Hair dye’s effect on the hair and scalp has been fairly well documented. But is there a link between hair dye and dandruff?
The effect on your hair of salon and box hair dyes is not always limited to a lovely color.
These chemical dyes could cause problems that leave your hair weak, dry and brittle. In extreme cases, hair dyes can cause hair loss due to breakage.
Their effect on your scalp can be equally frustrating. Hair dye can cause the scalp to itch and flake – but is this dandruff? First of all, it helps to understand what dandruff actually is.
What is dandruff?
While there are a lot of conditions that cause dandruff-like symptoms, what we typically called dandruff is caused by one thing: Malassezia globosa.
Malassezia globosa is a microbe that lives on the scalp. It survives off the natural oils present on your scalp, and for many of us, it is pretty harmless.
Unfortunately, sometimes people are sensitive to it - and in those cases the body responds by showing the signs of dandruff.
The link between hair dye and dandruff
The simple truth is that hair dyes themselves don’t create dandruff. However, if you’re already prone to get dandruff, hair dye could contribute to a flare-up.
So, what’s actually happening on the scalp?
First, the chemicals in hair dyes can remove the protective lipids/oils from your scalp, leaving it exposed and vulnerable to damage from irritants like Malassezia globosa.
This could make it more likely that you will develop dandruff.
Second, the strong chemicals in hair dyes can be irritating by themselves…especially if your scalp is already weakened due to dandruff.
You may experience symptoms of contact dermatitis:
- Scalp itching due to skin irritation
- Swollen patches
- Red skin
Finally, certain chemicals in hair color, like Paraphenylenediamine (PPDA), are known sensitizers, which means that people could develop an allergic reaction to after repeated exposure. This can also lead to dandruff-like symptoms. If you have an allergy to PPDA, you should avoid all oxidation-type hair dyes (these kits usually have 2 bottles that you mix together).
What to do about scalp irritation
Luckily, there are some fairly simple steps that you can take to help avoid scalp irritation related to hair dye:
- Start with a healthy scalp- if you’re prone to dandruff, regularly use dandruff shampoo starting about 2 weeks before using hair dye
- Always follow manufacturer’s usage instructions on the hair dye
- Avoid washing your hair 1-2 days before coloring- the natural oils help protect your scalp
Before and after coloring, a nourishing shampoo will help strengthen weakened hair, while moisturizing and helping protect the scalp from irritation. If your scalp is particularly sensitive, a gentle shampoo will help take the sting out of your day-to-day hair routine.