Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis) - C.I.P.H.I

Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis)

What is Dandruff

Dandruff is a common and unserious skin condition that causes the skin, particularly scalp skin to flake. It is not an infectious and contagious disease, but its treatment might be difficult. In dandruff, the skin remains itchy but it can be embarrassing when small flakes of skin are shed on the shoulders from the scalp. It is very common and simple to treat, but it should never be confused with “seborrheic dermatitis”, which is a chronic form of eczema. Dandruff is a milder form of “seborrheic dermatitis”. The difference between the two is, eczema has itchy, and inflamed skin. Dandruff can be treated either with a common cosmetic or a medicated shampoo.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Skin flakes on the body especially on the scalp, eyebrows, beard, mustaches, shoulders, and other hair-bearing skin.
  • Itchy skin, but not inflamed.
  • In infants, a cradle cap is also a form of dandruff.
  • The signs and symptoms and tendency of flaking become more severe in winter and cold seasons.

What Causes Dandruff

It is a non-infectious condition, and it has several causes behind it. These causes vary from individual to individual. There is no single cause for the condition in everybody’s case. Some most common causes are as under;

  1. Not Shampooing: Leaving oil on the scalp for a longer period of time without shampooing may cause dandruff. A yeast-like fungus called Malassezia feeds on the scalp.
  2. Overgrowth of Yeast: Natural oily skin provides a favorable habitat to a yeast-like fungus known as Malassezia.
  3. Dryness of Skin: Irritated and dry skin.
  4. Allergic Skin: It may be caused by sensitivity and reaction of the scalp/skin to cosmetic hair care products.
  5. Medical Conditions: Other skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis,  Seborrheic dermatitis, etc may cause dandruff. Such conditions need medical treatment.

Risk Factors:

It can develop almost in everyone, but there are some factors, which can make one more susceptible to dandruff.

  1. Age Factor: Dandruff remains prevalent during initial adulthood. Dandruff generally begins at puberty and lasts till around the age of 20 years. However, in some people, it remains up to 50 years of age.
  2. Gender Factor: Androgen hormones, such as testosterone, stimulate activity in the sebaceous glands. More oil means an increased chance of an inflammatory reaction and dandruff. Men are more frequently affected by dandruff than women.
  3. Weak Immune System: Some medical conditions like Hepatitis C, HIV AIDS, alcoholic Pancreatitis, and Tuberculosis, and some habits like smoking, taking alcohol, and poor nutrition weaken one’s immune system. A weak immune system makes you more susceptible to dandruff. Dandruff because of these conditions and habits may last till the end of life.
  4. Other Skin Disorders: Other skin disorders like Eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, or acne can trigger or worsen seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis then causes dandruff.
  5. Neurologic Disorders: Epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Traumatic Brain Injury increases the risk of dandruff.

When to See a Doctor?

The condition of dandruff does not need any particular care. However, a primary care doctor or dermatologist can guide you better to get rid of dandruff. Generally, a common hair shampoo can relieve the condition, if not, a medicated shampoo can work better.

Difference between Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis:

Both are chronic skin conditions. Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis look alike but are two different conditions. Dandruff is a milder form of Seborrheic Dermatitis. In dandruff, the skin is itchy and has flakes only, but on the other hand, seborrheic dermatitis has itchy, and inflamed skin. Dandruff is usually confined to the scalp, but seborrheic dermatitis extends to other parts of the body.

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp

When the scalp is dry and flakes off, the condition is known as dry skin. While if the skin has extra-large oily skin flakes, and an overgrown yeast (Malassezia), the condition is known as dandruff. Cold and dry air, cosmetic products, and older age cause dry skin, while dandruff is caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a condition that turns your skin oily, red, and scaly. The white or yellow scales flake off, creating dandruff. You can get seborrheic dermatitis anywhere you have oil glands, including your eyebrows, groin, armpits, chest, upper back, ears, and along the sides of your nose. Dandruff in babies is known as “cradle cap”.

Dandruff Treatment

Milder dandruff can be removed by shampooing and gently cleansing the oils and skin cells buildup. A regularly cleansed scall will remove it on its own. If a common shampoo does not work, try a medicated shampoo. The medicated shampoo works in most cases.


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