Acne due to dandruff: Myths and facts

Trust dandruff and problem skin to show up together, right on time to ruin the week. How do you kick out the white flakes and achieve acne-free skin? Let’s start by clearing up common misconceptions about dandruff and acne. Recognise the myths for what they are, and you’ll be halfway to eliminating those pesky flakes and pimples from your skin and from your life!


1. Myth: Dandruff is a dry-skin problem; acne is an oily-skin issue.
Fact: Too much oil drives dandruff and acne outbreaks.

Contrary to popular belief, dandruff arises when the scalp gets greasy. A yeast named Malassezia furfur resides on the scalp and is generally harmless—until it proliferates by feeding on excess oil. Overgrowth of this fungus increases the production of skin cells. As these cells die, they mix with oil from the scalp, leading to visible dandruff flakes.

Like Malassezia for dandruff, acne bacteria live naturally on the skin. It is only when excess oil, dead skin, and dirt clog the pores that the bacteria find an excellent breeding ground. Soon after, acne begins to form. 

The underlying cause for both skin conditions is excess oil, which may be due to genetics, hormonal fluctuations, and even the weather.

(Is yeast overgrowth causing your flares? Discover how to control fungal acne.)


2. Myth: Dandruff is never the cause of acne.
Fact: Acne due to dandruff is a common problem.

An itchy, flaky scalp is no automatic signal that acne is around the corner. But dandruff could trigger breakouts.

Although dandruff mostly appears on the scalp, some people experience acne on the face, chest, and back due to dandruff. These areas are rich in oil glands and already prone to acne. Besides, there is no barrier separating the scalp from, say, the forehead or the neck. When the scalp is oily, it is only natural for the face and neck to get greasy too. And we all know that oily skin is often acne central!

Severe dandruff can aggravate your acne problem since flakes fall from the scalp onto other parts of the body. You may notice them on the eyebrows or around the ears. These flakes end up mixing with excess oil and debris, clogging the pores, and leading to acne.


3. Myth: Dandruff and dandruff acne get worse in the winter months.
Fact: The seasons have little to do with dandruff and related skin problems.

There is no seasonality to dandruff. But you may notice the flakes increasing at different times of the year.

If your dandruff problem is worse in winter, dry weather could be dehydrating the scalp (thus driving excess oil production). You might also be shampooing less because of the cold, thus allowing the build-up of dirt, debris, and oil on the scalp. On the flip side, some people experience more dandruff in the summertime because the scalp gets sweaty and oily. Still others struggle with dandruff throughout the year.

What’s the peak season for your dandruff problem? Monitor your skin and hair for the tell-tale signs.


4. Myth: Poor hygiene causes dandruff and dandruff acne.
Fact: Dandruff and acne due to dandruff are not hygiene issues.

No matter how often you shampoo your hair and cleanse your skin, dandruff and acne are not always avoidable. Over-washing may even strip the scalp and skin of natural oils, pushing the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which compounds the problem.

Although proper hygiene keeps flakes and pimples away, cleansing right is more important than cleansing often. Lather, rinse, repeat is great for eliminating flakes, but shampooing too often will dry out the scalp and worsen your dandruff. The same philosophy holds for acne-prone skin—cleanse twice a day, just not too aggressively. 

(Master the art of facial cleansing. It’s easier than you think!)


How to control dandruff and acne due to dandruff

A two-pronged approach can help you beat dandruff and related breakouts:

a) Care for your hair and scalp: Wash off excess oil and sweat every other day, and use a gentle anti-dandruff shampoo once or twice a week. Steer clear of styling products and oils that may be aggravating the dandruff problem. Also, stop picking at the flakes—this only delays the healing process.

b) Care for your skin: Cleanse your face twice daily, then deep-clean the pores and refresh the skin with toner. For breakouts, try a multi-purpose formula like Clearica Anti-Acne Cream to fight bacteria, beat acne-related discomfort, and reveal healthy skin. Finally, lock in all the goodness with a nourishing and hydrating moisturiser.

Sometimes, dandruff and acne will show up despite your best efforts. Don’t let that get you down. While there is no permanent cure for a flaky scalp, managing flares is easy once you know how.






Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.