Dandruff holds no health risk, even though it may be itchy and embarrassing.
- Shedding skin cells is a natural process that occurs all over the body as new cells push up from beneath to replace the old ones.
- Excessive shedding of the skin on the scalp is called dandruff. Inflammation, that is redness/itching, is not a feature.
- These flakes pose no health risk but can be itchy and cause embarrassment. Although dandruff cannot be cured, it can be controlled.
- A seborrhoeic dermatitis is a form of dermatitis in which a fungus, Pityrosporum ovale, plays a role.
- Seborrhoeic dermatitis involves the scalp, the ear, the eyebrows, paranasal area, central chest, and back.
- Psoriasis may cause redness and scaling of the scalp.
- Psoriasis is a scaly eruption of the skin that usually begins between the ages of 5 and 26 years.
- Sufferers can learn how to cope with it and it is not infectious.
- Dandruff is caused by excessive shedding of the skin of the scalp
- A scaly scalp without inflammation (see above) or loss of hair.
- The prevalence in South Africa is unknown, but about 50 million Americans suffer from dandruff and spend roughly $300 million annually on products to control it.
- Dandruff can occur in any age group.
When to see a doctor
- If home treatment does not improve the condition
- If scaling is greasy and yellow
- If the dandruff is localized in a few patches and is very itchy, which may indicate a fungal infection, dermatitis of psoriasis
- Mild cases often improve with careful shampooing using over-the-counter anti-dandruff products.
- These can also be alternated with a regular shampoo.
- Shampoos containing salicylic acid, coal tar, pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide or sulfur are safe and effective for the treatment of dandruff.
- Massaging the scalp vigorously as you shampoo helps to loosen the flakes so that they can be rinsed away.
- Thorough rinsing is essential since shampoo residue can aggravate skin problems.
- For best results, shampoo daily, leaving the lather on for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.
- When the condition clears up, keep it in check by shampooing with medicated shampoo once or twice a week (these products are too harsh for daily use).
- Let your hair dry naturally instead of blow-drying it.
- Brushing hair with a moderately stiff, natural-bristle brush can be of benefit.
- Full strokes from the scalp to the tips of the hair will distribute the hair’s natural oil away from the scalp to the hair strands.
In stubborn cases, a doctor may prescribe the following:
- Steroid lotion or cream applied to affected areas to suppress flaking.
- Coal tar or salicylic acid lotion to loosen thick scaling: these are usually applied and left on overnight under a shower cap.
- This treatment will help shampoos to work more effectively.
- If psoriasis of the scalp is the underlying problem, a coal-tar shampoo and topical steroid may be needed.
- Herbal remedies may relieve the itching and dryness, but a tar-based product is usually needed to subdue the greasy scales.