Are you one of the many who can’t seem to get rid of those little white flakes that show up in your hair and on your clothes at the worst times? Many dandruff sufferers may be surprised to know that the flakes are not dry skin from the scalp, as this popular myth suggests. This condition is quite deceptive and is one of the most common reasons for dermatology patient visits each year.
The UAMS dermatology clinic debunks this myth and explains that dandruff is not caused by dry skin but by a type of fungus or yeast.
Dandruff, termed “seborrheic dermatitis” in medical terms, is not actually caused by dry scalp, despite manifesting in many people as flaky scales of skin, which shed from the scalp. “Our best understanding of this condition is that it is caused by interactions between the normal yeast organisms, which live on our skin, such as Malessezia furfur species, and active oil (sebaceous) glands, which are heavily distributed on our scalp and face.
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Dandruff sufferers usually experience redness, itching and scaling, which is caused by the yeast feeding off the oils on the scalp, and in turn this causes inflammation and excessive proliferation of skin layers.
The scalp is not the only area that this interaction occurs. It can involve the eyebrows, mustache and beard area and around the ears and nose.
Dandruff is most prominent in adults, with no particular predilection except for ‘oily skin,’ and is also seen in infants in the form of ‘cradle cap,’ a thick layer of adherent scale on the scalp.
The risk factors for dandruff include oily skin, skin disorders such as acne, infrequent shampooing or skin cleansing, use of lotions that contain alcohol, and even stress or weather.
So is there a cure for this common condition? Unfortunately it can’t be cured but it can be controlled.
Patients may want to start with a rotating regimen of over-the-counter dandruff shampoos containing zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue), coal tar or ketoconazole. “These should be massaged into the scalp and/or face to create a lather and left to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing in the shower. If these over-the-counter products are insufficient, prescription therapies may be necessary.
For more information on dandruff and other dermatology-related conditions, visit our Dermatology Clinic. Also visit our Dermatology Cancer Clinic to learn more about our dermatology cancer services.