Dandruff is a common condition of the scalp that causes white flakes of skin to appear when you brush your hair. These flakes of skin are harmless but you can find it embarrassing and itchy. Many worry a lot and tend to wash the hair thoroughly but do you know that it really isn’t about your hair, or how often you wash it? Instead, it’s all about the skin on your scalp.

Quick facts

  • Dandruff can be embarrassing and difficult to treat.
  • The cause is not related to hygiene, but the flakes are removed by washing and brushing of the hair.
  • Certain use of hair products, skin or medical condition can increase the risk of dandruff.
  • Having dandruff is harmless and it is formed when the skin of the scalp exfoliate in excess.

Symptoms and causes

The exact cause is unknown and it is not related to poor hygiene as many think. However, it is more visible if you do not wash or brush the hair often. The problem arises when the amount of dandruff is an eyesore due to overproduction of dead skin cells on the scalp or ineffective removal. It is also believed that it is related to a fungus termed Malassezia (formerly termed pityrosporum) that lives on the scalp of most people. Overgrowth of this fungus leads to characteristic shed of flakes. The cause of this overgrowth unclear but may be related to stress, hormonal changes, increased oil production, immunosuppression, infrequent shampooing. Using another person care products may cause contact dermitis, resulting to a red, itchy scalp.

Specific symptoms produced by it are itchy, scaly rash, and flakes on the scalp, chin, and eyebrows.

How is dandruff diagnosed?

To diagnose dandruff, your doctor simply inspects your hair and scalp. Also, history is taken from you to tell the severity of the situation.

Differential diagnosis include:

  • Tinea capitis
  • Head lice
  • Allergic reaction

What are the treatment options available?

You can relieve itching and flaking of dandruff by some control measures that are effective. For mild cases of dandruff, use of moisturizing shampoos is advisable. Ingredients in medicated shampoos can help control dandruff of the scalp and it is available over the counter. The ingredient can be tar, salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, selenium, and ketoconazole. You can use any of these once or twice a week, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Stress Management. Note that stress affects the overall health, makes you prone to a number of diseases and can also trigger dandruff or worsen it if already in existence.

Daily shampooing. This has been proven to help prevent dandruff, apply and gently massage your scalp to loosen the flakes and rinse thoroughly (very important).

Reduction of use of hair styling products. These can build up on your hair, making them oilier.

Good hygiene practice. Regular brushing and washing of the hair maintains your scalp hygiene.

Is it possible to prevent dandruff?

Yes, with frequent shampooing, most cases of dandruff can be prevented.


Many cases of dandruff can be treated at home with lifestyle measures. If you have itchy scalp that is severe, and the symptoms interfere with your daily life, see a doctor.

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