Woman with severe dandruff
Dandruff - Photo: Suriya Yapin/Shutterstock
The Facts about Dandruff
Dandruff is probably one of the most common complaints people have with their hair and scalp. They have itching and flaking that shows up on any dark clothing. But what most people believe to be dandruff is actually just a matter of dry skin on the scalp. Actual dandruff IS common, but looks very different when you know what you are seeing.
Identifying Dandruff
Unlike dry scalp flakes, which are generally small and powdery, dandruff flakes are larger and feel greasy as they are caked with sebum. In addition, dandruff is accompanied by intense itching and redness (inflammation of the scalp). It is important to be aware of this irritation because excessive scratching of the affected areas can lead to injury to the scalp and weeping sores and scabbing as they heal.
Dandruff is often confused with the flaking and itching caused by other skin irritations - such as psoriasis. Yet while these share common symptoms, their causes are very different.
Dandruff Causes
The exact causes of dandruff are a subject of much debate in the medical community. Recently, dandruff was reclassified as a form of seborrheic dermatitis. Previously it was believed to be caused by an overabundance of naturally-occurring yeasts in the scalp, called malesezia. Depending on who you listen to, dandruff has a variety of triggers and factors that can increase the severity of the condition.

Treatment for Dandruff
Fortunately, dandruff can be controlled and the symptoms managed so that you can live without excessive trouble from the condition. Here are some simple guidelines:
• Use a dandruff control shampoo daily until your symptoms abate and then use it less frequently (according to your need) in order to keep the symptoms under control. Usually, once the symptoms are under control, use of the dandruff shampoo once or twice a week is sufficient.
• Keep the hair and scalp clean, and as dry as possible. Avoid letting perspiration and excess oils remain on the hair and scalp as these can be triggers for irritation. In the summer months, shower after periods of exercise or exertion that causes you to perspire in order to keep the hair and scalp clean.
• As difficult as it may be, avoid scratching the affected areas. There are a number of over-the-counter medications to help control skin itching that are effective in helping manage dandruff itch. Just keep in mind that the risk of wounding the scalp and causing infection are sufficient to merit exerting as much self-control as possible.
See also: Scalp problems