Dandruff – an irritation of the scalp that leads to itching and flaking of the skin of the scalp – is a common condition in North America. The most common cause of dandruff is dry skin.
This tends to occur during the winter months due to the cold outdoor air temperature and warm, dry indoor environments.
The flakes produced by this type of dandruff are usually smaller and less oily than those produced by other causes of dandruff. Dandruff caused by dry skin is usually accompanied by dry skin on other parts of the body, such as the legs and arms.
Another cause of dandruff is a skin disorder called psoriasis. This disorder is characterized by dead skin cells that form thick, silver-coloured scales. Psoriasis most commonly affects the elbows and knees but may also occur in the scalp.
A rarer cause of dandruff is called malassezia, which is a yeast-like fungus.
This type of infection can cause scalp irritation, leading to severe dandruff.
The signs and symptoms of dandruff are fairly easy to recognize. An itching, scaling scalp and white, oily flakes in your hair and on your shoulders are the classic presentation of a person suffering from dandruff.
Babies can also suffer from dandruff, a condition called cradle cap. It most frequently occurs in newborns but can occur anytime during infancy. Cradle cap usually clears up on its own within the first year of life.
Some people are more at risk of developing dandruff than others. Older men seem to be most at risk. Scientists think this is due to certain male hormones.
Also, people with poor diets or those who are deficient in certain vitamins may also be at greater risk. Finally, patients suffering from high levels of stress and certain illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease seem to be at greater risk for reasons that are unknown.
Although most cases of dandruff do not require any medical treatment, it is important to consult your physician if it doesn’t clear up within several weeks of trying over-the-counter shampoos.
The treatment of dandruff always begins with daily cleansing with a gentle shampoo in order to reduce oiliness and skin cell build-up on the scalp.
If this fails, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo.
The majority of cases respond very well to these dandruff-specific shampoos, however several different shampoos may be required before the most effective one is discovered.
If over-the-counter shampoos fail to resolve the dandruff your doctor or dermatologist may recommend prescription strength shampoo or steroid lotions.
There are also a few home remedies that may be effective at controlling mild dandruff. First of all, shampooing regularly will help control the oiliness of the scalp.
Limiting the use of styling products such as gels and hair sprays will also reduce the build-up of oils. Lastly, tea tree oil, which is from the Australian tea tree, has also been shown effective in controlling dandruff.
Fortunately, dandruff is rarely a serious medical condition.
However, severe dandruff can cause significant discomfort and embarrassment.
By following some of these simple home remedies, you will be well on your way to a dandruff-free scalp. Until next month, drive safely.