Itchy, flaky scalp getting you down? Here’s everything you need to know about dandruff – including how to get rid of it.
By Abbas Kanani
If you’re plagued by dandruff, you’ll know just how uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing it can be. But you don’t have to suffer in silence – effective help and treatment is readily available.
Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click, looks at the symptoms, causes and treatment options for dandruff:
What is dandruff?
Dandruff is a skin condition that affects the scalp. It’s characterised by white flakes (small pieces of dead skin) that fall from your scalp and is usually accompanied by itching. There are several causes of dandruff:
- Fungal infections
Fungal infections cause excess growth of skin cells.
- Seborrheic dermatitis
This is a skin condition that mainly affects oily areas of the body, such as the scalp, a symptom of which is dandruff.
Eczema is a condition that causes skin to become inflamed and itchy.
What will your scalp feel like?
Dandruff is usually accompanied by itchiness.
It is also possible for your scalp to have dry patches in areas where there is an excess growth of skin cells.
How do you treat dandruff?
There are many anti-dandruff shampoos available over the counter that can treat dandruff. These should be tried first for mild dandruff, unless your scalp is inflamed and irritated, which usually occurs when dermatitis is the cause of the dandruff.
There are also stronger shampoos available, which contain ingredients such as ketoconazole, coal tar and zinc. These are effective in treating moderate cases of dandruff. These ingredients work as anti-fungals and can help to slow down the excess growth of skin cells on the scalp, which cause dandruff.
If your dandruff is caused by an oily scalp, selenium sulphide is a good ingredient to look for.
If your dandruff is caused by an oily scalp, selenium sulphide is a good ingredient to look for, as it reduces the amount of oil produced by the scalp.
When using anti-dandruff shampoos, you should leave it on your scalp for around five minutes before washing it away, to achieve the maximum benefit of treatment.
For more severe cases of dandruff (usually caused by seborrheic dermatitis), where the scalp is itchy, inflamed and tender to touch, your doctor can prescribe steroid lotions to rub onto your scalp. They are effective, but should only be used for a short period of time, as they can thin the skin.
How quickly will dandruff clear up?
The efficacy of dandruff treatment depends on the individual and the extent of the dandruff. On average, I encourage most people with mild to moderate cases of dandruff to use a medicated shampoo for around a month – most medicated shampoos used to treat dandruff should be used two to three days a week. You should shampoo your hair in the intermittent days with a non-medicated shampoo.
Can your GP help with dandruff?
If you have tried various over-the-counter shampoos without success, you should see your GP. In some cases, the skin can feel very irritated and tender to touch. Sometimes the skin can crack or weep, due to excess itching. This is usually seen in cases where the dandruff is caused by eczema or dermatitis. In these cases, you should see your GP, as you may benefit from using a steroid lotion.
Is dandruff linked to cradle cap in children?
Cradle cap is a similar condition to dandruff in some ways, as it is caused by excess oil, which produce dry flakes of skin. Cradle cap is extremely common in newborns, but it is unlikely that there is any link between having cradle cap as a child and developing dandruff as an adult.