Dandruff: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment


Dandruff is a common scalp condition characterized by flaking of dead skin cells. It often results from the accelerated shedding of skin cells on the scalp, leading to visible white or grey flakes in the hair and on clothing. While the exact cause can vary, factors like dry skin, fungal infections, sensitivity to hair products, or certain medical conditions may contribute to its development. Symptoms can include itchiness and a dry scalp. Treatment typically involves medicated shampoos containing ingredients like zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, or coal tar, which help to reduce flaking and soothe irritation, promoting a healthier scalp environment.


If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Dandruff, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.


Certainly! Dandruff, a common scalp condition, can arise due to various factors:

Malassezia: A yeast-like fungus found on the scalp, Malassezia's overgrowth can lead to dandruff. It feeds on the oils secreted by hair follicles, causing irritation.
Dry Skin: If your scalp is dry, it's more prone to flaking and dandruff. Cold weather and excessively hot showers can exacerbate this condition.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: This is a more severe form of dandruff characterized by red, oily skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.
Not Enough Shampooing: Infrequent washing allows oil and dead skin cells to accumulate on the scalp, potentially leading to dandruff.
Certain Skin Conditions: Conditions like psoriasis and eczema can also cause flaking and scalp irritation resembling dandruff.
Sensitivity to Hair Care Products: Some people may react to certain hair care products, especially those with harsh chemicals or strong fragrances, leading to scalp irritation and dandruff.
Diet: Poor nutrition, particularly diets lacking in zinc, B vitamins, and certain types of fats, can contribute to dandruff.
Stress: While not a direct cause, stress can exacerbate existing dandruff or contribute to conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.
Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormones, such as during puberty or due to certain medical conditions, can increase oil production and lead to dandruff.
Genetics: Some individuals are genetically predisposed to having a more oily scalp or being more susceptible to dandruff.

Risk Factors

  • Seborrheic dermatitis: A common skin condition that causes red, itchy, and flaky skin.
  • Malassezia: A type of yeast-like fungus found on the scalp that can contribute to dandruff.
  • Dry skin: Lack of moisture on the scalp can lead to flaking.
  • Age: Dandruff often starts in young adulthood and peaks in middle age, though it can occur at any age.
  • Oily skin: Excess oil production on the scalp can exacerbate dandruff.
  • Certain illnesses: Conditions like Parkinson's disease and HIV can increase the risk.
  • Stress: High stress levels can trigger or worsen dandruff.
  • Poor hygiene: Infrequent washing or inadequate rinsing of the scalp.
  • Harsh hair products: Using products that irritate or dry out the scalp.
  • Climate: Cold, dry winters or humid summers can affect dandruff severity.


  • White flakes: Visible white or grayish flakes of dead skin on your scalp, hair, and shoulders.
  • Itching: Often accompanied by itching on the scalp, which may be mild to intense.
  • Dry scalp: The scalp may appear dry and sometimes feel tight or irritated.
  • Scalp redness: In some cases, dandruff can cause mild redness on the scalp, especially if scratching occurs.
  • Oily scalp: While dandruff is often associated with dryness, it can also occur on an oily scalp, where flakes appear more greasy.
  • Hair texture changes: Dandruff can sometimes affect hair texture, making it appear dull or rough.
  • Increased shedding: You may notice an increase in hair shedding due to scratching or weakened hair shafts.
  • Fungal odor: In severe cases, a mild fungal odor may be present due to the growth of yeast-like fungi on the scalp.
  • Persistent symptoms: Symptoms may come and go, with periods of worsening and improvement.
  • Localized patches: Dandruff can occur in specific patches on the scalp rather than uniformly across it.

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Symptoms: Look for white, oily-looking flakes of dead skin on the scalp and in the hair. Itching of the scalp is also common.
Scalp examination: Check the scalp for redness or signs of inflammation. Dandruff flakes are often more noticeable on dark clothing.
Medical history: Inquire about any existing skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, as these can contribute to dandruff.
Lifestyle factors: Discuss the person's hair care routine, including the frequency of shampooing and use of hair products, as these can influence dandruff.
Physical examination: Assess the scalp's overall condition, looking for signs of dryness or excess oiliness.
Differential diagnosis: Rule out other conditions that may mimic dandruff, such as scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or fungal infections.
Response to treatment: If dandruff persists despite home treatments like anti-dandruff shampoos, further evaluation may be needed.
Consultation: Consider referring to a dermatologist for a more thorough evaluation if the diagnosis is unclear or if dandruff is severe and persistent.


Anti-Dandruff Shampoos:

  • Medicated Shampoos: These contain active ingredients like zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, or coal tar. They help reduce fungi or yeast on the scalp and decrease flaking.
  • Tar-based Shampoos: Coal tar helps slow skin cell turnover, reducing flakiness and itching.
  • Selenium Sulfide Shampoos: These reduce cell turnover and may also have antifungal properties.
  • Ketoconazole Shampoos: Antifungal properties that can reduce fungi on the scalp.

Natural Remedies:

  • Tea Tree Oil: Has antifungal properties that can help reduce dandruff.
  • Coconut Oil: Moisturizes and has antifungal properties.
  • Aloe Vera: Soothes scalp irritation and reduces flakiness.

Adjusting Hair Care Routine:

  • Regular Washing: Helps remove excess oils and skin cells.
  • Avoiding Harsh Products: Some hair products can irritate the scalp, exacerbating dandruff.

Managing Stress: Stress can exacerbate dandruff, so stress-reduction techniques may help.
Dietary Adjustments: Some evidence suggests that a diet rich in zinc, B vitamins, and certain fats may promote a healthier scalp.
Medical Treatments: In severe cases, a dermatologist may prescribe topical steroids or antifungal creams to reduce inflammation and yeast overgrowth.

Preventive Measures

Regular Hair Washing: Wash your hair regularly with a mild shampoo to prevent oil and dead skin buildup, which can contribute to dandruff.
Scalp Massage: Gently massage your scalp while shampooing to improve blood circulation and prevent dryness.
Avoid Hot Water: Use lukewarm water instead of hot water while washing your hair, as hot water can strip away natural oils and worsen dandruff.
Balanced Diet: Maintain a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals to support overall scalp health.
Limit Styling Products: Reduce the use of hair styling products that can build up on the scalp and exacerbate dandruff.
Manage Stress: Practice stress management techniques as stress can contribute to dandruff.
Use Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Use an anti-dandruff shampoo containing ingredients like zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide regularly to control dandruff.
Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to keep your scalp and skin hydrated.
Avoid Scratching: Avoid scratching your scalp excessively as it can worsen irritation and dandruff.
Consult a Dermatologist: If dandruff persists despite home care, consult a dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't
Use anti-dandruff shampoo regularly Avoid hot water for hair wash
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet Don't scratch your scalp vigorously
Keep your scalp clean Avoid excessive use of styling products
Practice stress management techniques Don't share combs, hats, or other hair accessories
Use natural remedies like tea tree oil or aloe vera Avoid using harsh chemicals on your scalp
Brush or comb your hair regularly to remove flakes Don't neglect proper hydration
Consult a dermatologist if home remedies don't work Avoid wearing tight-fitting headgear for long durations

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Dandruff, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
Dandruff is a chronic scalp condition characterized by the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. It often leads to an itchy and flaky scalp, causing embarrassment and discomfort for many individuals.
The exact cause of dandruff is not fully understood, but several factors can contribute to its occurrence. These include an overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia, dry skin, sensitivity to hair care products, hormonal imbalances, stress, and certain medical conditions.
There are various ways to manage and treat dandruff depending on its severity. Over-the-counter medicated shampoos containing active ingredients like zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, or coal tar can help control dandruff symptoms. Regularly washing your hair with a gentle shampoo and maintaining good scalp hygiene are also essential.
While there isn't strong scientific evidence linking diet directly to dandruff, some studies suggest that certain dietary factors may play a role in its development or exacerbation. Consuming a balanced diet rich in vitamins B and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc may help promote a healthy scalp.
No need to worry; dandruff is not contagious. It cannot be passed from one person to another through direct contact or sharing personal items such as combs or hats.
If your symptoms persist despite using over-the-counter treatments or if they worsen, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. They can help determine the underlying cause of your dandruff and recommend appropriate treatment options.
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