • Itchy scalp
  • White dry spots on the hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and shoulders
  • Crusty scalp in infants with cradle cap

The Causes of Dandruff

Although dandruff is a widespread issue, its cause is not well known. It seems that multiple factors, including genetic and environmental, play a role in its pathogenesis. Yet, the most common reason for dandruff in adults is seborrheic dermatitis (Cradle Cap in infants). Some of the causes of dandruff are as follow:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis 
  • Allergy to hair care products (contact dermatitis)
  • Cradle cap in infants
  • Malassezia fungi
  • Demodex Mites

Dandruff Linkage to Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the widespread skin issues associated with resistant dandruff.  This disorder can influence other parts of the skin in addition to the scalp. Inflamed, itchy red skin covered in patches of white or yellow oily flakes or scales are among the typical symptoms. Seborrheic dermatitis is most frequent in areas where the oil glands are more active. Sides of the nose and mouth, scalp, ears, eyelids, armpits, eyebrows, and chest are typical areas of manifestation.

The difference between seborrheic dermatitis and ordinary dandruff is that in the former, inflammation and skin scales may extend further than the scalp, to the face, chest, and other parts of the skin. However, It is said that seborrheic dermatitis exists on a spectrum and the mild end of it displays as dandruff. 

Seborrheic dermatitis is also called seborrheic psoriasis and seborrheic eczema. This type of eczema in infants is known as a cradle cap.

Want to know more about seborrheic dermatitis? click on this link.

Seborrheic Dermatitis in Infants (Cradle Cap)

As mentioned, seborrheic dermatitis is called cradle cap in infants and may continue for several months. This skin issue is not painful or itchy and usually resolves on its own. But, if crusty or oily flaky patches on the baby’s skin are thick, you can regularly wash the infants’ face and scalp with gentle baby shampoo and remove dandruff and scales.


Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is the result of repeated skin contact with a stimulant. This kind of eczema may be either irritant (ICD) or allergic (ACD), in which the immune system gets involved. Some hair colours, shampoos, beautifying products, and keratin treatments have substances that may cause this type of dermatitis. Compared to other parts of the skin, the scalp is resistant and thick. That’s why contact dermatitis usually does not cause flaky skin on the scalp. Rather, it manifests itself with acute or chronic scalp itching and alopecia. Contact dermatitis-related dandruff is more prevalent on the eyelashes and eyebrows. Still, skin lesions on the scalp may also be seen.


Malassezia Fungi

If you have dandruff, it’s a good chance that your skin microbiome is out of balance, and Malassezia fungi have taken control of your scalp.

Malassezia is one of the natural microbes of human skin. It seems to play a role in seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, and acne-like lesions (fungal acne.)

Want to know more about fungal acne? Visit this link.

When it comes to flaky skin, one thing is obvious. In people with dandruff, Malaysia’s density rises by 1.5 to 2 times its normal level. However, it is not clear if the proliferation of this fungus leads to dandruff or vice versa.

Some specialists believe that plenty of Malassezia on the skin leaves behind toxic products like oleic acid that some people are susceptible to. Skin responds to the irritation by attempting to grow more new skin cells. That’s exactly why individuals with dandruff have such accelerated life cycles when it comes to skin cells.

Regrettably, the skin’s extreme attempts to purge stimulants are unsuccessful, and it’s only results are those embarrassing white flakes, as well as irritation and itchiness.

Malassezia feeds on skin oils and breaks them down into provocative compounds such as oleic acid. This is why individuals with oily skin or who use oily makeup and health care products are more likely to develop dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

Demodex Mites

Demodex mites are microorganisms that have an important role in developing dandruff through both direct and indirect mechanisms. Before we get into these mechanisms, let’s know a little more about these mites.

What Are Demodex Mites?

It may seem strange, but our body and skin is the residence of myriad living things, from fungi and bacteria to mites and insects. These organisms’ range from a normal density of 103 to 105 per mm2 of the skin. One of these organisms is a mite known as “Demodex”. 

Demodex mites usually exist in less than 5 per square centimetres of human skin. However, like Malassezia, they can increase and take control of our skin under favourable conditions. When they grow in population, Demodex can produce or worsen various dermatological concerns. Rosacea, blepharitis, Dandruff, acne, hair loss, hair thinning, crawling sensation, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, etc., are some of the skin and hair issues raised due to excessive numbers of Demodex mites.

Demodex Play a Direct Role in Developing Dandruff:

Cylindrical dandruff at the root of the lashes is a tangible sign of a Demodex mite infestation at that particular site. These microorganisms have tiny tentacle-type legs and can move 8 to 16 centimetres in an hour. They damage the thin skin around the eyelash base with their claws. Micro-abrasions caused by their scratches cause dandruff to form at the bases of the lashes.

Furthermore, Demodex mites produce toxic substances that cause itching and redness. When the itching is severe, the host starts to scratch the skin, resulting in scaling.

Demodex Play an  Indirect Role in Developing Dandruff:

Demodex mites are the vector for harmful bacteria and fungi like Malassezia, which plays a direct role in dandruff and dandruff-related concerns such as seborrheic dermatitis (SD). Furthermore, similar to Malassezia, Demodex mites feed on sebum. That’s why they can proliferate more in oily parts of the skin, where they are more prone to flaking.


We Help You Get Rid of Dandruff at the Root

At Ungex, we have developed a set of fantastic products to target the cause of dandruff by removing Demodex mites. Our products remove Demodex on the skin as well as the immediate environment, enabling us to target your Demodex mites with a combination of a great formulation and a comprehensive protocol, all in the comfort of your own home. By eliminating Demodex, we control many of the underlying causes of flaky skin, such as Malassezia fungi, inflammatory factors, and seborrheic dermatitis, to help restore your healthy dandruff-free skin and scalp once again.


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Regional Atlas of Contact Dermatitis: Scalp



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