Dandruff is a scalp condition which causes the appearance of skin flakes. There also may be itching.
At some point in their lives, most people experience dandruff, but it is more common from the teenage years until midlife.
Different causes, including seborrheic dermatitis, allergic reactions, psoriasis, and eczema, are possible. Among the causes of seborrheic dermatitis is an overreaction to Malassezia, a yeast which occurs on the scalp.
The risk of developing dandruff is increased by numerous factors, including the age of an individual, the weather, levels of stress, medical conditions, and the choice of hair products.
Bad hygiene is not a factor, but if a person doesn’t wash or brush their hair regularly, the flakes can be more visible.
People are always self-conscious about dandruff, but there is help.
An underlying disorder such as psoriasis will be targeted by certain therapies. Others are targeted at exfoliating dead skin cells or countering the development of yeast that can cause dandruff.
The correct approach will focus on the age of the individual, any underlying conditions, and how bad their dandruff is.
Here are some improvements in lifestyles and home remedies that can help:
- Regulation of stress
- Preventing goods containing harsh detergents and chemical substances
- Brushing your hair regularly
- Asking a dermatologist regarding an effective plan for scalp and hair treatment
It might be a good idea to see a doctor if dandruff and scratching are severe and persistent, or if symptoms worsen. They may recognise an underlying issue that will respond to a particular treatment.
Various over-the-counter medications can help treat flaking and itchiness in mild dandruff without a particular cause.
Individuals should carefully strive and avoid as many scaly or crusty areas on the scalp as possible before using an anti-dandruff shampoo. This is going to make the shampoo more effective.
To remove loose scales or flakes, use a comb or hairbrush gently and then wash them with a medicated shampoo. Take care not to too vigorously remove patches or plaques, as this could irritate the condition.
Ingredients to check for
At least one of the following active ingredients is used in most anti-dandruff or antifungal shampoos:
- Ketoconazole is an antimicrobial ingredient that is safe for any age.
- Selenium sulphide: helps treat dandruff by reducing the production of natural oils by the scalp glands. It has anti-fungal effects, too.
- Zinc pyrithione Slows down yeast development.
- Coal tar has a natural antifungal agent and can decrease the development of excess skin cells. Coal tar can stain dyed or treated hair during long-term use. It can improve the sensitivity of the scalp to sunlight, so when outdoors, users should wear a hat. Coal tar, in high doses, can also be carcinogenic.
- Salicylic acid helps to eliminate excess cells in the skin.
- Tea-tree oil It is used in many shampoos. It has properties that are antifungal and antibacterial. One older research indicated that for the treatment of dandruff, shampoo containing 5 percent tea tree oil appeared to be healthy and well tolerated. First, do a patch test, as certain individuals experience a reaction.
How to use the shampoo
To some degree, how much a person wants to use a medicated shampoo can depend on their type of hair.
The following advice is given by the American Academy of Dermatology:
For Black People: Shampoo with dandruff shampoo once a week. Ask a dermatologist to suggest an alternative that is acceptable.
For white and Asian people: shampoo every day, and shampoo with dandruff twice a week. Try another one if one shampoo does not help.
Some professionals recommend that a shampoo be used for a month to see how it works.
Over time, a particular shampoo can become less powerful. An individual who thinks their option is losing its efficacy may want to use another ingredient to move to a different shampoo.
There will vary the amount of time a person can leave a substance on their scalp. Users should follow the container’s instructions.
Dandruff is a medical disease. For either of these underlying conditions, a physician will prescribe adequate care.
Sometimes, why dandruff occurs is not clear, but here are some potential factors:
People with seborrheic dermatitis are more likely to have dandruff and have irritated, oily skin. The skin would be greasy, red, and coated with white or yellow flaky scales.
The scalp, backs of the ears, eyebrows, chest, and other parts of the body may be affected.
Medical conditions in which seborrheic dermatitis is usually involved
Seborrheic dermatitis appears to be more common among people with:
- psoriasis or scalp psoriasis
- Parkinson’s disease
- alcohol dependency
- eating disorders
- recovery from a stroke or heart attack
- a weak immune system
An individual with HIV who has serious scalp problems should see a doctor who will prescribe adequate therapy.
Certain skin conditions
Some conditions, apart from psoriasis, can cause flaking skin on the scalp, such as:
- ringworm, a fungal infection that is different from malassezia
- contact dermatitis
Malassezia, a fungus that normally lives on the scalp and feeds on the oils secreted by hair follicles, often stems from dandruff.
Malassezia is not normally a problem, but the immune system overreacts to it in certain individuals. This can cause inflammation of the scalp and create extra skin cells.
They combine with the oil from the hair and scalp to form dandruff as these extra skin cells die and fall off.
Shampooing and skin care products
The scalp may be irritated by some hair care items and can cause dandruff. If an individual feels that discomfort is caused by a product, they should try switching to a gentle, non-medicated shampoo.
Some people claim that not shampooing enough will cause oil and dead skin cells to accumulate, contributing to dandruff. Others say the natural oils would be stripped away by too much washing.
Evidence is insufficient that either of these is true. The frequency at which a person needs to wash their hair will differ from person to person.
While in certain individuals, specific products may cause discomfort and reaction, regular shampooing is generally helpful.
Other variables that can increase the risk of dandruff being produced include:
- winter temperature extremes, and probably a combination of cold weather and overheated rooms
- infrequent hair brushing, as brushing helps remove dead skin cells
- age, as dandruff is more likely to occur between the teenage years and midlife (though a form of dandruff known as cradle cap is often common with babies) (though a type of dandruff known as cradle cap is also common with babies)
- Hormonal factors, since in males it is more common
Dietary factors may play a role. Nutrients that may help include:
- zinc, if a person has a deficiency
- B vitamins, also if a person has a deficiency
- a type of omega-6 fat known as gamma linolenic acid, which is present in evening primrose oil
There is not sufficient scientific evidence, however, to show that these or other dietary interventions can help to overcome dandruff.
With dandruff, complications seldom arise, and most people do not need to see a doctor. Dandruff, however, may often indicate a more severe medical condition.
People should seek medical help if:
- There are signs of infection, such as redness, tenderness, or swelling.
- The dandruff is severe, and home treatment does not help.
- There are signs of eczema, psoriasis, or another skin condition.
- The scalp is very itchy.
Often, complications may result from treatment. The person should try another product if a shampoo or scalp treatment causes irritation.
Dandruff in babies
A kind of dandruff known as a cradle cap is often present in newborns and young infants. On the scalp, there will be yellow, greasy, scaly patches.
It sometimes occurs and lasts a few weeks or months during the first 2 months after birth.
Washing the scalp with baby shampoo gently and adding baby oil will help avoid the build-up of the scales.
The baby should see a doctor if the following happens:
- skin cracking
- symptoms spreading to other parts of the body
New solutions for dandruff?
There is continuing research into ways to assist people with dandruff.
Green, black, or white tea infusions can help prevent dandruff and improve the condition of the hair and scalp of a person. This may be due to the antioxidants that tea contains or other properties that give sunlight protection, experts say.
The authors of a 2012 study claim that it can tackle excessive cell growth, oxidative stress, and inflammation with a special formulation that can penetrate the waterproof barrier of the skin.
Another research has indicated that a new approach for battling dandruff may be to apply llama antibodies to shampoo.
To confirm whether these therapies work, further research is required.
- Chatzikokkinou, P., et al. (2008). Seborrheic dermatitis: An early and common skin manifestation in HIV patients [Abstract].
- Cradle cap. (2019).
- Dandruff. (2019).
- How to treat dandruff (LINK)
- Dolk, E., et al. (2005). Isolation of llama antibody fragments for prevention of dandruff by phage display in shampoo.
- HIV/AIDS glossary. (n.d.).
- How to treat dandruff. (n.d.).
- Institute for quality and efficiency in healthcare (IQWiG). (2020). Seborrheic dermatitis.
- Koch, W., et al. (2019). Applications of tea (Camellia sinensis) and its active constituents in cosmetics.
- Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. (2012). GSHU researcher develops non-toxic dandruff shampoo [Press release].
- Ranganathan, S., et al. (2010). Dandruff: The most commercially exploited skin disease.
- Satchell, A. C., et al. (2002). Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo.
- Seborrheic dermatitis. (n.d.).
- Seborrheic dermatitis: Overview. (2020).
- Thayikkannu, A. B., et al. (2015). Malassezia – Can it be ignored?
- Van Hoorn, R., et al. (2008). A short review on sources and health benefits of GLA, The GOOD omega-6.