Getting dandruff when you’re bald seems grossly unfair, like still getting a zit after finding your first gray hair. It doesn’t even seem like it should be possible, but it is — whether you’ve lost that hair willingly or unwillingly. “Some people deal with dandruff throughout their entire adult life,” says Dr. Rajani Katta of Katta Dermatology. “I’ve never heard of going genetically bald or clean-shaven making a difference.”
The reason the bald can suffer from dandruff is simply because they still have a scalp (unless something has gone very, very wrong). As Katta explains, dandruff is made up of skin flaking from the head, which can happen for a variety of reasons. It could, for example, be due to irritation from a shampoo or other skin product, or a combination of them.
More persistent dandruff, a.k.a. seborrheic dermatitis, can occur when the scalp produces too much sebum (the oil that your sebaceous glands produce to keep your skin moisturized and hair lubricated), which they keep pumping out even if there’s no hair being produced. A fungal bacteria called Malassezia then feasts on this extra oil, multiplies, and starts irritating your scalp.
The good news is that bald people are less likely to get seborrheic dermatitis from Malassezia. Hair traps sebum on the head, creating the oil buffets which allow the fungi to flourish, so when the restaurants are closed, so to speak, the diners are less likely to stick around.
However, there are plenty of other ways for bald men to get dandruff. A scalp can flake because it’s too dry, either from lack of moisturization or overshaving. Another skin disease, such as eczema or psoriasis, could also cause it. It can even be down to a simple sunburn (make sure to apply a sunscreen that’s at least 30 SPF every two hours, and/or invest in a good hat — the scalp is a prime target for skin cancer, warns Katta).
There’s a silver lining here, but unfortunately, it comes with its own dark cloud. Since there’s no hair to trap the skin flakes, they’re less likely to stick to your head, and thus are harder for people to notice. But that means you’re less likely to notice it yourself, too, so you could be suffering from it for a while without realizing. So keep an eye on that beautiful bald head of yours and keep treating it right.