Is Dandruff Contagious?

Is dandruff contagious? If you have discovered that you have dandruff, you likely have a lot of questions like that. There are questions about treatment options, prevention, causes, and more. You are probably wondering whether or not dandruff can be passed from one person to the next.

I know that this is a common question because I asked questions like that myself, especially when there are other people in my home. The thought of possibly infecting another person, especially my family members, is terrifying.

That’s why understanding if dandruff is contagious, is crucial. Of course, you want to focus on treating the problem. You also want to make sure that nobody else has to put up with an itchy, dry and inflamed scalp either. Dandruff is annoying to you, so you have to protect your friends and family.

First off, let’s figure out if dandruff is contagious. After you understand that, we will take a look at how to contain it and control the shedding.

Is Dandruff Contagious?

According to the SA Pharmacist’s Assistant, dandruff is not a contagious condition [1]. Go on, breathe a sigh of relief because you will not be able to pass it to anyone else. Though some of your friends or family members may be weirded out by skin flakes falling from your head. But they will not need to worry about catching it.

There is a common misconception that dandruff is contagious. That is why so many people keep thinking not to come close to it. You might hear everyone mentioning that it can be passed from one person to another. This just is not possible, so there is no reason to be concerned about it!

You should focus on getting the condition treated. I am only explaining that you don’t need to be panicked about exposing other people to your flaky scalp. Even if it was contagious, there are far worse conditions out there that you should try to avoid spreading.

Does Dandruff Spread From One Person to Another?

Even though dandruff may be embarrassing and also irritating to deal with at times, it is not contagious. There is no way that dandruff spreads from one person to another. Even if your flakes make it all the way onto their scalp, it will have no effect on them.

This means that you should not worry about your friends coming into contact with your itchy, flaky head. Of course, you should avoid it for hygienic reasons.

A woman with dandruff on her hair

Why is Dandruff Not Contagious?

I am sure that you are curious to know more about the answer. Why is dandruff not contagious, you ask?

To understand why dandruff is not communicable I will teach you more about what dandruff is caused by. You need to understand that dandruff is mainly caused by Malassezia, which is a fungus that lives on each of our scalps. The fungus reacts with the natural oils and creates a by-product called oleic acid. If you are sensitive to oleic acid, your scalp can become inflamed, dry and itchy.

Don’t worry, everyone has this fungus and it’s completely healthy. I will explain more about this fungus and its relation to dandruff a little bit later. It is also important that you understand all of the conditions that can cause dandruff.

The causes of dandruff can be the following:

  • Dry scalp
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Scalp infection

These causes are all not contagious, and neither is dandruff that is a result of this.

Usually, when diseases are spread, it is mainly because of different types of bacteria and germs. In the case of dandruff, this just cannot happen. Dandruff is not caused by any type of bacteria or germs. It is mainly caused by a fungus. You don’t need to worry about dandruff being contagious. It’s not! Dandruff is caused by our own scalp. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you have a dry scalp and it is causing you to have dandruff. Your dry scalp, dandruff, or both will not find its way to a friend or family member. You only have to worry about treating your own symptoms and the condition as well.

Common Dandruff Misconceptions

Information is often shared that dandruff is contagious. Fortunately, that is not true. My friends often told me that any type of skin condition can be contagious if you come in contact with it. Well, if many people start saying the same thing, I’m sure at some point you will believe it. It turns out that people were spreading false information and I started believing what they were saying.

Don’t believe everything people say. It’s always best to find out for yourself.

The impression that dandruff is contagious is a myth that is spread around more easily than dandruff ever would. As you already know by now, dandruff is mainly caused by Malassezia. People often think that this fungus is contagious. First of all, Malassezia is not contagious. Second of all, it is normal and healthy to have this fungus. Every person on this planet has it on their scalp, but it can only sometimes cause dandruff if you are sensitive to oleic acid Dandruff [2].

If you know anyone who is afraid that you may be giving them your dandruff, let them know that dandruff is not contagious. You could technically only blame your own scalp’s Malassezia, which your friends all have too!

But it’s much more effective treating it correctly, as opposed to finding something to blame!

Dandruff and Malassezia

Because we all have the fungus Malassezia on our scalps, we are all susceptible to getting dandruff. Not through someone else, but through our own body’s reaction. It is unknown what it is actually caused by. Some people end up with dandruff and some do not.

Sure, there are other causes for dandruff, as mentioned previously. But most studies link dandruff to being caused by Malassezia.

When it comes to who develops dandruff and who does not, there is no known determiner. Some scalps are just more likely to end up with dandruff for some reason.

There is some brief speculation that it could have something to do with the scalp’s relationship with the Malassezia. It might also be the amount of the fungus living on your scalp. None of these theories have been proven but they all show a relation to the fungus [3].

Let’s take a closer look at how Malassezia affects dandruff.

One thing that has been observed by various studies is that everybody has the Malassezia fungus on their scalp. This is completely natural. Seboherric Glands on our scalp produce hair oils. These natural hair oils are called sebum, which is essential for maintaining a healthy scalp.

When Malassezia reacts with the sebum, it creates oleic acid as a by-product. Unfortunately, many of us have a sensitive reaction to oleic acid, which could lead to an inflamed, itchy and dry scalp. The dry skin then sheds off, as new layers of skin are produced more rapidly, leading to dandruff.

It is healthy and normal for you to have this fungus on your scalp. If you did not have it, there would probably be a much bigger issue to deal with. Additionally, it seems like there is no way to prevent Malassezia from creating oleic acid, which in turn is responsible for dandruff.

However, there are some anti-fungal shampoos that seem to be decreasing the amount of Malassezia on your scalp. But you should remember, that dandruff is not contagious. Don’t worry about spreading it, because it is not possible. Focus on how to get rid of dandruff, instead.

How to Contain Your Dandruff

By now you have realized and understood why dandruff is not contagious. It’s really important to know because we do not have to worry about passing it on to anyone that we know—or a complete stranger on the bus!

Even though dandruff is not contagious, most people that you go near would appreciate it if you did not get your dead skin flakes on them. It’s just common courtesy. It is more important that you are working on finding a remedy for your dandruff. Finding the right treatment can take time.

During the period of trying out anti-dandruff shampoos and home remedies, you will likely have to leave your house for work, school, or some social events before your dandruff is gone. There are a few ways that you can try to keep the dry skin flakes to a minimum while you are in the process of treating your condition.

You can often contain your skin flakes by wearing a hat. This keeps your flakes hidden and ensures that you shed flakes on your clothes. If you have longer hair, you may find it helpful to put your hair up in a bun before leaving the house.

Your hair will continue to have flakes throughout the day and might even produce more as the day goes on. Something that I find helpful is ruffing up my hair in the shower before leaving the house.

This gets most of the loose skin flakes. This isn’t a permeant solution, but it can still make a difference. At least physically. I encourage you to practice the following methods, as they have helped me with controlling my dandruff for over 15 years. Please remember that you know your body best, and you will need to make a decision on what will work best for you.

Home remedies and anti-dandruff shampoos

Anti-Dandruff Shampoos

It was essential for me to pick the right anti-shampoo, based on the condition I had. Make sure you understand what is causing your dandruff. Then you can easily establish which ingredients a shampoo should have.

Common ingredients are:

  • Climbazole
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Coal tar
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Ketoconazole
  • Sulfur
  • Ciclopirox olamine

Home Remedies for Dandruff

Natural home remedies are great to use after washing your hair with anti-dandruff shampoos. Home treatments are simple to prepare and also don’t contain any harsh chemicals.

The 4 home remedies listed have worked wonders for me so far:

  • Lemon juice
  • Coconut oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Apple cider vinegar

Maintaining a Balanced Nutrition

Never underestimate the power of a well-balanced diet. There are many vitamins that affect the condition of your skin and scalp. These vitamins are Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Vitamin E. Read this guide on how a vitamin deficiency can worsen dandruff.

There are also minerals that are vital to contain your dandruff. These minerals are Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Zinc, which are found in meat, beans, mushroom, dark chocolate, seeds, nuts and many more types of food.


I hope that I have not only answered your question “is dandruff contagious”, but that you have also understood the reason why dandruff is not transferrable!

Please remember that dandruff is not contagious. You should focus on trying to contain dandruff through various treatment types, instead. I have had dandruff for the last 15 years now and I can tell you that managing your dandruff condition is easier than you think. You just need to be consistent and do some testing.

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