Dr Luisa Dillner's guide to . . . dandruff

About half of us will have dandruff at some time, and as researchers from Barcelona University put it in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology: "The psychological impact of visible scalp problems may be very high." Who hasn't felt embarrassment at finding white flakes on their shoulders?

What is dandruff?

Dandruff (or pityriasis capitis) causes white or grey flakes to accumulate on your scalp. It can make the scalp a bit itchy, but shouldn't make it red or sore.

What causes it?

Our scalps produce lots of oil, and this makes them attractive to mild fungal infections, such as a yeast called malassezia. In some people (perhaps due to stress, hormones, or, more rarely, due to illness or immune disorders) it causes trouble by irritating the scalp and encouraging an overgrowth of skin cells. These cells flake off from your scalp. It is more common in oily scalps.

What can I do about it?

Eat a balanced diet, as dandruff may be linked to a poor diet (especially one low in vitamin B). Shampoo either every day, or every other day. Specific anti-dandruff shampoos should work: they contain various agents such as pyrithione zinc or coal tar. There are also specific anti-fungal shampoos. Tea tree oil shampoo may reduce dandruff.

When should I see my doctor?

Dandruff can be mistaken for other skin conditions, such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis (which can improve with some dandruff shampoos), or psoriasis. If it doesn't clear up, or you aren't sure if it's dandruff, see your doctor.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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