Dandruff is a condition that occurs when small bits of skin which has become dry start shedding from your scalp in the form of flakes. These white flakes can cause your skin on the scalp  to itch and  are mostly seen on your hair and fall on your shoulders

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff is a common scalp condition that can cause a lot of mental and emotional damage. It is the most common dermatological condition characterised by the presence of white, dusty, flaky particles on your hair and shoulders and intense itching in the scalp. Although it is not a serious health condition, dandruff can be a huge source of discomfort and social embarrassment.

What Causes Dandruff?

Dandruff can be caused by several factors ranging from poor hygiene to fungal infections. Sometimes, dandruff may be a symptom of an underlying disease condition of the scalp.

  • Dry Scalp
    A dry scalp is one of the leading causes of dandruff. When the scalp lacks hydration, it becomes dry, causing itching and flaking.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis
    A condition characterised by redness, itching, and excessive oiliness. Seborrheic dermatitis is commonly seen in places where there are lots of oil glands present, like the face and the scalp. This condition can contribute significantly to flaking of the scalp.
  • Infections
    A yeast, Malassezia furfur, is the major causative organism for the development of dandruff. Malassezia is a yeast-like fungus that is naturally present in the scalp. It proliferates and overgrows under certain conditions, leading to the development of dandruff. 
  • Poor Hygiene
    Keeping a clean environment and body prevents infections. Not washing your hair regularly can lead to a build-up of oil, dirt, and grime. This provides a perfect environment for the organisms naturally present on the scalp to grow. Bacteria from the outside can also settle on the dirty scalp. All this leads to severe itching and flaking.
  • Hormonal Imbalances
    The fluctuations in hormonal levels can harm the scalp. You may find an increase in hair and scalp-related conditions during periods of hormonal fluctuations like pregnancy, menopause, and perimenopause. 
  • Stress
    High levels of stress can affect your body at different levels. Dandruff and hair fall are commonly seen in people who are extremely stressed and worn out.
  • Hair Care Products
    Several hair care products like shampoos, conditioners, colouring agents, and hair serums are loaded with chemicals that can potentially damage your scalp and cause dandruff. 
  • Styling Tools
    Frequently using blow-dryers, curlers, or straighteners can dry out your hair and scalp, leading to itching and flaking.

How Can Dandruff Be Treated?

When dandruff is not controlled by good hygiene and all the preventive measures, a visit to your dermatologist is a must. There are several effective treatment methods available. However, it is essential that you get a thorough clinical assessment done to rule out any underlying disease cause for dandruff. A suitable treatment plan can then be charted out based on your condition.

  • Medicated Shampoos
    There are a lot of medicated shampoos that are available over the counter (OTC) that effectively treat dandruff.
    Look for products that contain the following:
    • Selenium Sulphide – This active ingredient kills the infection-causing organisms and slows down the growth of the cells, thus effectively arresting dandruff.
    • Ketoconazole – This is an antifungal agent that targets the Malassezia fungus and helps in reducing dandruff.
    • Salicylic Acid – This chemical aids in clearing your scalp of dead cells and grime. Salicylic acid can be used in combination with other treatments too.
    • Zinc Pyrithione – Zinc is a scalp-friendly chemical. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties that are great for combating dandruff
  • Coal Tar Shampoos
    Cola tar helps to reduce inflammation and also slows down the growth of new cells. Coal tar is very effective in controlling the itching and flaking of the scalp, especially if an underlying condition like psoriasis or eczema causes it.
  • Corticosteroids
    If you suffer from severe seborrheic dermatitis, your doctor may opt for a corticosteroid to treat your condition. Corticosteroids are powerful agents that effectively reduce cell growth and also clear the infection. Corticosteroids are available in the form of creams and ointments.
  • Antifungal Creams
    Using a topical antifungal cream on the affected areas of the scalp helps to fight the infection and reduces the itching and flaking.
  • Phototherapy
    Exposing the scalp to a controlled amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays for a controlled amount of time helps reduce the symptoms in stubborn cases of dandruff.

Can Dandruff Be Prevented?
Dandruff may not be a serious health condition, but it can affect your mental health. The flaking and itching can be a cause of severe social embarrassment. Dandruff can be prevented by taking simple measures such as a good diet and following proper hygiene. Follow the below tips to address dandruff:

  • Wash your hair regularly with a mild shampoo. This will remove the dirt and grime settled in your scalp and keep it clean, thus preventing flaking.
  • Eat a diet that has all the vital nutrients for good hair health. Zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and the B Complex vitamins, especially vitamin B7, are crucial for good hair health. 
  • Avoid harsh hair products. Shampoos, conditioners, and hair colouring products contain chemicals that can ruin your scalp. Use mild products that work as effectively without causing damage.
  • As much as possible, avoid using blow dryers and hair styling tools like curlers and straighteners. These tools suck out the moisture from your scalp and leave it very dry. This leads to itching and flaking.
  • Manage your stress levels. Practice yoga and other techniques that will help calm you down. Keeping stress levels under check can help in reducing dandruff.

When Should You Consult Your Doctor For Dandruff?

Getting rid of dandruff can be an uphill task as, most of the time, it tends to recur. There are many over-the-counter products and home remedies that can help in treating this condition. Still, it is always advisable to consult your dermatologist for the correct and right treatment to eradicate this condition. If you have consulted your dermatologists and are following the treatment, dandruff should reduce over time. You should immediately consult your dermatologist if you notice the below red flags during treatment:

  • If your dandruff still persists or has increased after using an anti-dandruff shampoo prescribed by your dermatologist for a month.
  • If the itchiness on your scalp has increased and it has become red and swollen.
  • If the flakes and itchiness have extended over other parts of your body, including the scalp.
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