Dandruff can strike anyone year-round, but drops in winter temperatures combined with blasts from central heating and humidity will dry out the scalp, leading to flaking. While a dry scalp itself isn’t actually dandruff (dry skin is smaller flakes, while dandruff is larger and often greasy), it can lead to dandruff.

You can also suffer from flaking in the summer months. Most of us don’t think to add sun screen to our hair line. While peeling hair from sunburn isn’t dandruff, it can lead to embarrassing flakes.

“Most people don’t realize there’s a direct link between dandruff and sunlight,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Monique S. Cohn, DO FAOCD. “Dandruff can actually be caused by an overproduction of Malassezia, the harmless yeast found on our scalp,” Dr. Cohn said. “If we produce too much of this fungus, the skin becomes irritated and flakes off as dandruff.”

It can help to step outside, in the winter months, because UVA rays counteract this fungus. Remember, most fungi like to live in dark, moist environments, so getting some safe sun could be just what you need on multiple levels.

While both hot and cold extremes may make dandruff worse, it can flare-up at any time of the year. Beyond weather, dandruff may be the result of:

  • Hormonal changes – hormones control oil production, so hormonal changes may increase the amount of sebum on the scalp and cause a flare-up
  • Poor diet – processed foods kick off insulin production and stimulate hormones, which may increase natural oil levels
  • Stress/anxiety – our bodies go into ‘fight or flight’ mode and leave our immune system less able to battle fungi
  • Pollution – dirt from our surroundings clings to our hair and skin and can build up causing irritation and provoking dandruff

To keep flare-ups at bay during extreme temperature changes, try using a medicated shampoo. Also try to avoid direct sunlight at peak times during the summer, wear a hat and use sun protection.

Dehydration is one of the leading causes of dry skin, so make sure you are drinking plenty of liquids and avoid diuretics like tea and coffee.

Also, keep your scalp balanced by running tepid water during bath or shower time, or try cycling between hot and cold. This will encourage blood flow for healthy follicles. 

Some hair coloring and styling products can leave a flaky, dry residue or trigger a skin reaction that looks like dandruff. You may want to try different hair products to see if they help your dandruff clear up.

If your scalp is swollen or red, if your hair is falling out, or if you have a red, scaly rash on other parts of your body, it may be time to schedule an appointment online at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center or by calling 330-425-7600 to develop the best treatment plan. You may need prescription-strength dandruff shampoo, an antifungal product, or a steroid cream for your scalp or other parts of your body.