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Dandruff: Treatment and Causes

Causes of Dandruff
Treating Dandruff

One of the most common scalp conditions is dandruff, which is easily identified by small white flakes of dead skin that fall off your scalp. Dandruff may also make your scalp itch. Although dandruff isn’t serious, it can be embarrassing for many people and sometimes difficult to treat.

Dandruff typically begins in early adulthood and continues into middle age. Men are more likely to have dandruff, leading researchers to believe that male hormones may play a role.

Causes of Dandruff

  • One of the most frequent causes of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, or irritated, oily skin.
  • You can also get dandruff if you don’t shampoo often enough, which can cause oils and skin cells from your scalp to build up.
  • For some people, a yeast-like fungus called malassezia that lives on the scalps of most adults can cause dandruff. The fungus irritates the scalp and can cause excess skin cells to grow, die, and fall off.
  • People with dry skin may experience a mild form of dandruff.
  • Sensitivity to certain ingredients in hair care products (contact dermatitis) may also cause dandruff.

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Treating Dandruff

Dandruff shampoo is the most effective way to treat and control dandruff. There are a number of dandruff shampoos available at retail stores and drugstores. Not all dandruff shampoos are alike; there are different types of active ingredients you can experiment with to find what works for you.

Some of the most common active ingredients include:

  • Pyrithione zinc, an antibacterial and antifungal agent that may reduce the fungus on your scalp
  • Coal tar, which slows how quickly skin cells on your scalp die and flake off
  • Salicylic acid, which may help eliminate scaling. Because this ingredient can also dry out your scalp, you may need to use a conditioner after shampooing to help relieve or prevent dryness.
  • Selenium sulfide, a medication that may slow the rate at which your skin cells die while also reducing malassezia
  • Ketoconazole, an antifungal medicine that prevents the growth of fungus on your scalp. It’s also available as a prescription.

Some of these ingredients, such as coal tar, may discolor light, gray, or chemically treated hair, so it’s important to choose one suitable for your hair color and carefully follow directions.

For example, some dandruff shampoos require that you leave the shampoo in for about five minutes before rinsing, while others instruct you to rinse immediately.

Other tips for best results: If you are Caucasian or Asian, shampoo daily and use dandruff shampoo twice a week. If you are African-American, only shampoo once a week using a dandruff shampoo.

If over-the-counter dandruff shampoos aren’t effective, your Water’s Edge Dermatology practitioner can prescribe a stronger shampoo or scalp treatment.

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