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Dandruff

Topic Overview

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is a shedding of the skin on the scalp that leads to white flakes on the head, neck, and shoulders.

What causes dandruff?

Dandruff may be caused by a form of a skin condition called eczema, which causes increased shedding of normal scalp skin cells. Dandruff can also be caused by a fungal infection. Hormonal or seasonal changes may make dandruff worse.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of dandruff include white, oily-looking flakes of dead skin in your hair and on your shoulders and an itchy, scaling scalp. Your scalp can be either excessively dry or oily.

How is it treated?

Home treatment often helps prevent and get rid of the symptoms of dandruff.

  • Use an antidandruff shampoo. A variety of shampoos are available, containing different ingredients. Trying several will help you find out which antidandruff shampoo is most effective for you.
    • Shampoo daily to prevent a build-up of dead skin cells on your scalp.
    • If an antidandruff shampoo helps stop dandruff for a while but the dandruff problem returns, try a different antidandruff shampoo.
    • Alternate antidandruff shampoos with regular ones if you are worried about the effects of antidandruff shampoos' harsh chemicals on your hair.
  • Rub your scalp. When you wash your hair, lather once, rinse, then lather a second time and rub your scalp vigorously as you shampoo. This will help dislodge excess cells. Be careful not to rub so energetically that you damage your scalp.
  • Let it soak. After you lather the second time, let the medicated shampoo sit on your head for 5 minutes. This will give the antidandruff shampoo time to work.
  • Rinse well. This will help get rid of all the cells you have loosened up during shampooing.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised December 12, 2012

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