Dandruff – medically known as seborrheic dermatitis – is a benign condition that causes itchy, flaking skin on the scalp. It is not contagious. Though harmless, this chronic condition is accompanied by white, flaky skin in the hair and on the clothes, and many find it quite embarrassing. This chronic condition is common in people of all ages but can usually be managed with simple over-the-counter treatments.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The main symptom of dandruff – dry, flaky skin on the clothes or in the hair – is fairly easy to spot. These flakes can be oily and appear white or yellow. This skin condition may also cause the scalp to be itchy, and buildup can make the skin appear scaly. Symptoms of dandruff often grow worse in the winter and affect other areas of body. Dry skin on the face, around the nose, forehead or eyebrows are also symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. In more severe cases, the affected area may become red or even experience hair loss. Hair will grow back in these areas with treatment.

Dandruff generally does not require medical care but can be diagnosed at home with a simple visual examination. Many over-the-counter products are available to manage this condition, but if itching and flaking continue after several weeks of over-the-counter treatments – or if redness and swelling occurs – see a doctor. This could be evidence of another skin condition.


There is no single cause of dandruff. The condition is likely caused by one or more factors working together. For instance, scientists indicate that an overproduction of oil on the skin and a yeast called malassezia can cause dandruff to develop. Dandruff tends to run in families, so genetics may play a role. Risk factors such as being male, obesity, oily skin or other health conditions can increase the likelihood of developing dandruff. Other conditions such as dry skin, eczema, acne or psoriasis can also cause flakes in the hair. This may simply appear to be dandruff or may co-exist with the condition. Shampooing too often, or not enough or using drying hair care products can also cause flaky skin to develop on the scalp. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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