Dandruff causes baldness? Say what? If Willis had told me this, I would immediately demand "what he talkin' 'bout". But look at the ad. And yes, it is an ad, even though there's no product shot or logo to be seen anywhere. Very weird, but it's still an ad. So what gives? Well, if they omit any overt "addiness" from their ad, you may think it's an objective article. A very scummy thing to do, trying to trick people, but then that's advertising for you.
So what's with the science? This ad has lots of slides of really small things and mentions the names of sciency things like "bacilli", and "hair". So, it must be science, right? Let's check some science.
The Mayo Clinic is able to name some known causes of hair loss, such as heredity, hormonal changes, and - here's the really useful one - "medical conditions"! Thanks, The Mayo Clinic! You really burned the midnight oil to get to the bottom of that one! Bald guys, stop having medical conditions! Stop it, in the name of science!
However, having a laundry list of known causes is not the same as having a solution. Kreml would have us believe that if you see dandruff on your collar, you'll be bald soon. Nothing makes men's wallets fly open and spray money all over the place like conjuring the spectre of baldness and going "Woooooo! Baaaaaldneess!", while wiggling your fingers around in a creepy way. Cutting to the chase of the Kreml ad, it's all down to the villainous "bacilli". So what's "bacilli"? Well, it's a general term for any rod-shaped bacteria. That's not very specific, but it sounds more sciency if you say "bacilli" than "various bacteria". Thanks for the smoke screen, Kreml!
But that was 1953. Surely nobody's trying to make this argument here in The Future, are they? Let's ask Denorex, which I think wasthe name of the dragon in 1982's Dragonslayer...
While dandruff does not itself directly cause hair loss, the resultant irritation (itching, scratching, and rubbing) indirectly does exactly that.
Bullshit or science? Your haircut person will tell you that, when you're shampooing, work the lather up with the tips of your fingers, but not your fingernails. That's not proof, but it does make some kind of sense, unlike "lather, rinse, repeat", which is a shampoo directive designed to make you use up your shampoo twice as fast and nothing else. So, the mechanical agitation of scritching and scratching may make hairs fall out that were already preparing to jump ship... but dandruff is not known to cause baldness. A dry, itchy scalp will make you scratch your head, which will probably help any loose hairs fall out of your head. Dry skin is just one known cause of dandruff, and it will probably make you scratch your head. If you're going bald, dandruff won't make it happen faster. Those hairs would have fallen out in the shower anyway.
This is a very common logical fallacy: "correlation is not causation". To put it simply but more longfully, "things that happen at or near the same time do not necessarily cause each other" For example, "I observe that men who are overweight like to wear Hawaiian shirts. Therefore, Hawaiian shirts cause obesity!" This is how superstitions get started.
Shockingly, Denorex, who stand to make money if you think dandruff causes baldness, would be very pleased if you associate dandruff with baldness. What about somebody with no horse in this race? WebMD doesn't get rich if you buy dandruff shampoo, but they can sometimes be a little iffy with their science, since they're quite happy to endorse pseudoscience by saying things like "Many people believe herbal treatments for erectile dysfunction are effective. Here is a list of those supplements". That's not science, so it pays to read WebMD with a critical eye. Disclaimer: I made that quote up as an example. WebMD did not say that, but it typifies their attitude about posting unproven folk remedies and anecdotal evidence.
But just for fun, What does WebMD say about dandruff and hair loss?
Thinning hair and dandruff don't share the same cause. Thinning hair is about your hair. Dandruff is about the skin on your scalp.
The way some guys treat hair loss can make their dandruff worse, says New York dermatologist Michele Green, MD.
Everyone sheds some hair, and men often notice it in the shower. Seeing their hair float toward the drain makes some men quit washing their hair, Green says. That's a mistake, especially if you're prone to dandruff.
"They feel like they lose more hair when they wash, so they stop, and that's not that healthy. In fact, it's just the opposite," she says. "If you have dandruff, you should be washing your hair every day or every other day."
Washing your hair makes little difference in the amount of hair you lose, says Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. If you avoid washing your hair for a few days, you'll see more hair in the shower when you finally do reach for the shampoo.
It's as if your hair loss is making up for lost time. "It falls out a bit if you wash every day and a lot if you wash every 3-4 days, because it accumulates on the days you don't wash," Benabio says.
The bottom line: Skipping the shampoo doesn't help your dandruff, and it doesn't slow hair loss. So you might as well lather up.
Hair Loss Medications and Dandruff
Green says minoxidil, which is used to treat thinning hair, can cause dandruff-like flaking as a side effect. The alcohol in minoxidil can dry out your scalp, and after a few months of treatment, dandruff may set in.
Hm! Pretty good summary, there, WebMD! Well done. Dandruff doesn't mean you're going bald, but it's still gross, and most people who look at you will think you're a greasy slob. So, wash your head.
Here's a crop of the picture from today's ad. The simulated dandruff (probably soap flakes or something so it would show up on camera) looks decidedly gross, but the lady is decidedly super-not-gross at all. She's a bit of all right! Maybe you can find some use for this picture? You never know. Better right click it into your hard drive's "images of personal grooming shame" folder just in case. Come on, don't pretend you don't have one. You're welcome!
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