Yes, although not the sole cause, some studies have shown that stress can influence flareups of dandruff.  In this article, we look at stress as one component of “individual susceptibility” and an Italian study illustrates what was found in an emotionally stressed group of people. Individual susceptibility is a group of characteristics found in a person that may tip them over into having dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis.

3 Elements of Dandruff Flare ups

The prevailing thought is that there are three elements that cause dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis and the degree to which one suffers from these two overlapping conditions.  The first main element is colonization with the yeast like fungus Malassezia. The second element is sebaceous gland activity. Sebaceous glands lubricate the skin with an oily substance called sebum.  The third element in if or if not a person will suffer from dandruff is a group of factors and collectively called individual susceptibility [1]. The question of does stress cause dandruff will be found when we examine this last category.

Where Stress fits into the causes of Dandruff

Everyone makes sebum and everyone has this fungus, but not everyone has the severe flaking of the scalp and skin known as seborrheic dermatitis. In case you were wondering, the yeast Malassezia eats this sebum and makes byproducts that irritate the skin and causes it to flake.  Some people just have mild flaking which is called dandruff. Some people have neither condition. What is the deciding factor that gives one, flakes, scale and irritation on their scalp? Is the dandruff caused by stress?  As mentioned, the issue of stress falls into this third element of individual susceptibility [2].

Other components of Dandruff Flare ups

Besides stress, what else makes up this category of individual susceptibility? I will list them here and just know that each could feature as a stand-alone article. The factors are immunity, epidermal barrier, genetics, neurogenic factors, and finally emotional stress. Many items affect the integrity of the skin barrier and if this barrier is more permeable flaking may worsen. People with immunodeficiencies may have worse seborrheic dermatitis. Neurogenic factors refer to people with Parkinson disease. When patients with Parkinson’s are medicated with L-dopa scalp flaking improves [2].

We all get stressed out, but the stress we are talking about that may increase one’s flaking of the scalp may go above just worrying about what to cook for dinner, or having arrived at home after leaving the grocery store and realizing you forgot to buy the bananas.

The Maietta Dandruff study

A study done in Italy in the late 1980s, looked at 300 patients to try and answer does severe stress cause dandruff.  They actually looked at the enhanced flaking condition of seborrheic dermatitis and its relationship to stress. They looked at 150 patients with mood disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other severe mental illnesses. As a comparison (control group) they looked at 150 age and gender-matched people that came in for surgery. They also made sure to look at the groups at the same time of year, all within the same week, so environmental factors didn’t muddy up the study.

They found that 25% of the patients in the psychiatric ward vs. only 9% of the patients that came in for surgery had seborrheic dermatitis. And actually, the group of patients that accounted for the real difference between the two groups was the depressed patients. 36% of patients with mood disorders had seborrheic dermatitis.

A very interesting point they brought up is that the fungus in the scalp can be reduced by the effect of UVB rays, and while they pivot and refer to spinal cord injury patients who are indoors for long periods of time, one may draw another conclusion that those in a psychiatric ward would also be indoors longer than a person coming in for a relatively quick surgery.

Dandruff caused by Stress?

After a close evaluation of this study, we would have to answer, yes, stress does cause dandruff.

Many people with sensitive skin have struggled when looking for a product to eliminate the flakes associated with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. People with sensitive skin should use a product for dandruff without fragrance or dyes, and no sulfates or parabens.

Reduce your stress and use Happy Cappy Medicated Body Wash and Shampoo to fight dandruff flakes associated with dandruff. Happy Cappy was designed for the sensitive skin of a child, however, it has been embraced by adults nationwide for use on themselves. Soon to be found in half of all Walgreens nationwide. Check Walgreens.com for a store near you, or stop by any Buy Buy BABY nationwide or get it shipped to you via Amazon or on Walmart.com.

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