Dandruff During Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know

Dandruff during pregnancy is a common condition. In addition to drugs to treat it, there are some measures to prevent it. Learn more.
Dandruff During Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Written and verified by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 20 February, 2023

Dandruff during pregnancy is usually the result of all the hormonal changes that occur in the body. Because of this, the cosmetic hair care products used can irritate the scalp. In the following article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Is dandruff during pregnancy normal?

Dandruff is a scalp condition that manifests itself with flaking and itching. In most cases, people tend to relate it to poor hygiene habits, however, this isn’t the case.

The mechanism of shedding dead cells from the skin surface occurs to make way for newer epidermal cells. This occurs naturally and throughout life. In cases where this process is accelerated, the scalp begins to become covered with flakes. Therefore, dandruff during pregnancy is a fairly common condition and easy to diagnose.

Why does dandruff occur?

Some of the reasons for the appearance of dandruff during pregnancy are the following:

  • The consumption of certain medications.
  • The recovery period following medical conditions that cause stress (such as a heart attack).
  • As a consequence of psychiatric and neurological conditions (Parkinson’s disease and depression).
  • An irregular immune system response.
  • The presence of a fungus (Malassezia spp.), which is part of the skin’s sebum secretion.
A pregnant woman looking at her hair, worried.
There are different factors that can produce the presence of scalp desquamation. Among them, stress, depression, and the intake of certain medications.

The causes of dandruff during pregnancy

Hormonal changes may be responsible for generating an excessive growth of skin surface cells.

Increased sebum production

During pregnancy, alterations in hormone levels affect the skin in different ways. That is, the skin is positively stimulated to produce more sebum. Therefore, this leads to the generation of newer cells at an increasing rate. In turn, it causes a constant and accelerated accumulation of oily layers, whereby the scalp starts to become covered with flakes.

Increased sensitivity to cosmetic products

One of the most relevant reasons for developing dandruff during pregnancy is the use of hair care products, such as shampoos, oils, or conditioners. For its part, the scalp skin triggers a protective response by generating an unusual desquamation of cells. A pregnant woman may be accustomed to using a product and not have changed it during pregnancy. However, the skin of the scalp is sensitive, responds differently, and causes flaking.

Excessive reactions of the body

During pregnancy, the pregnant woman’s body is more sensitive and has an altered immune system. This places it in a situation of vulnerability to fungal infections. The increased sensitivity of the body leads it to free itself from aggressive external factors that generate itching or flaking of the scalp.

Is there a treatment for dandruff during pregnancy?

In addition to the various drugs that may be prescribed if necessary, shampoos are usually effective in cases of mild dandruff. In addition, there are topical sprays, gels, or creams available that relieve the irritation caused by this condition. However, medications may have some side effects, so it’s best to consult your doctor and not resort to self-medication.

A woman washing her hair in the shower.
Some of the most recommended medicated dandruff shampoos for use during pregnancy are those with ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide.

Medicated dandruff shampoos

Shampoos should be a good alternative for dealing with dandruff in pregnant women. For example, according to a 2018 review, the use of ketoconazole doesn’t pose a risk to babies. In any case, in those cases in which the use of any product causes any of the following symptoms, its use should be discontinued and a doctor should be consulted:

  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Stinging or burning

Recommendations to prevent dandruff during pregnancy

There are some tips and correct measures to prevent the appearance of dandruff. In fact, hair care is one of the most important parts of personal hygiene and becomes essential during pregnancy.

  • Control stress
  • Maintain a varied and complete diet
  • Take proper care of your hair

Dandruff during pregnancy and medical consultation

Although there are drugs to treat dandruff that are suitable for use during pregnancy, if you have any doubts or unexpected reactions to the product, you should seek medical advice.

In addition, it’s always best to eat a proper diet and use cosmetic products that don’t contain chemicals or irritants.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.