Dandruff is a very common skin condition that nearly all people experience at one point in their lives regardless of age or ethnicity. It affects not just the scalp, but also affects the eyebrows, ears, sides of the nose, beard, and less commonly the central (often hair-bearing) part of the chest. Dandruff can affect in any hair-bearing area or an area with even very small hair follicles. The other names of dandruff are seborrheic dermatitis and seborrhea.
Dandruff is seen in all ages from babies to the elderly. For infants, scalp dandruff is commonly known as “cradle cap.” In the teen years it has been called “druff” for short. Some people are just simply more prone to dandruff, and others are experiencing periodic clearing cycles and periodic flare-ups of the condition.
Dandruff typically looks like dry, fine flaky skin on the scalp, and sometimes with areas of pink or red inflamed skin. Many individuals have no symptoms but simply complain of white flakes on their shoulders, particularly noticeable when wearing a dark clothing. More advanced cases may cause an intense itching, unstopabble scratching and burning.
Some people are more prone to dandruff, and dandruff tends to be a chronic or recurrent disorder with periodic ups and downs. Although it’s not curable, it is generally quite easily controlled with proper skin and hair hygiene. In babies, cradle cap will usually clears after a few months. It may recur later in life as a typical dandruff. For some, dandruff may worsen within the time. Although it may occur for a short period, dandruff tends to recur throughout a person’ s life.
Severe dandruff may be a very difficult and frustrating condition. An ongoing combination treatment of multiple shampoos, washes, and creams and lotions may be required to treat resistant cases. Overall, treatments for dandruff are very safe and effective. The best shampoo choices includes zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and tar-based shampoos. Prescription dandruff shampoos such as ketoconazole offer no benefit over over-the-counter brands.
The following includes several causes of dandruff:
- Dry skin. Simple dry skin is the most common cause of dandruff. Flakes from a dry skin are generally smaller and less oily than those from other causes of dandruff, and you’ll likely have the symptoms and signs of dry skin on other parts of the body, such as legs and arms.
- Irritated, oily skin (seborrheic dermatitis). This condition is one of the most frequent causes of dandruff, is marked by a red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales. Seborrheic dermatitis may affect on your scalp and other areas rich in oil glands, such as your eyebrows, in the sides of your nose and the backs of your ears, your breastbone, your groin area, and sometimes on your armpits.
- Not shampooing often enough. If you don’t wash your hair regularly, oils and skin cells from your scalp can build up, which causes dandruff.
- Other skin conditions. People with skin conditions such as eczema a chronic, inflammatory skin condition or psoriasis a skin condition marked by a rapid buildup of rough, dry, dead skin cells that forms thick scales may appear to have dandruff.
- A yeast-like fungus (malassezia). Malassezia lives on the scalps on most adults, but for some, it irritates the scalp. Malassezia can irritate your scalp and cause more skin cells to grow. The extra skin cells will die and fall off, which make them appear white and flaky in your hair or on your clothes. Why malassezia irritates some scalps is unknown.
- Sensitivity to hair care products (contact dermatitis). Sometimes sensitivities to the certain ingredients in hair care products or hair dyes, especially paraphenylenediamine, which causes red, itchy, scaly scalp. Shampooing too often or using too many hair styling products also irritates your scalp, causing dandruff.
Symptoms of Dandruff
For most teens and adults, dandruff symptoms are easy to spot: white, oily looking flakes of dead skin that dot your hair and shoulders, and a possibly itchy, scaly scalp. This condition may worsen during the fall and winter, when indoor heating can contribute to dry skin, and improve during the summer.
A type of dandruff called cradle cap can affect on babies. This disorder, which causes a scaly, crusty scalp, is most common in newborns, but it can occur anytime during infancy. Although it can be alarming for parents, cradle cap is not dangerous and usually clears up on its own by the time a baby is 3 years old.
Treatments are available for dandruff
Dandruff is harmless, so you can treat it at home without a prescription.
Two of the quickest ways to get started are to brush your hair and try a dandruff shampoo.
Brush your hair from your scalp down with steady, firm strokes. This will carry oil from your scalp, where it can cause dandruff, along the hair strands, where it will keep your hair shiny and healthy.
Not all dandruff shampoos are alike. Some have different active ingredients, such as:
- Coal tar preparations
- Pyrithione zinc
- Salicylic acid and sulfur
- Salicylic acid
- Selenium sulfide
You may need to switch between types of shampoos if one type controls the dandruff at first but later loses its effectiveness.
How often you should use dandruff shampoo varies from daily to a couple of times a week. Check the directions on the shampoo bottle.
When shampooing your hair, rub the shampoo into your scalp well. Leave the shampoo on your head for 5 minutes, or as directed, before you rinse.
Rinse thoroughly. Any leftover shampoo may irritate your skin.
Once your dandruff is under control, you may be able to use the dandruff shampoo less frequently.
Treatment of seborrhea (dandruff) is directed at fighting the skin inflammation. This is done either directly, by using cortisone-based creams and lotions (which reduce inflammation), or by reducing the yeast that builds up on scaly areas and adds to the problem. Note, though, that seborrhea is not a yeast infection.
As with all seborrhea (dandruff) treatments, medicated shampoos and cortisone creams calm down your skin or scalp sensitivity, but they can’t stop the seborrhea (dandruff) from coming back. Most people, however, only have to treat their condition from time to time when it becomes itchy or noticeable.
What doesn’t help dandruff:
- Moisturizing: Moisturizing lotions don’t do much more than smooth out scales and make plaques look redder.
- Switching brands of shampoo: Shampoo doesn’t cause dandruff. However, medicated shampoos (see below) can help.
- Changing hair-care routines: There is no “right” shampoo or conditioner. What’s more important is the frequency with which these agents are used. As a rule, the more frequently one shampoo, the better the result. Seborrhea and dandruff are not caused by excessive shampooing “drying out the scalp.” Hair dyes and conditioners don’t cause or aggravate dandruff.
- Switching antiperspirants: When underarms are red from seborrhea, almost anything will make them redder, including antiperspirants, even though they are only aggravating the seborrhea and not causing it.