Dandruff is a global phenomenon and many people find that it can cause social or self-esteem problems. It is not an organism like lice; it is just dead skin that accumulates in the scalp and can cause either an overly dry scalp with itchy white flakes that may be waxy or greasy or can manifest as an oily greasy scalp with scales. Scales usually occur as small, round, white-to-gray patches on top of the head. The condition is often known as “dry scalp”, but people with oily scalps tend to suffer the most. This problem can happen at any age but is most commonly found in people between the ages of 12 and 80. Dandruff is not contagious and is normally not a serious problem. It is believed to be related to a fungus known as malassezia (formerly termed pityrosporum) that lives on the scalp of most people.
Dandruff is unlikely to be the cause of hair loss. Rarely, it can be a manifestation of an allergic reaction to chemicals in hair gels/sprays, hair oils, or sometimes even dandruff medications like ketoconazole. Hair sprays, styling gels, mousses and hair waxes can all build up on your hair and scalp, making them oilier. Thorough cleansing of the scalp and the hair will keep flakes out of sight for up to three days.
Most cases can be easily treated with specialized shampoos. One of the best known treatments for years was Head & Shoulders. Most other anti-dandruff shampoos work by normalizing the pH of the scalp. The new shampoos have changed quite a bit and have become a lot more sophisticated. But shampoos aren’t all alike, and you may need to experiment until you find one that works best for you.
Shampoos are classified according to their active ingredient: Zinc pyrithione shampoos (Suave Shampoo, Head & Shoulders). Anti-fungal/anti-dandruff shampoos containing ketoconazole have been shown to be more effective than zinc pyrithione. The newest addition, ketoconazole is a broad-spectrum antifungal agent that may work when other shampoos fail. But if you’re still scratching your head after several weeks of experimenting with over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos or if your scalp becomes red or inflamed, see your doctor or dermatologist.
Dandruff usually begins at puberty – about the same time as acne and can manifest as either very dry and flaky scalp or very oily scalp with flakes. It is a chronic condition that can almost always be controlled, but it may take a little patience and persistence. Dandruff can affect many different people in every age group, cannot be cured, but it can be controlled.