Dandruff – what a headache

Dandruff is so a pain in the backside. Except you get it on your head. It’s a non-contagious skin condition that affects the scalp (the skin that covers the top and back of the head) and causes flakes of skin to appear. How, I hear you say, and where do these flakes come from?

Well, skin cells are constantly renewing themselves. When skin cells on the scalp are renewed, the old ones are pushed to the surface and come away from the scalp. In people with dandruff, skin renewal is faster, which means that more dead skin is shed and your dandruff is more noticeable.

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But what actually causes it?

Possible causes of dandruff may include:

  • a reaction to a type of yeast that lives on the skin called a Malassezia
  • hormones, which may be involved because dandruff commonly occurs after puberty
  • not brushing your hair regularly, which may lead to dandruff because the dead skin cells are not able to shed properly (interesting, I didn’t know this one)
  • a fungal infection, either of the outer layers of the skin (superficial fungal infection) or the deeper layers of the skin (subcutaneous fungal infection) caused by fungi such as moulds and yeasts
  • stress, which is also thought to trigger dandruff or make the symptoms worse

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of dandruff are the dry flakes of white skin on your scalp which become visible and fly in all directions when you’re brushing your hair for example.

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But some people get seborrhoeic dermatitis, which is a condition not dissimilar to atopic eczema. The symptoms of this include:

  • an itchy or sore scalp
  • a red rash around the scalp, ears or forehead that sometimes weeps
  • greasy white or yellow scales that can be accompanied by red patches of skin
  • hair loss

How do I get rid of it?

Talk to your doctor before seeking treatment for your dandruff. Dandruff treatments aim to slow down the reproduction of skin cells and counteract the yeast production that may be causing the condition. Usually though you would use some kind of anti-dandruff shampoo, which usually gets rid of the problem. Don’t use it on your baby’s head though if he or she has dandruff, as the harsh chemicals might be harmful. Use baby oil instead to soften the skin and mild baby shampoos to clean it.